Global Commodity Chains & Negative Externalities


Global Commodity Chains & Negative Externalities

The worldwide network of social relations and labor activities involved in the creation, distribution, consumption, and disposal of a commodity (as defined in Appadurai, p. 3)

Social relations: labor, capitalists, nation-states, and consumers; society/nature

Labor activities: product design and financing; capture/extraction/cultivation of raw materials; processing; transportation; distribution/sale; purchase/consumption; and disposal

Impacts: socioeconomic, political, environmental


Culture of capitalism/global commodity chains

Karl Polanyi’s Paradox (as defined in GPCC)

Negative externalities

Internalizing negative externalities

Example: “The coffee commodity chainis the linked sequence of activities involved in growing coffee, processing it, shipping it, roasting it, … selling it to consumers” (John Talbot) and disposing it.

Video example: Coffee


Choose either a specific commodity or some aspect of a commodity chain (such as its labor and/or ownership/control conditions; social, economic, environmental, and/or health consequences; political violence/wars; etc.).

Emphasize relationships and activities of labor, capitalists, nation-states, consumers, and the natural environment.

Global culture of capitalism

Global commodity chains

Negative externalities

Karl Polanyi’s Paradox (as defined in GPCC; not Michael Polanyi’s Paradox)

Challenges of internalizing externalities (more or less = “sustainability”)

1000 or more words of narrative text (no maximum word count); college standards of writing; enforcement of FIU penalties for plagiarism

Double-spaced 11 or 12-point Times New Roman font; in-text citations; references section; Chicago, MLA, or APA format.

Due via on Canvas by the date and time listed on syllabus. Late papers will not be accepted (25+% score suggests possible plagiarism.)

If you want to focus on Covid-19 (or any other “signature” disease):



Briefly describe and explain the principal relationships within the global culture of capitalism, including global commodity chains.

What are “negative externalities”?

What is “Karl Polanyi’s Paradox” (as defined in GPCC; not Michael Polanyi’s Paradox)?

What are the basic questions to ask about patterns of disease at any point in time and space?

What defines a “signature disease” of a specific historical time and pattern of geographic connections?

Describe the possible cause and transmission of Covid-19 in terms of the relationships between (1) culture and disease; (2) cities and disease; (3) environmental change and disease; and (4) human ecology and disease.

Within this framework, how is Covid-19 a “signature disease”? And how does it reflect negative externalities and Karl Polanyi’s Paradox?

What are arguments for healthcare as a global public good (and as a human right), as opposed to healthcare as an individual, commodified choice?

For more examples, please visit Global Commodity Chain Exampliozes and The Concept of Externalities.


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