The course explores core challenges of globalisation with a distinct focus on the widespread adoption of digital technologies that is transforming the world of work and production processes. The course starts with a first part aiming at gaining background knowledge and introducing key concepts on the topic. Sessions before and after the mid-term break are organised to share knowledge on potential Venetian-based cases related to the overall topic of the course and on which photo essays will be written and presented at the end of the term. As a method through which the seeing of sites can be captured, photo essays convey a format of knowledge sharing that belongs to novel visual approaches in international relations. The third part explores a number of more general implications likely to be drawn in the study of the rising power of platforms in contemporary capitalism, the changing nature of global production networks and the future of work worldwide. It more broadly highlights the contended process of globalisation in the present and future world.
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
• discern the specificities and added value of theories and analyses of the changing nature of work and production in globalisation;
• explain the power relations linked to distinct institutional forms of contemporary capitalism;
• identify the main prospects and issues for workers facing the current transformations of labour;
• identify the main prospects and issues related to a range of policies used to respond to the problems of digital labour platforms;
• discuss a text and its main arguments or concepts in an informed, critical and straightforward language;
• conducting and organising collaborative research, writing and communication work, integrating a diversity of points of view;
• decentralise and develop a reflexive view of the co-construction of knowledge from different socio-political and historical contexts, and broaden one's international and intercultural communication skills;
• have some awareness of the specificity of digital labour platforms to which a global city like Venice has to respond.
Teaching and Evaluation Method
Teaching is conceived as a space for presentations and exchanges around readings and students' essays. It offers a space for critical discussion, to become familiar with the scholarly debates on platform capitalism, global production networks and the future of work, their theories, their methods and some of their central themes. The texts indicated in the programme are to be read before the sessions by all students. While the professor will provide a substantial introduction on the theme of each session, students are expected to be active during the class answering various questions. To facilitate reading and discussion, some sessions will introduce a list of questions to which each student is expected to have answered in preparing the class. Some other sessions will simulate contradictory debates, with groups of students in charge of defending one argument against another. The class will break out in small groups to first compare answers/arguments developed individually. Then, each group will report back to the whole group and open the group discussion/debate.
On two occasions, students will have a written home assignment which consists of an individual written essay (1500 words; ± 5%) based on the list of questions for the texts studied.
The final exam will consist of a photo essay (photos organised around a structured text of at least 2000 words, ± 10%) prepared in groups of two students on a thematic issue of global production networks and digital labour platforms, making use of the readings discussed in class and with an iconography taken on the case of Venice.
1. Students’ home assignments (2X) (40%)
2. Class participation (20%)
3. Final essay (40%)
A mid-term grade will be communicated to the SHSS office based on students’ home assignments and class participation.
I. Background and key concepts
Week 1: Introduction: Globalization, Ethics, Welfare and Human Rights
Robert O’Brien and Marc Williams. 2020. ‘Governing the Global Political Economy’. In Global Political Economy: Evolution and Dynamics, chap. 5. London, Bloomsbury.
Tony Evans and Caroline Thomas. 2020. ‘Poverty, Hunger and Development’. In The Gloablization of World Politics, edited by John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens, 8th ed., chap. 26. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ratna Kapur. 2020. ‘Human Rights’. In The Globalization of World Politics, edited by John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens, 8th ed., chap. 31. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Francis Fukuyama. 2022. ‘Putin’s war on the liberal order’. The Financial Times, 4 March.
Week 2: Labour and production: background and classics – contradictory debate
LeBaron, Genevieve. 2020. Combatting Modern Slavery: Why Labour Governance Is Failing and What We Can Do about It. Cambridge: Polity Press, chap. 2.
O’Brien, Robert. 2013. ‘Labor Shapes the Global Political Economy’. In Global Political Economy: Contemporary Theories, ed. by Ronen Palan, London: Routledge: 46–57.
Smith, Adam. 1986 . The Wealth of Nations. chap. 1 & 2 - ‘Of the Division of Labour’; ‘of the Principle Which Gives Occasion to the Division of Labour’. London: Penguins: 111–21.
Marx, Karl. . Capital: Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter 7 - The Labour-Process and the Process of Producing Surplus-Value.
Week 3: Historical landmarks
Harrod, Jeffrey. 2003. ‘Towards an International Political Economy of Labour’. In Global Unions? Theory and Strategies of Organized Labour in the Global Political Economy, ed. by Jeffrey Harrod and Robert O’Brien, London: Routledge: 49–64.
Cox, Robert W. 1987. Production, Power, and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History. New York: Columbia University Press: 244-67.
Linden, Marcel van der. 2019. ‘The International Labour Organization, 1919–2019: An Appraisal’. Labor 16 (2): 11–41.
Week 4: Global firms, production networks and disruptions
May, Christian, and Andreas Nölke. 2018. ‘The Delusion of the Global Corporation: Introduction to the Handbook’. In Handbook on Corporations as Global Players, ed. by Andreas Nölke & Christian May. Aldershot: Elgar (exstracts).
Coe, Neil M. 2021. Advanced Introduction to Global Production Networks. Northampton: E. Elgar (extracts).
