Chapter 15

Outsourcing: Globalization and Beyond

GEORGE RITZER AND CRAIG LAIR

Outsourcing is clearly an important economic phenomenon and certainly a key aspect of globalization. When addressed in the globalization literature, most analysts connect outsourcing to various trends that have made the economy increasingly global. Thus, the issue of outsourcing is often connected to global commodity chains (Gereffi and Korzeniewicz 1994); global networks (Castells 1996); lean or flexible production practices (Harvey 1990; Inda and Rosaldo 2002: 6–7; Harrison 1994); the internationalization of production and the division of labour (Jameson 1991; Beck 2000; Robinson 2003) which some thinkers see as undermining local labour’s power vis-à-vis global corporations (Smith 2005; Petras and Veltmeyer 2001; Rodrik 1997; Isaak 2005; Applebaum and Robinson 2005); and/or an increase in the level of international stratification (Held and McGrew 2002). While undoubtedly important, these analyses tend to confine themselves to macroeconomic issues, particularly the flow of jobs from some nations to others. Outsourcing, however, is increasingly being seen as something that has connections beyond the ‘loss’ of jobs and a focus on the economy more generally. For example, the Wall Street Journal on 14 November 2005 had a piece on how retirees are ‘outsourcing’ their ‘golden years’1 by spending them in foreign countries (e.g. in South and Latin America) where the cost of living is lower than that of the United ...

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