AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 427

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Session 427: Rethinking Asian Capitalisms and Development Regimes (II)

Organizer and Chair: Christine Lutringer, Independent Scholar, Switzerland

Discussant: Elisabetta Basile, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

After discussing the convergence vs. divergence of Asian capitalisms and developmental regimes in the light of the historical experiences of selected countries, the second panel proposed by the Europe-Asia Working Group of the EADI focuses on the relationship between the economic strategies pursued, at the domestic level, by state and non-state actors and their countries’ integration in the global economy. Hence, it seeks to foster the debate on the future prospects of Asian capitalisms as well as on Asia’s specific contributions to global regulatory regimes.

Recasting Korean Capitalism: Engaging the Bottom of Industrial Pyramid
Jitendra Uttam, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

This paper aims to analyze the political economic mechanism of reconstructing Korean capitalism. In the past, capitalism in Korea was ‘organized from the top’ by a powerful ‘developmental alliance’ supported by conservative polity and mediated by authoritarian capitalist state, often termed as ‘developmental state’ which acted in collaboration with big business, i.e. Chaebol. Though, early capitalist spurt in Korea created ‘miracle on Han river’ however, it persistently suffered from the narrow social basis. Korean capitalism faced its biggest challenge in 1997 when nation witnessed near-total financial meltdown. The debates following the financial crisis revealed the dark side of Korean capitalism leading to recasting of the system. We argue that in the post-1997 crisis phase, public opinion in Korea decisively shifted from ‘top-down’ to ‘bottom-up’ approach to organize capitalism. The victory of ‘progressives’ in the Korean politics led by all-time democracy champion Kim Dae-Jung initiated ‘bottom-up approach’ to capitalist development based on ‘mass-participatory economics’ spear-headed by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and tech-intensive start-ups. In this process, Korean capitalism which at best acted merely as a developmental strategy is trying to re-connect with nations socio-economic traditions based on egalitarian norms and values. Theoretically, it provides a critique to ‘imbalance growth theory’ that guided Korea’s miraculous growth phase. Empirically, two distinct phases of Korean capitalism – ‘organized from the top’ and ‘organized from the bottom’ are compared to qualitatively highlight changes taking place in the very structure of Korean capitalism.

The rise of South-South Capitalism? New Agro-Food Entrepreneurship Dynamics between Asia and Africa
Philippe Regnier, University of Ottawa, Canada

South-South economic cooperation has remained a post-colonial slogan, with little concrete evidence and content, since the independence of most developing countries during the 1950s-60s. However, due to new entrepreneurial dynamics since the 1990s, especially in developing Asia, this slogan has been gradually validated following the rapid emergence of trade, technology and investment flows among developing countries as documented by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. This trend, which has been clear between industrializing Asia and least developed Africa, has been contributing to a paradigm shift calling for the revisiting of the traditional North-South concept and the historical dominance, if not monopoly, of Western capital in the developing world. South-South economic transactions have been recently on the rise, and even between far distant regions such as Southeast Asia and Western Africa which used to have no business linkage during pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial times. Based on a 2006-09 research project conducted by a group of scientific institutions in Canada, Southeast Asia, Switzerland and Western Africa, the proposed paper aims to document the emerging capacity of Southeast Asian and Western African entrepreneurial/SME private and public initiatives to access and penetrate Afro-Asian and even global agro-food value chains. This research project, which originally planned to compare SME agro-food markets within these two regions, has also been dragged into the surprising identification of emerging types of South-South entrepreneurial transactions between these two far distant regions. Such transactions have been either spontaneous or facilitated by governments, NGOs and donor agencies.

From Domestic Politics to Multilateral Negotiations : The Changing Politics of Food Security in India
Christine Lutringer, Independent Scholar, Switzerland

Ensuring food security has been one of the core principles underlying India’s intervention in the agricultural sector since the 1950s. Meant as ‘food self-sufficiency’, the concept of food security implied the increase of production, especially rice and wheat, in order to minimize the country’s dependence on agricultural imports. This policy was part of India’s strategy of self-reliant development and led to the implementation of a system of public incentives to the agricultural sector, mainly subsidies to water, electricity and fertilizers. However, in the context of economic and trade liberalization, many countries have reformed their agricultural policies in order to let market forces prevail. To what extent has India participated in these dynamics? How have these global trends impacted on its agricultural and food policies? What has been its negotiating stance in the multilateral negotiations and its position on these issues in international debates? The paper addresses these questions by exploring the changing politics of food security in India. In particular, it focuses on the interplay between civil society, state institutions and international regimes in the making and the remaking of the concept and its related policies. Conversely, it shows how India has contributed to shape the ‘global governance of food security’.

Cooperation and competition between industrial districts in Italy and in India: The case of textiles
Claudio Cecchi, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy

The paper explores the economic performance of industrial districts/clusters in the textile sector in Italy and in India with the aim to assessing the competition in global markets and the prospects for cooperation. The paper is organized in three main parts. 1. The first part contains a theoretical discussion of the methodologies for the analysis of local development, distinguishing the Theory of Industrial Districts (as developed by Giacomo Becattini for the analysis of the textile industrial district of Prato) from the Theory of Industrial Clusters (as applied by Humphrey and Schmitz to the analysis of local development in Developing Countries). This part provides a careful analysis of the differences between the concepts of district and cluster. 2. The second part contains a literature review on local development in Italy and in India with the aim of pointing out the key features and critical aspects of industrial districts /industrial clusters. 3. The third part contains the assessment of the current status of the competition between Italy and India as far as the textile sector production is concerned, with a specific focus on industrial districts/clusters. This part also explores the prospects for cooperation between the two countries in the textile sector in relation to: (i) Input markets (including machinery); (ii) Output marketing and (iii) Training and working conditions (including the aspects related to Decent Work Standards and Social Responsibility of the Enterprises).

Reflections on globalisation and labour standards in the Indian garment industry: codes of conduct versus ‘codes of practice’ imposed by the firm
Alessandra Mezzadri, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

The ‘globalisation’ of the garment industry has taken place in a context of increasing flexibilisation and informalisation of labour. Since the 1990s, the rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) concerns, especially in the form of codes of conduct, has been presented as a way to address this ‘race to the bottom’ for labour. Focusing on the experience of two important garment producing areas in India- Delhi and Bangalore- this paper shows that these codes have a limited impact on improving working standards for labour. This limited impact is due to a sharp mismatch between codes of conduct and the effective ‘codes of practice’ imposed by firms to deploy labour and organise the labour process. Firstly, codes are mainly elaborated as factory-based regulations, and therefore they are inapplicable to the non-factory based realm of production, which can be remarkably significant in the Indian context. This is the case in Delhi, where production networks are particularly layered, fragmented and complex, and where armies of urban and rural homeworkers are employed. Secondly, even in the factory-based realm of production, codes are designed to target a workforce enjoying permanent status. However, in the Indian garment sector, the very meaning of ‘permanent work’ is currently being challenged by exporters in new innovative ways. This is the case in Bangalore, where exporters engage in processes of feminisation and re-feminisation of the factory workforce, to minimise their responsibility towards labour and circumvent regulation. This analysis shows how local architectures of production crucially mediate the impact of given formal regulatory measures.