Call for Papers for a Journal Special Issue Proposal: «Grounding the Middle-Income Trap: New Insights from Country Case Studies in a World of Global Value Chains»

Comparto la convocatoria que recibí a través de REPAL:

Call for Papers for a Journal Special Issue Proposal

Grounding the Middle-Income Trap: New Insights from Country Case Studies in a World of Global Value Chains 

Why is it so challenging to escape the middle-income trap? What are the implications for sectors and firms of being located in countries trapped in the middle? What are the distinctive challenges they face, vis a vis those that affect sectors and firms in low- and high-income countries? How has the surge of Global Value Chains (GVCs) in world trade reshaped the challenges late developers of the 21st century face vis a vis those faced by late developers of the 20th century—or, in other words, in what ways is the MI trap different now from what it used to be? What can governments, firms and workers in these countries, in the specific conundrum they face in the 21st century, do to reconfigure the prevailing types of insertion into GVCs, in their way out of the MI trap?

A new political economy literature is recasting the original studies on the MI trap originated in economics. This recent turn brings a much-needed focus on the nature of business and labor actors in MI-trap countries, the challenges to form inter-class coalitions that could support policies to escape the trap, as well as a more sensitive analysis on the importance of the state—as well as political institutions more broadly, and new forms of industrial policy, more specifically—in such path out of late development. Yet political economy discussions on the MI trap have so far mostly been held at a macro-comparative level. They lack a closer scrutiny of the domestic realities of the countries in the trap, and therefore miss the finer-grained knowledge of sectors and firms in such contexts that could arguably both explain the resilience of the trap and offer insights on how to get out of it. 

Moreover, current approaches fall short in understanding how the MI-trap itself has evolved over time—and how this in turn has reconfigured the challenges that need to be addressed at the domestic level. Twentieth-century graduates of the trap built new industries with most of the backward linkages or even full supply chains. Yet that path is no longer possible in a world where production has become geographically dispersed and disintegrated. MI-trap countries in the 21st century need to manage their connections to GVCs that are out of their control and also evolving in international markets. Since ‘solutions’ to the entrapment will obviously neither be designed nor championed by GVCs themselves—albeit their omnipresence is an inescapable reality—governments, sectors, and firms in twenty-first-century late developers—as well as the workers they employ—need to take the lead to face specific challenges about which we still do not know enough, such as national strategies for upgrading and specialization, and modes of participation in GVCs that enhance value addition in the Global South.

This special issue seeks to bring back the classical focus of comparative political economy on national models of capitalism to the center of the vibrant discussion on the MI trap. Grounding the empirical inquiry with country cases as the unit of analysis can offer new lenses to better understand the puzzle of MI-trap continuity, as well as help identify new policymaking priorities that have not yet been captured in current macro-level comparative analyses. Proceeding inductively, this move will also contribute to refining the existing comparative frameworks on the MI trap by identifying a set of omitted variables.

We invite scholars with expertise in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey, as well as others that continue to be in the MI trap,  to present 8,000 to 10,000-word, empirically-driven papers that address key issues to shed new light on the causes and/or the consequences of each country’s entrapment. While this Call for Papers seeks to be thematically inclusive, priority will be given to papers that bridge two otherwise separate strands of inquiry—the MI-Trap Framework and the evolving knowledge on the insertion into GVCs from the world’s periphery. This a fundamental step in moving on to a new stage in perennial debates on late development. Papers that conduct within-country comparisons through cross-sectoral analyses and/or case studies of firms relevant to the MI-trap discussion will also be particularly welcomed. Some of the suggested topics of inquiry include but are not limited to how firms succeed or fail in dealing with the obstacles for upgrading, and how they deal with asymmetrical relationships within GVCs.

At this first stage of assembling a Special Issue Proposal, we ask interested authors to send an early note of interest and then submit an extended abstract of 500-750 words to Tomás Bril Mascarenhas <> and Carlos Freytes <> by April 1st, 2022. In addition, please briefly indicate the current state of the proposed contribution (e.g., progress in data collection, first draft to be presented at X conference, estimated date for first draft completion, etc.). The proposal will seek diversity in the pool of contributors in terms of gender, geographic location (Global South-North diversity), and career stage. 


Tomás Bril-Mascarenhas (FUNDAR, Argentina)

Carlos Freytes (FUNDAR-UTDT, Argentina)

Ben Ross Schneider (MIT)

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