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economic geography

  The geography (or, rather, geographies) of people\'s struggle to make a living. Economic geographies are simultaneously:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } fields of enquiry: analytical and representational investigations of the geographies of circuits of social reproduction such as the circuit of capital through which people struggle to make a living; and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } substantive practices: the geographies created and destroyed in the struggles to construct such circuits across space and time and to sustain/subvert/displace them.Although the stress here is upon the path-dependent (reproduction), integrative (circuits) and social (capitalism) nature of economic geographies, economic geography as a field of enquiry has traditionally tended to follow economics in focusing less on reproduction than on moments of consumption, production and exchange (a practice recognized in the distinction drawn, for example, by Knox and Agnew (1998) between static and dynamic models). It has also followed economics in tending to represent economies as asocial mechanisms susceptible to purely economic trajectories and logics of analysis (see Sayer, 1994). This supplication was based initially on the gradual incorporation of neo-classical economics into economic geography (e.g. Chisholm, 1966; Hodder and Lee, 1974). It is apparent in the many detailed studies of particular economic activities in which the definitional categories used and the causal mechanisms analysed are derived directly from neo-classical economic theory as well as from critiques (e.g. Dicken and Lloyd, 1990; Sheppard and Barnes 1990; Martin 1994) of the social and other limitations of neo-classical analyses and, indeed, of the \'economic\' more widely.

Defining economic geographies in terms of social reproduction forces attention onto the inseparability of culture and economy, no matter how distinct they may be (Sayer, 1997). As early as 1935, in a study of The pastoral industries of New Zealand, R.O. Buchanan pointed out that \'geographical conditions … are dependent on the precise nature of the economic conditions\'. But he went on to suggest that such a relationship \'will be recognized as merely specifying one type of instance of the generally accepted view that geographical values are not absolute, but are relative to the cultural stage [see culture; cultural geography] achieved by the human actors\'. The appearance of David Harvey\'s Social justice and the city in 1973 — nearly 40 years after R.O. Buchanan\'s comments on the definitive relations between culture and economy — brought such issues, and an epistemology with which they could be handled, to the attention of geographers. The later chapters of Harvey\'s (1973) book represent a first attempt to interpret the structure and functioning of economic geographies as cultural, social and historic entities, while his The limits to capital (1982) presents a review of, and remarkable response to, criticisms of Marxist economic theory which, whilst widely criticized for determinism and closure, represents a sustained incorporation of social and cultural practices into the analysis of the economic. Working close to the centre of what might once have been conceived of as the heartland of economic geography — its concern with production — Erica Schoenberger (1997) demonstrates the power of a cultural understanding of the economic in her investigation of corporate culture and behaviour and its contribution to \'the failure of American firms to act in their own best interests\' (p. 7). Such a \'reversal\' or \'dislocation\' (Barnes, 1996) of economic logic begins not merely to add the culture to the economic but to question the economic as a process of value (see, e.g., Gertler, 1997).

So, it is not surprising to find that, as Nigel Thrift and Kris Olds (1996, p. 311) put it, the full complexity of modern economies becomes apparent only \'when we move outside what are often still considered to be the “normal” territories of economic inquiry. Then a whole new world moves into view\'. Taking economies seriously, it seems, requires the transcendence of economics (see, e.g., Lee and Wills, 1997). Thrift and Olds suggest that new economic geography will be polycentric (Martin, 1994, p. 46 refers similarly to a \'multivocal\' economic geography) in recognizing multiple and contested economic geographies, open to influences from well beyond economic theory (Martin\'s \'multiperspectival\' economic geography) and will be driven by the refiguring of conventional notions of the economic.

Substantive economic geographies are irreducibly practical, irreducibly material, irreducibly social, and irreducibly geographical, none of which implies, however, that they are not also discursive notions and practices informed and shaped by prevailing power/ knowledge (see, e.g., Crang, 1997). Economic geographies are practical or instrumental as they require the workable means through which the interrelated practices of consumption, production and exchange may be articulated (see, e.g., Thrift and Olds (1996) on the social nature of economies and on networks) and they are material in that they involve the engagement of people with nature (including their own — Smith, 1984) in the production and consumption of the means of material life (see sustainable development).

Economic geographies are social not merely because they depend upon more, or less, developed social divisions of labour or practices of social interaction (Thrift and Olds, 1996) but, more fundamentally, because circuits of social reproduction are shaped by social relations (Lee, 1989). Social relations are themselves a product of the historical geographies of social struggle and discourse (Peet, 1997) through which they come to be shaped. They provide the contested means of communication and frameworks of understanding and conflict and offer purpose and direction to, and evaluative criteria of, circuits of social reproduction (Brenner, 1977).

