Giovanni Pasquali | Global Networks
The growth of intra‐regional trade in the Global South begs the question of whether frameworks developed for the study of North–South global value chains can be used to study labour standards in emerging South–South networks. Critical of the structuralist approaches characterizing the literature, in this article I tackle the question of how formal and informal institutions interact to shape labour standards in South–South regional value chains. This is achieved in two stages. In the first part of the article, I build on Habermas’s theory of communicative action to frame labour standards as the outcome of agents’ interactions within and across firms, politico‐administrative institutions and workers’ private and public spheres. Drawing on this framework, in the second part of the article I compare labour standards across the Kenya handbag and footwear sectors. While, in the former, interaction across informal institutions favoured an inclusive and consensual debate between workers and employers; in the latter, an overwhelming process of marketization and bureaucratization failed to provide an interactive space for workers’ concerns to be voiced and negotiated.