--- - |2 Abstract Governance is a core focus of the global value chain (GVC) and global production network (GPN) literatures. Recent research claims ‘complementary’ or ‘synergistic’ governance, achieved through the confluence of private, public and civil society actors, is required for sustainable social gains. While moving beyond a narrow focus on economic coordination, such analysis lacks a sufficiently nuanced examination of power relations. In this article, I draw on neo‐Gramscian perspectives to account for ongoing contestation, positing that governance needs to be understood in the context of a broader hegemonic project. ‘Antagonistic governance’ is proposed to conceptualize contestation within and across diverse initiatives, which forge, challenge and transform hegemonic stability in GVC/GPNs. I explore this through the South African fruit sector, in particular, a labour crisis in 2012/13. I argue that we need to move beyond apolitical readings of governance to account for the material and discursive practices through which contestation gets played out, compromises are forged, and hegemonic order is maintained. - 'Global Networks, EarlyView. '