Governance is a core focus of 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. This paper draws upon neo-Gramscian perspectives to account for on-going contestation, positing that governance be understood in the context of a broader hegemonic project. ‘Antagonistic governance’ is proposed to conceptualise contestation within and across diverse initiatives, which forge, challenge and transform hegemonic stability in GVC/GPNs. This is explored through the South African fruit sector, in particular, a labour crisis in 2012/13. I argue for a move beyond apolitical readings of governance, to account for the material and discursive practices through which contestation plays out, compromises are forged and hegemonic order maintained.