Although social relations of production are central to understanding in economic geography, they may hide more than they reveal. If their provenance is seen merely in the social struggle over control of production and of the means of production, an oppressively economic domination of society and of its investigation may result. The massive but frequently contested — or worse, ignored — contribution of feminist geography (see, e.g., McDowell and Sharp, 1997) and of the geography of race and, more pertinently, of racism has not been merely to reveal gender blindness by adding women to the economic landscape or to recognize discrimination and even oppression but, far more fundamentally, to challenge the very social bases on which the economy, society and the individual are constituted and develop. The division of labour combines with class, gender, race and racism in a complex interaction of multiple structures (Sayer and Walker, 1992; Massey, 1995). More generally, Trevor Barnes (1996), in a quite brilliant intervention, has begun to unpick the (often unspoken) logics of economic geographies to show that \'there is not one economic geography but many economic geographies, not one complete story but a set of fragmented stories\' (p. 250).

Economic geographies are geographical in that circuits of social reproduction are shaped and decisively influenced by the geographies through which they take place. As Michael Storper and Allen Scott (1986, p. 13) put it:

the historical dynamics of socioeconomic systems can only (sic) be fully comprehended in geographical context, for the possibilities and limitations of human action are intrinsically constructed in spatially specific circumstances.For Scott and Storper (1986, p. 310) the \'salient feature\' of such circumstances is their \'status as an assemblage of territorial complexes of human labor and emergent social activity\':

Territorial production complexes form the material bases of the relative positions of nations within the world economy, and so they are integral to the evolution of world political relations. They are also the framework within which specific urbanization and regional development processes unfold. Further, it is in these complexes that social reproduction occurs, and thus the creation of or resistance to new forms of domination that appear on the historical scene can be discerned through the window of territorial dynamics.Geography could hardly be more central to economy, but there is a danger here of overstressing the formative geographies of territorial complexes (e.g. Storper and Walker, 1989) and so devaluing similarly formative geographies such as those of globalization (e.g. Hamnett, 1995; Dicken, Peck and Tickell, 1997), world systems (see world-systems analysis), corporate geographies (e.g. Dicken and Thrift, 1992) and the intersections of local and global (e.g. Amin and Thrift, 1997). Thus, although it is right to claim that \'the question of the geographical anatomy of industrial capitalism is likely to become rapidly of major significance throughout the social sciences at large\' (Scott and Storper, 1986, p. 311), such geographies are more complex and multi-layered than those associated with territorial production complexes, no matter how powerful the latter may be. It is this complexity of the continuing and formative interpenetration of geographical scales (see, e.g., Cox, 1997) that matters rather than a simplistic either/or conception of scale.

These landscapes are constituted out of the rules of order — the social relations — of, in the contemporary world, capitalist society. They are manifestations of the \'locational cum spatial processes\' (Scott and Storper, 1986, p. 310) which shape the material geographies of consumption, production and exchange and they find their immediate phenomenal form in the communities incorporated within and disconnected from processes of social reproduction (e.g. Hudson, 1989). An inclusive economic geography would include the study of:

