This article seeks to understand network governance within the context of the North American automotive industry. Within this industry, original equipment manufacturers (lead firms) have outsourced a substantial portion of parts production over the last 30 years. This paper argues that in an aim to govern their supplier relations, North American lead firms imposed quality assurance standards upon their suppliers. In addition, this paper considers how nodes situated in the network are called upon to pre-emptively manage failures. Utilizing the quality assurance standards themselves, and 15 in-depth interviews with quality assurance managers at different part supplier plants, this article explores the technologies of performance used to manage failures. The focus of this paper is on the creation of part narratives, and particularly, the quality audit and its role in governing the conduct of part suppliers at-a-distance. Lastly, this paper focuses on the network prudential subject who is called upon to pre-emptively manage failures on behalf of the network.

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Sociological Research Online
Carleton University

Spencer, D. (2010). Governing through standards: Networks, failure and auditing. Sociological Research Online, 15(4). doi:10.5153/sro.2223