Sociology of Globalization Fall 2020 Final Project

Sociology of Globalization Fall 2020 Final Project

Introductory narrative: Globalization is a centuries long economic, political, and cultural process that describes the expansion of the global capitalist system. As we read in the first two weeks, the world-capitalist system is united by a global division of labor, with (relatively) poorly paid workers in peripheral areas (ie the Global South, including places like Bangladesh) and (relatively) well paid workers in the core areas (like the US). What unites workers and consumers across the global are what scholars refer to as global commodity chains (GCC). World-system analyses define GCC’s as “a network of labor and production processes whose end result is a finished commodity” (Hopkins and Wallerstein 1986: 159). Every product that ends up on every store shelf anywhere in the world has a backstory, every commodity and its components have a production and labor history. Many hands contributed to every final product. Those hands include those of miners, factory workers, assembly line people, packagers, farmers, sailors, dock workers, truck drivers, and retail employees among others. And each of these processes/activities and the equipment they use have a history too.

Task: For your final project this semester you are tasked with investigating a contemporary or historical commodity chain, describing at least three labor processes (nodes within the commodity chains) in the chain, and situating it within the context of the global capitalist system and its structures. You are also asked to demonstrate how the commodity chain exemplifies the structures/processes that maintain the hierarchy of states, with wealthy countries on top and low-income ones at the bottom OR how it shows changes within the interstate hierarchy. This is captured in one of our first readings by the term coloniality. The two basic questions you are asked to answer, what global conditions and processes create the commodity you choose to study and get it to its end destination? How does the GCC you examine reinforce the interstate hierarchy of states OR how does it evidence changes within that hierarchy?

Example: As an example, let’s think about how a car is made. Cars purchased in the US are often assembled in the US, but all the pieces are made all around the world including India, China, Japan, Britain, Taiwan, Mexico, and many many more places. Steel for cars is produced in China, Japan, India and so on, while aluminum is made in many of those same places, but is more likely to come from Canada, Australia, and so on. Then there are the GCCs of oil to power cars and the coal to power factories have their own chains as do the ships that transport all these items. Furthermore, each of these nodes has its own labor conditions and production/labor rules. If you were doing a commodity chain analysis of a car, you might choose to detail the labor, environmental, and regulatory conditions of Australian steel production, then the do the same for Chinese a Chinese or Mexican factory that makes bumpers, followed by the assembly line workers in the US who put the steel bumper on the finish product. Along the way you will discuss why  the commodity chain exists in the this fashion by talking about how China invested in industrial production after its “opening” with President Nixon in the 1970s at the same time car producers were looking for cheaper places (ie places with “cheaper” labor) to produce car parts which is often described as “flexible production” or “neoliberalization.” You may also discuss how this impacts Chinese environmental conditions or the fates of former car factory workers who lost their jobs as a result. And lastly, you may conclude by showing how “free trade” acts to encourage competition in low-income parts of the commodity chain, while benefiting higher wage workers in core countries.


1.         The paper should be 12-15 pages in length when in 12” Times New Roman Font with 1” margins, double-spaced with no extra spaces between paragraphs, and not including your title page. Make sure your paper is over 12 pages. That means 12 full pages and at least one sentence on page 13. I will deduct points if I feel you have not met the page requirements.

2.        Include a title page with the title of your paper, name, date, and course information. The title page does not count toward the 12-page requirement

3.        Paginate the paper, i.e. include page numbers. 

4.       Include a bibliography. The bibliography must include at least five peer reviewed academic sources. It does not count toward your 12-page requirement. (You are expected to use more than 5 sources, but only 

5.        The paper should focus on the production of one commodity (ie a finished good produced for sale) by examining the labor conditions and production process of at least three nodes within its GCC. At least one must not be located primarily within the US.

6.       You are also tasked with describing the larger global conditions or history behind the way your commodity is produced. There are many different ways to tell that story and we will be discussing the structure, and changes to the structure, of global capitalism throughout the semester with emphasis on how your GCC exemplifies the unequal structure within the capitalist world system.

7.        You are asked to make an argument about how your commodity is produced within the US. Your paper is not *just* a report. Rather, it is an academic paper and thus requires an argument.

8.       Throughout the semester you are asked to turn in three components that will help build up to your final project: a research proposal, modified annotated bibliography, and a first draft.

9.       Throughout the semester I will be holding regular, semi-optional research and writing labs on Fridays during class time. This is also where I will present information related to each of the components.

Introduction: A bibliography is a list of sources, and annotations are relatively short (one page, in our case) descriptions and analyses of those sources. The annotated bibliography is an interesting genre, because it can be a process document (one that helps you complete a specific larger project, as it is meant to in our case) and an end in itself (it is possible to publish annotated bibliographies as books for researchers interested in academic conversations on particular topics). As a process document, the annotated bibliography offers us the opportunity to gather information about our sources (standard stuff like author, title, medium, etc.) and become familiar with (through summary, analysis, quote, paraphrase, etc.) how we might use them in our own writing. It also gives us a format to organize our research information, so that it is more easily accessible as we write. But, ultimately, we will submit the AB as a polished product in our portfolio, as well.


●                   The Annotated Bibliography should be include 5 sources (thus the document should be about 5 pages long). Each page will consist of one entry in the Annotated Bibliography. Use your page well to document information, analysis, and thoughts about each source. 

●                   At least four of the entries should focus on scholarly/academic sources. This means the sources were published in a peer-reviewed journal or book published by a university press.

●                   Each annotation is composed of three parts, a bibliographic reference, a summary of the source and a short paragraph detailing its relevance for your project. Use your preferred format for the bibliographic reference. While for a longer-term project I would expect you to summarize the article yourself, for this component you are asked to simply paste the abstract in your annotation page, in quotes. For the relevance section write 200-300 words showing how you will use the source in your paper. Will it be background or context? Support a key argument?

Form: The final form of an annotated bibliography is fairly standard and, for the most part, students’ documents should look similar, apart from differences as a result of the requirements of style. Heading information for each entry should be organized in a reputable style that you’ve agreed on with your instructor. You will list the header information for each annotation as it would appear as a citation in a Works Cited at the end of an essay. MLA style is the default style.


[bibliographic reference]

Peet, Richard. Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank, and WTO. Zed Books: London.

[abstract or book blurb]


[relevance section]

Relevance: Peet’s work argues that the Bretton Woods system was installed to buttress America’s centrality to the post-WW II global economy. This is important to my paper on […] insofar as […]…

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