{img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } constructions of power/knowledge which shape discursive practice and arbitrate — forcibly or otherwise — between competing discourses (see, e.g., Watts, 1992/ 1996); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } cultural and material origins of social relations of reproduction and the distanciated geographies of struggles, including those involved in the intersections within and between different sets of social relations, to establish/sustain/overthrow particular forms and geographies of such relations (e.g. Peet, 1997); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } conceptualizations of nature within particular sets of social relations and forms of social reproduction (e.g. Harvey, 1996; Watts and McCarthy, 1997); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } forms of the calculation and measurement of value and of the evaluation of circuits of social reproduction (e.g. Harvey, 1989, ch. 14; Harvey, 1996, Introduction; Swyngedouw, 1996); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } forms of state (e.g. Martin and Sunley, 1997; O\'Neill, 1997) and politics and Regulation which support and legitimize particular social relations and circuits of social reproduction (e.g. Tickell and Peck, 1992); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } means of coordination and exchange through the use of money (e.g. Leyshon and Thrift, 1997, Introduction) and various mechanisms of coordination (e.g. Thompson et al., 1991); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } spaces, such as financial centres, of regulation and evaluation and switching (here/ there, direct/indirect investment, inter-sectorial) of productive resources into/from alternative spaces of (re/dis)incorporation (e.g. Sassen, 1991, chs 1-4); {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } spaces of (re/dis)incorporation including those of labour power articulated primarily through labour markets (e.g. Hanson and Pratt, 1995; Peck, 1996) and of other commodities, including the construction of the built environment (e.g. Fainstein, 1994), involved in production; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } processes and forms of production. Just as production is one moment of social reproduction, so too production itself is space and time-dependent. It is, therefore, not simply a singular geographical or temporal moment but consists of a series of chains of production. These may be defined as \'transactionally linked sequence[s] of functions in which each stage adds value to the process of production …\' (Dicken, 1998, p. 7). The complex geographies (ranging from the local to the global) of chains of production are coordinated and regulated through processes of collaboration and competition articulated through firms and states; {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } processes and forms of consumption and realization — including geographies of trade, wholesale and retail (e.g. Wrigley and Lowe, 1996; see retailing, geography of), and their constitutive processes of production as well as the construction of complex spaces and processes of consumption through which the meaning of commodities may be negotiated (Jackson and Thrift, 1995; Crewe and Gregson, 1998; see consumption, geography of); and {img src=show_image.php?name=2022.gif } the developmental dynamics, geographical intersections and transformations of circuits of social reproduction (see development; uneven development; Fordism; post-Fordism).The contemporary world economic geography \'ratifies and glorifies the rule of what we call the financial markets, a return to a radical capitalism answering to no law except that of maximum profit\' (Bourdieu, 1998, p. 125). For Altvater (1996), it is a \'geo-economy\' and for Castells (1996, p. 428) a space of flows: \'because function and power in our societies are organised in the space of flows, the structural domination of its logic essentially alters the meaning and dynamic of places\'. Under such circumstances, as Peter Dicken (1998, ch. 13) reminds us, the concern for \'making a living in the global economy\' is always and should always be present in any economic geography which insists upon the subordination of the merely economic for the richly human. Keith Buchanan\'s (1970) assertion that the contribution of this world economy \'to alleviating the lot of the damned of the earth is derisory\' should remain as the first item to be addressed on the agenda — substantive and analytical — of economic geography. (RL)

