The Cultural Wealth of Nations

By Nina Bandelj; Frederick F. Wherry | Go to book overview

9
Creating and Controlling
Symbolic Value
The Case of South African Wine

Stefano Ponte Benoit Daviron

IN THE INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT LITERATURE, upgrading is seen as one of the main ways through which farms, firms, or industries in the global South can respond to the challenges of globalization and increased competition. The concept is often used in analyses of global value chains (GVCs)1 to entail a combination of making better products, improving processes to make these products, and/or taking over new functions. GVC work has been especially concerned with documenting the eschewed distribution of value added along chains to the detriment of actors based in the South. The existing work on upgrading has mostly dealt with issues related to the material attributes of products, to skills and knowledge that are applied to the production and circulation of products, and to organizational and institutional forms (including standards) that are at the core of upgrading efforts in the South (see, among many others, Bair and Gereffi 2003; Gereffi 1999; Gibbon 2001; Giuliani, Pietrobelli, and Rabellotti. 2005; Neilson and Pritchard 2009; Schmitz 2006). In only a few instances has the GVC literature dealt explicitly with the symbolic attributes of products. These attributes are built on reputation and cannot be measured by human senses or technological devices. They are part of what Gereffi (2001) and Bair (Chapter 8 in this volume) call “intangibles” (as opposed to tangible production and transformation processes). Yet symbolic attributes are different from other intangibles in the sense that they are transmitted to consumers through “signs,” such as slogans, nomenclatures, indications of geographic origin, labels, and brands.

Bair (Chapter 8 in this volume) differentiates between two ways in which “cultural wealth” comes into play in GVCs. One is where culture (in her case

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