Logistics and crisis: The supply chain system in the Po valley region


-      A theoretical overview

-      A geographical perspective

-      The organization of labour inside Po valley region: the cooperative business

-      Struggles and the role of rank and file unions

-      Voices and sights

-      Conclusions

-      Bibliography

A theoretical overview

Before delving into the issue at the regional level of Po Valley, in the first part we would discuss some theoretical fundamentals, which we have established on the works of Karl Marx and Anna Tsing. Firstly, we believe it is really important to clarify not only what logistics is, but also how logistics is generally viewed or defined. According to the general and open source information website Wikipedia, logistics is defined as:

«the management of the flow of resources between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet some requirements, for example, of customers or corporations. The resources managed in logistics can include physical items, such as food, materials, equipment, liquids, and staff, as well as abstract items, such as time, information, particles, and energy».

We of course view logistics from a much more interdependent tradition. Since the birth of trade itself, and even more from the beginning of the “capitalism era” (from the “industrial revolution” in the 18th century), logistics has been a fundamental field of the productive system, and the more the world has become globalized, the more logistics has acquired a lead role.

From a theoretical point of view, we are prompted to extend our research from the second book of Capital by Karl Marx. According to Marx, capitalist production needs to reduce the circulatory time of commodities (the so-called «turnover time») as much as possible, because during that period the capitalist cannot convert so-called surplus-value into profit. For these reasons, from the capitalist point of view, it is so important to have a «turnover time» that is close to zero. Therefore, it is decisive to have an efficient logistic plan. Marx breaks it down further into a basic equation where he says:

«If we designate the year as the unit of measure of the turnover time by T, the time of turnover of a given capital by t, and the number of its turnovers by n, then n = T/t. If, for instance, the time of turnover t is 3 months, then n is equal to 12/3, or 4; capital is turned over four times per year […]. If its time of turnover is several years, it is computed in multiples of one year»[1].

Basically, that means: the more efficient the logistics, the more the capitalist entrepreneur can produce a profit. So we see how even Marx considered logistics («turnover time») a crucial dimension of capitalism. Again, the amount of surplus value that a capitalist can reach in one year is dependent on the speed of «turnover time».

As we said above, the more the whole world has become globalized, the more logistics has acquired importance. Now it has a lead role into what Anna Tsing calls «supply chain capitalism». According to Tsing, an analysis of supply chain capitalism has not just an interest to itself, but, as she puts it, it is «necessary to understand the dilemmas of the human condition today». But, what is «supply chain capitalism»? Using Anna Tsing’s definition,

«supply chain capitalism here refers to commodity chains based on subcontracting, outsourcing, and allied arrangements in which the autonomy of component enterprises is legally established even as the enterprises are disciplined within the chain as a whole»[2].

When Anna Tsing wants to offer a typical example of «supply chain capitalism», she talks about the retail giant Wal-Mart, «the highest-profile supply chain driver today». Despite Wal-Mart’s self-projecting image, portraying itself as a “community”, as a multi-national corporation its highest priority is of course to produce profits. When considering the fact that Wal-Mart does not want to control labor arrangements, environmental practices, subcontractors’ investment strategies, because they are outsourced, we see this community image drastically shrink. Ironically, in the third part of the article, we might be able to see some similarities between the cooperatives business works in the Po valley region and Wal-Mart  in their  respective logistics systems.

Ultimately, as a consequence of market globalization, reducing «turnover time» becomes a cornerstone for every business. Logistics sectors have become a strategic point for market  competitiveness and there are few areas particularly dedicated to this sector. Po valley region is one of these “strategic areas” and is important to know how is its “geographical structure” to mapping out  sites of struggles and, eventually, even to deeper understand the struggles itself.

<< Prev    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10    Next >>