References Altvater, A. 1996: The geo-economy. Journal of Area Studies. Amin, A. and Thrift, N. 1997: Globalization, socio-economics, territoriality. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 11. London and New York: Arnold, 147-57. Barnes, T.J. 1996: Logics of dislocation. New York and London: Guilford Press; Bourdieu, P. 1998: A reasoned utopia and economic fatalism. New Left Review 227: 125-30. Brenner, R. 1977: The origins of capitalist development: a critique of neo-Smithian Marxism. New Left Review 104: 25-92. Buchanan, K.M. 1970: The transformation of the Chinese earth. London: Bell; New York: Praeger. Buchanan, R.O. 1935: The pastoral industries of New Zealand: a study in economic geography. Institute of British Geographers publications 2. London: G. Philip. Castells, M. 1996: The rise of the network society, volume I. The information age: Economy, Society and culture. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. Chisholm, M. 1966: Geography and economics. London: Bell; Boulder, Col.: Westview Press. Cox, K., ed., 1997: Spaces of globalization; reasserting the power of the local. New York and London: Guilford. Crang, P. 1997: Cultural turns and the (re)constitution of economic geography. In R. Lee, and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, section 1. London and New York: Arnold, 3-15. Crewe, L. and Gregson, N. 1998: Tales of the unexpected: exploring car-boot sales as marginal spaces of contemporary consumption. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 23: 39-53. Dicken, P. 1998: Global shift: The transformation of the world economy, 3rd edn. London: Paul Chapman Publishing. Dicken, P. and Lloyd, P. 1990: Location in space: theoretical perspectives in economic geography, 3rd edn. London and New York: Harper and Row. Dicken, P. and Thrift, N. 1992: The organization of production and the production of organization: why business enterprises matter in the study of geographical industrialization. Transactions, Institute of British Geographers NS 17 (3): 279-91. Dicken, P., Peck, J. and Tickell, A. 1997: Unpacking the global. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 12. London and New York: Arnold, 158-66. Fainstein, S.S. 1994: The city builders: property, politics and planning in London and New York. Cambridge, MA and Oxford: Blackwell. Gertler, M. 1997: The invention of regional culture. In R. Lee, and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 4. London and New York: Arnold, 47-58. Hamnett, C. 1995: Controlling space: global cities. In J. Allen and C. Hamnett, eds, A shrinking world? ch. 3. Oxford and Milton Keynes: Oxford University Press/Open University, 103-42. Hanson, S. and Pratt, G. 1995: Gender, work and space. London and New York: Routledge. Harvey, D. 1973: Social justice and the city. London: Edward Arnold; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Harvey, D. 1982: The limits to capital. Oxford: Basil Blackwell; Chicago: Chicago University Press. Harvey, D. 1989: The condition of postmodernity. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell. Harvey, D. 1996: Justice, nature and the geography of difference. Cambridge, MA and Oxford: Blackwell. Hodder, B.W. and Lee, R. 1974: Economic geography. London: Methuen; New York: St. Martin\'s Press. Hudson, R. 1989: Wrecking a region. London: Pion. Jackson, P. and Thrift, N. 1995: Geographies of consumption. In D. Miller, ed., Acknowledging consumption, ch. 6. London and New York: Routledge, 204-37. Knox, P. and Agnew, J. 1998: The geography of the world-economy, 3rd edn. London and New York: Edward Arnold. Lee, R. 1989: Social relations and the geography of material life. In D. Gregory, and R. Walford, Horizons in human geography, ch. 2.4. London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin\'s Press. Lee, R. and Wills, J., eds, 1997: Geographies of economies. London and New York: Arnold. Leyshon, A. and Thrift, N. 1997: Money/space: geographies of monetary transformation. London and New York: Routledge. Martin, R. 1994: Economic theory and human geography. In D. Gregory, R. Martin and G. Smith, eds, Human geography: society, space and social science, ch. 2. London: Macmillan, 21-53. Martin, R. and Sunley, P. 1997: The post-Keynesian state and the space economy. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 21. London and New York: Arnold, 278-89. Massey, D. 1995: Spatial divisions of labour, 2nd edn. London: Macmillan. McDowell, L. and Sharp, J.P. 1997: Space, gender, knowledge; feminist readings. London and New York: Arnold. O\'Neill, P.M. 1997: Bringing the qualitative state into economic geography. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 22. London and New York: Arnold, 290-301. Peck, J. 1996: Workplace; the social regulation of labor markets. New York: Guilford. Peet, R. 1991: Global capitalism: theories of societal development. London and New York: Routledge. Peet, R. 1997: The cultural production of economic forms. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 3. London and New York: Arnold. Sassen, S. 1991: The global city. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Sayer, A. 1994: Cultural studies and \'the economy stupid\'. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 12: 635-7. Sayer, A. 1997: The dialectic of culture and economy. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 1. London and New York: Arnold, 16-26. Sayer, A. and Walker, R. 1992: The social economy; reworking the division of labour. Cambridge, MA. and Oxford: Blackwell. Scott, A.J. and Storper, M., eds, 1986: Production, work, territory: the geographical anatomy of industrial capitalism. London: Allen and Unwin. Schoenberger, E. 1997: The cultural crisis of the firm. Cambridge, MA and Oxford: Blackwell. Sheppard, E. and Barnes, T.J. 1990: The capitalist space economy: Geographical analysis after Ricardo, Marx and Sraffra. London and Cambridge, MA: Unwin Hyman. Smith, N. 1984: Uneven development. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell. Storper, M. and Scott, A.J. 1986: Production, work, territory: contemporary realities and theoretical tasks. In A.J. Scott and M. Storper, eds, Production, work, territory. The geographical anatomy of industrial capitalism, ch. 1. London: Allen and Unwin, 3-15. Storper, M. and Walker, R. 1989: The capitalist imperative. New York and Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Swyngedouw, E. 1996: Producing futures: international finance as a geographical project. In P. Daniels and W. Lever, eds, The global economy in transition, ch. 8. Harlow: Longman, 135-63. Thompson, G., Frances, J., Levacic, R. and Mitchell, J., eds, 1991: Markets, hierarchies and networks: the co-ordination of social life. London and Newbury Park, CA: Sage/Open University. Thrift, N. and Olds, K. 1996: Refiguring the economic in economic geography. Progress in Human Geography 20: 311-37. Tickell, A. and Peck, J. 1992: Accumulation, regulation and the geographies of post-Fordism: missing links in regulationist research. Progress in Human Geography 16: 190-218. Watts, M. 1992: The shock of modernity; petroleum, protest, and fast capitalism in an industrializing society. In A. Pred and M.J. Watts, Reworking modernity: capitalisms and symbolic discontent, ch. 2. New Brunswick, NJ; Rutgers University Press. Reprinted in S. Daniels and R. Lee, eds, 1996: Exploring human geography: a reader, ch. 6. London and New York: Arnold, 120-52. Watts, M.J. and McCarthy, J. 1997: Nature as artifice, nature as artefact: Development, environment and modernity in the late twentieth century. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies, ch. 6. London and New York: Arnold, 71-86. Wrigley, N. and Lowe, M., eds, 1996: Retailing, consumption and capital: towards the new retail geography. Harlow: Longman.

Suggested Reading Barnes (1996). Lee and Wills (1997). Martin (1994). Thrift and Olds (1996).



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