Standards and International Relations: Devolution of Power in the Global Political Economy

This project explores the political implications of the growing influence of international standards in globalisation, taking the case of the service sector as a distinct field of study. The analysis relies on global political economy approaches, which try to identify constitutive patterns of authority mediating between the political and the economic spheres on a transnational space. It extends to the area of service standards the assumption that the process of globalisation is not opposing states and markets, but a joint expression of both of them including new patterns and agents of structural change through formal and informal power and regulatory practices. The research combines cross-institutional and sectoral analyses. It targets the most important international institutions involved in the devolution of power of service standards. It focuses on a sample of four sectoral case studies selected with either high or low values on the main characteristics differentiating the service economy. Higher education and call/contact centres exemplify areas with rather high relational intensity, immateriality, end-user-orientation and labour intensity. In contrast, transport systems and non-life insurance (in general and emerging liabilities) epitomise industries with low relational intensity, a greater materiality, a strong business-oriented implication, and capital intensity.

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