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POLSC 390: Globalization and its Critics

Global Production Mapping and Analysis (50% Total, Component pieces as indicated)

This multifaceted assignment is designed to allow students to evaluate the concepts and debates of globalization through the concrete analysis of the production cycle of a globalized product (loosely defined).  The idea for the assignment came from Rivoli’s The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.  Students explore the production chain of a globalized product (loosely defined). Given the increasingly interconnected nature of economic development, there are winners and losers but wins and losses are not necessarily calculated in zero-sum terms. This project will allow students to explore development across countries and within countries. 

In this assignment, students will examine the costs and production of raw materials, the transportation of those raw materials to manufacturing, the process (including working conditions, labor costs, etc.) of manufacturing, the shipping of the product to market, and the retail sales of the product. Students will explore the entirety of the costs of the production chain including environmental and personal. Equally important, each student must examine the benefits of trade to the developing economies that are manufacturing those products. Each student will be responsible for contributions to a group presentation tracing the costs and benefits of the product. Each student will also provide an individual analysis of whether the retail cost of the product is worth what it takes to manufacture it. Each of the component parts is noted below.

Initial Product Mapping/Data (5%)

Choose five significant manufactured items you own (shoes, electronics, personal items, etc. not food or beverages) and check their labels to see where they are produced and/or what brand name they are. Keep choosing items until you have five that have useful label information from a diversity of manufacturing/production sources. It is imperative that the items you select be manufactured in a range of countries not just China.

Collect as much information as possible about each item from the labels. Create an Excel (or similar) spreadsheet to collect as much data as you can from the label supplemented by looking online at company websites, trade association websites, or elsewhere on each product. The spreadsheet should include at least the following though the more information you provide, the better:

  • Name of item
  • Company producing the item
  • Manufacturing location
  • Purchase location (store, city, state, etc.)
  • Components/parts of item
  • Sources of major components (as much information as possible)

Map the location of purchase, production and component parts labelling each product separately. It is up to you to design your own maps. Among other places, you can find regional and world maps at Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) and at Eduplace (http://www.eduplace.com/ss/maps). The spreadsheet must be submitted on September 10, 2020 as an email attachment (before class) and as a neatly formatted, easy to read, printout. The map must be submitted in paper form.

Initial Product Data Group Report (5%)

I will post a list of all products from the initial product mapping assignment to Bridges by the evening of September 10, 2020. From this master list, groups of four or five (groups of three may be considered but there will be no group larger than five) will select a product to research collectively. The product selection will be completed in class on September 15/17, 2020. No research team will share a product with another research team. Subgroups will be created on Bridges to facilitate sharing data.

Research teams will conduct extensive research; collect data; create maps, tables, and charts diagrams, etc. showing the product cycle of the product selected; create a poster displaying the all at the appropriate data, maps, and other visual analytics; describe the product and research in its totality to other class participants and visitors on the presentation day.

This intermediate step requires the research team to turn in an Excel (or similar) spreadsheet showing the production cycle including all of the component parts of that production cycle on October 29, 2020. Preliminary data must be included for the entire production cycle. Preliminary maps are also encouraged. As research teams prepare this component of the project, the more information the team can provide, the more the instructor can offer guidance for additional research options or suggest the need for additional information. Students should consider the following questions as a very preliminary starting point. Some of the questions are broad contextual questions while others look for specific data. You should collect data on commodity pricing, shipping costs, marketing costs, manufacturing costs, etc. Use Rivoli as a guide to the type of data you might look for.

  • Where is the headquarters of the company that produces the product? Where are key subsidiaries located? Where are the production/assembly facilities? Where does the company pay taxes? What are its revenues, profits, taxes, and other liabilities?
  • What kind of businesses produce the product along each stage of the production process? Are these businesses local or global? If global, why, when and how did the producer go global? Where do these intermediate producers pay taxes? What are their revenues, profits, taxes, and other liabilities?
  • Where are the primary markets for the company’s products? Who are the consumers?
  • What are the political and economic conditions in the different sites of the production process from raw material to finished good?
  • Who produces the product (i.e., labor) at each phase of the production cycle? What are worker wages and benefits at each phase? What are the working conditions (including hours worked) for workers at each phase? What are the labor policies and practices of the companies involved in the production cycle? What rights do workers have in countries where component pieces are produced? What about he finished good?
  • Has the company you are researching violated any environmental laws in the US or where the product is manufactured? What about the companies that produce the intermediate components of the product? What kind of environmental issues are involved in the production cycle?

 

Peer Grading for Team Mapping/Data Analysis (5%)

To attempt to counter the inherent free-rider problem, each member of the research team will be evaluated by each member of the research team using an anonymous grade criteria sheet. The peer review will represent 5% of the course grade and will be based on an average of the peer evaluation.

 
Team Mapping/Data Analysis Presentation (20%)

Each research team will create a PowerPoint or short 7- to 10-minute documentary (a digital story) of your research. On December 1/3, 2020, all research teams will present their research to the class. If a group chooses the documentary, we can further discuss logistics.

Regardless of design, the presentation must include maps; visual documentation of the entire production process; key data on the stages of the production process (costs, labor, etc.); visual documentation of the production cycle at all phases; and some key textual points, arguments, or other analysis.

 

Grades will be calculated based on organization and quality of information displayed in the presentation or documentary. poster and the discussion of the key elements by presenters.

 

Product Mapping Analysis Paper (Individual) (20%)

Each student must analyze the data gathered about the product cycle in light of the theories of globalization and the criticisms of globalization that we discuss over the course of the semester. The paper must be 8-10 double-spaced pages exclusive of charts, graphs, or maps and the references. The paper must be formatted (12-point Times New Roman, 1” margins, page numbers in upper right corner) with appropriate headings and subheadings. All citations must meet either Chicago Manual of Style 1 (Footnote/Bibliography) or Chicago Manual of Style 2/APSA (Author-Date) formatting systems (MLA is not acceptable).

The essay should address the following questions at a minimum. However, do not organize the paper to “answer” these questions but use these questions to craft a careful and thoughtful analysis of the impact of globalization on consumer goods. 

  • How is the local action of buying a product connected to global systems of production, transportation, communication, marketing, and transfer of money?
  • The purchase of a product created through the global production cycle is part of a new international division of labor. Some argue that this creates uneven economic development while others argue that in increases the overall standard of living across the globe. In your analysis, what does the product you have purchased say about this division of labor and the question of economic development?
  • What are the environmental costs (or benefits) of the production cycle you have researched for your product? Does this environmental impact influence your future purchasing decisions? Does the purchase price of the item reflect the environmental impact of the product cycle?
  • Based on your research, what role do consumers, marketers, producers/manufacturers (read MNCs here), transnational groups (labor unions or anti-WTO groups, for example, and the state?

I envision that students will examine the costs and production of raw materials, the transportation of those raw materials to manufacturing, the process (including working conditions, labor costs, etc.) of manufacturing, the shipping of the product to market, and the retail sales of the product. I expect you to explore the entirety of the costs of the production chain including environmental and personal but also to take into account the benefits of trade to the developing economies that are manufacturing those products. I expect students to analyze whether the retail cost of the product is worth what it takes to manufacture it. The questions above should help to organize your thoughts on the subject of globalization and its critics. Look at the positives and negatives of globalization and analyze the phenomenon.