Pacific-Asia and the Future of the World-System

By Ravi Arvind Palat | Go to book overview

4
INTERNATIONAL SUBCONTRACTING AND GLOBAL CAPITALISM: RESHAPING THE PACIFIC RIM

Gary Gereffi

Most efforts to define the region known variously as the Pacific Rim, Pacific Basin, Asia/Pacific, and so on have been quite unsatisfactory. There is an inherent geographical bias in all these definitions, since they tend to view the region as a geographical given, despite the difficulties of "delineating the boundaries of the region, determining its center(s), and deciding whom of all the people who inhabit the region to include within it as serious participants in its activities" ( Dirlik, 1991: 1). "Pacific Rim," one of the most commonly used terms, has the drawback of focusing too exclusively on the edges of the region, leaving out of the picture all that is inside it. "Pacific Basin" has the opposite problem, since it suggests that the center of the region is somewhere in the ocean. "Asia/Pacific" has the advantage of referring not just to the region's location, but also to one of its principal human components, although the Asian peoples are so diverse that the term negates any social specificity in the notion. Finally, the term "Asian-American Pacific" might be preferred as descriptively more comprehensive, including the peoples on both sides of the Pacific, but this apparent egalitarian inclusiveness is misleading. It glosses over the historical problem of changes in the scope and structure of competing interests in the constitution of Asia and the Americas.

The purpose of my paper is neither to defend any of these definitions of the region nor to add a new one. The Pacific Rim is not just a geographical region nor is it solely the by-product of elite-centered, Euro-American, "hegemonic ideologies" of expansion into the Pacific hinterland, although geopolitical factors undoubtedly have been important in shaping the internal dynamics of the region as well as its insertion into the world-economy. Rather, I prefer to take a more inductive or grounded approach that sees the Pacific Rim as a geographical arena that is tied together by a variety of economic and social networks. My empirical focus will be a comparison of three global industries: garments, automobiles,

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