Eco-social foundations of value chain capitalism


    Benjamin Selwyn
    University of Sussex
Lunch seminar
BENJAMIN SELWYN, University of Sussex
Eco-social foundations of value chain capitalism


The transformation of the world economy over the last four decades has ushered in an age of global value chains (GVCs). Surprisingly however, the majority of (mainstream and critical) GVC literature fails to relate GVCs to their eco-social foundations. This article introduces the term value chain capitalism to signify the importance of conceptually connecting capitalism’s contemporary organisational form (value chains) to its essential social (class) and ecological relations. It then adopts an imminent critique methodology to highlight contradictions between claims and evidence regarding the fate of labour and the environment under GVCs in key reports by the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation/Asian Development Bank. Finally, it deploys metabolic rift theory to explain how value chain capitalism is based upon a simultaneous and interconnected expansion of the world’s labouring class and an intensification of capital’s appropriation of nature.