Linsi, Lucas. 2020. ‘Speeding up Slowbalization: Global Value Chains after Covid-19’. In The Covid-19 Pandemic: Continuity and Change in the International Political Economy, ed. by Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn et al. Groningen: University of Groningen.
Hameiri, Shahar. 2021. ‘COVID-19: Is This the End of Globalization?’ International Journal, Volume: 76(1): 30-41.
Week 5: Digital Labour platforms
International Labour Office. 2021. World Employment and Social Outlook 2021: The Role of Digital Labour Platforms in Transforming the World of Work. Geneva: ILO (extracts).
Srnicek, Nick. 2017. Platform Capitalism. London: Polity (extracts).
Vallas, Steven, and Juliet B. Schor. 2020. ‘What Do Platforms Do? Understanding the Gig Economy’. Annual Review of Sociology 46 (1): 273–94 (extracts).
II. Exploration of potential Venetian-based cases & introduction to photo essays
Weeks 6 & 7: Working in Venice: where are the platforms and the global production networks? + Introduction to photo essay method.
Knowledge-sharing on potential Venetian-based cases, such as global production networks supplying souvenirs shops, global pool of workers supplying web-based back-office platforms (tourist office, local authorities, etc.) and App-based platforms competing traditional industries in accommodation (Airbnb), food delivery (Deliveroo), and transport (no Uber for gondolas…).
As a method through which the seeing of sites can be captured, photo essays convey a format of knowledge sharing that belongs to novel visual approaches in international relations. Photo essays emphasise the importance of photos in the analysis of a phenomenon together with the text and they adopt a form of writing that encourages the reader to engage with images in specific ways. This novel method will thus be able to take advantage of some on-site Venice field work.
Readings (to be completed)
Paraskevaidis, Pavlos, and Konstantinos Andriotis. 2015. ‘Values of Souvenirs as Commodities’. Tourism Management 48 (June): 1–10.
Swanson, Kristen K., and Dallen J. Timothy. 2012. ‘Souvenirs: Icons of Meaning, Commercialization and Commoditization’. Tourism Management 33 (3): 489–99.
Hansen L and Spanner J (2021) National and Post-National Performances at the Venice Biennale: Site-specific Seeing through the Photo Essay. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 49(2): 305–336.
III. Broader implications
Week 8: Workers' opportunities and challenges
International Labour Office. 2021. World Employment and Social Outlook 2021: The Role of Digital Labour Platforms in Transforming the World of Work. Geneva: ILO, chap. 4.
Stefano, Valerio de. 2016. ‘The Rise of the “Just-in-Time Workforce”: On-Demand Work, Crowdwork and Labour Protection in the “Gig-Economy”’. 71. Conditions of Work and Employment Series. Geneva: ILO.
Week 9: Regulatory spaces, labour institutions and international labour standards
Bair, Jennifer, Mark Anner, and Jeremy Blasi. 2020. ‘The Political Economy of Private and Public Regulation in Post-Rana Plaza Bangladesh’. ILR Review 73 (4): 969–94.
Bartley, Tim. 2022. "Power and the Practice of Transnational Private Regulation". New Political Economy. 27(2): 188-202.
Week 10: Global production networks, platforms, and protests
Ponte, Stefano. 2019. Business, Power and Sustainability in a World of Global Value Chains. London: Zed Books (extracts).
Graz, Jean-Christophe, Nicole Helmerich, and Cécile Prébandier. 2020. ‘Hybrid Production Regimes and Labor Agency in Transnational Private Governance’. Journal of Business Ethics, 162: 307–21.
Trappmann, Vera, et al. 2020. Global Labour Unrest on Platforms: The Case of Food Delivery Workers. Berlin: Friedrich- Ebert-Stiftung.
Week 11: Behind the platforms: infrastructures and ecological footprint
Pasquinelli, Matteo. 2017. ‘The Automaton of the Anthropocene: On Carbosilicon Machines and Cyberfossil Capital’. South Atlantic Quarterly 116 (2): 311–26.
Fumagalli, Andrea, and Cristina Morini. 2020. ‘Anthropomorphic Capital and Commonwealth Value’. Frontiers in Sociology 5 (April): 24 (extracts).
Fletcher, Robert, Ivan Murray Mas, Asunción Blanco-Romero, and Macià Blázquez-Salom. 2019. ‘Tourism and Degrowth: An Emerging Agenda for Research and Praxis’. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 27 (12): 1745–63.
Week 12: The future of capitalism - Tripartite Debate
International Labour Office. 2021. World Employment and Social Outlook 2021: The Role of Digital Labour Platforms in Transforming the World of Work. Geneva: ILO, chap. 5.
Schwab, Klaus, and Thierry Malleret. 2020. COVID-19: The Great Reset. Geneva: World Economic Forum (extracts).
Morozov, Evgeny. 2019. ‘Digital Capitalism?’ New Left Review, no. 116/117 (June) (extracts).
Ethnographic observation and/or meetings with civil society organisations and/or officials involved in global production networks, web-based and/or App-based platforms competing traditional industries in Venice (see weeks 6 and 7).