(Hand)Building Value: What’s In a Name?

As the blog’s subtitle – “handbuilt bikes and global value chains” – tries to indicate, in its widest sense this new project will center on handmade bike builders and how they are situated within the global bicycle trade. That alone is a tall order…but the real ambition is even broader: to use the position of the handmade builders as a window on the global commodity chains (or “value chains” as some would have it) that link production and the use or “consumption” of bicycles and bicycle gear in the world economy, and the cultural and institutional contexts in which those are embedded. However, rather than jump into the global bike trade from the “top” or “above” – looking at the major producers, this project will start from the margins of sorts, a bit more from “below” in that sense.

Why “Handbuilding Value”…or “Building Value” at least?

The most straightforward answer to the question is the most pragmatic: although I conceived of the project, and it has been IRB approved, under the working title of “Building Value”, that url is already taken! Surprisingly enough, “handbuildingvalue” was still available. There you have it.

The more substantive reason for the new name relates to my own scholarly background. My work thus far has focused on the structure and function of global industries and the role of such activities on the global distribution of wealth, power and status – so-called global inequalities. An influential body of theoretical and empirical work has gone on there under the heading of the “global commodity chains” framework, but this literature has partially fused with another line of work that has gone on under the “global value chains” moniker. There are, as you could expect, a number of points of debate about one heading being better than the the other, which is more fruitful, and so forth. These debates really aren’t worth going into for our purposes here, so I’m rather arbitrarily going with the “value chains” moniker because I think it sounds a little more open for a non-academic audience. [This is ironic, though, because my scholarly theoretical sympathies actually rest with the “commodity chains” approach!]

Now that I’ve adjusted to the “Handbuilding Value” blog title, I am actually keen on this for the long run because I could envision this inquiry into the craft/small batch/artisanal side of the bike trade leading to some comparative work with other such niches, many/most of which might frame their own space as being defined by “hand” production.

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