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  Relations of mutual dependence. Human societies are highly influential participants in wider ecosystems — so influential in fact that some go beyond the interdependence of society and nature to recognize nature as a social product (Smith, 1984). Interdependence is applied in a particularly direct way to the understanding of development. Here interest lies in the making and extent of interdependence and in the challenge that it poses to monocausal, unilinear explanations of the human condition (Brookfield, 1975).

The contemporary world economy is often presented as a single interdependent whole carrying overtones of structural functionalism and with an emphasis placed on the systemic mechanics rather than the politics of development. The danger of such a conception is that the conflicts and contradictions stemming from the social bases of interdependence are overlooked in the assumption of an ecological unity of purpose (see world-systems analysis).

The emergence of a world economy is the result of the development of social relations capable of conducting human activity at a global scale (see globalization); the social relations of capitalism provide such a basis. They are both further developed by and cause developments in the generalization of the market and the structure and geography of trade, flows of capital and labour, global evaluations of production and exchange and the scale and organization of production. In short, the social relations of production are the language through which interdependence may be realized (see economic geography).

In pre-capitalist societies, interdependence was both highly localized and restricted in scope — although in some cases international trade helped to supply the demand for luxury consumption from an élite. In the contemporary capitalist world economy, interdependence is worldwide. And, in recent years, capitalist social relations have experienced further geographical expansion with the collapse of state socialism in eastern Europe and the former USSR and the emergence of capitalism in China, now far more closely integrated into the world economic geography than, for example, its frequently cited comparator, India.

|||The political implications of interdependence are clear: human survival is itself reliant upon social and ecological relations of mutual dependence operating at a world scale. Metropolitan economies are as much if not more dependent upon the societies of the so-called periphery as the latter are upon the former (see core-periphery model; dependence). In fact, the apparently peripheral societies may have a greater capacity for self-sufficiency and independence, insofar as their social relations of production are characterized by reciprocity rather than by exploitation and their productive use of nature is cooperative rather than exploitative. But in economies and societies organized at a world scale, development may proceed only with the acceptance of mutual interdependence (this was the underlying message of the Brandt Reports — Brandt Commission, 1980, 1983 — in which the argument was that it was in the interests of the developed \'north\' to aid the underdeveloped \'south\' on the grounds that both would benefit from increased levels of economic activity and interaction) or with their imposition.

But this is to pose the issue of interdependent development only in terms of idealism rather than of the relations between materialism and idealism (see dialectic; historical materialism). All societies need to be able to produce or appropriate a surplus to ensure their material and social reproduction. The expansion of capitalism and the struggle for strategic domination within the capitalist and non-capitalist worlds and between these spheres of influence is a product of this material imperative. The struggle for dominance involves the incorporation and subjugation of formerly independent social formations. The existence of such a struggle, unproductive as it is, is itself a major cause of underdevelopment and the violent transformation of societies (see, for example, Watts, 1992/ 1996). The maintenance of a form of communism in China and the abandonment of state socialism in eastern Europe and beyond has led to divergent paths of social pathology with dramatic consequences for the conduct of social life. In Russia, for example, the male life expectancy has fallen to around 58 years — representing a fall of one year for every year since the collapse of state socialism.

Furthermore, struggle for domination generates a reaction in the form of a countervailing struggle for freedom from domination. Thus, whilst ecological interdependence remains, the question is whether it can withstand the ravages — both social and material — of exploitative modes of production which generate economic, political and ideological conflict throughout the world. It is, perhaps, rather more realistic to speak of an international balance of power based upon the economic geographies of productive capacity and output and cultural geographies of discourse and meaning in which \'[“W]orlds of comfort” and “worlds of struggle” are interweaved in complicated geographies as they penetrate one another\'s spaces in ever-increasing ways\' (Taylor, Watts and Johnston, 1995, p. 1). (RL)

References Brandt Commission, 1980: North-south: a programme for survival. London: Pan Books. Brandt Commission, 1983: Common crisis: North-South cooperation for world recovery. London: Pan Books; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Brookfield, H. 1975: Interdependent development. London: Methuen. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. Smith, N. 1984: Uneven development. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell. Taylor, P.J., Watts, M.J. and Johnston, R.J. 1995: Global change at the end of the twentieth century. In R.J. Johnston, P.J. Taylor and M.J. Watts, eds, Geographies of global change. Remapping the world in the late twentieth century, ch. 1. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1-10. Watts, M.J. 1992: The shock of modernity: petroleum, protest and fast capitalism in an industrializing society. In A. Pred and M. Watts, Reworking modernity: Capitalisms and symbolic discontent, ch. 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press [reprinted in Daniels, S. and Lee, R. eds, 1996: Exploring human geography ch. 6. London: Arnold, 120-52].

Suggested Reading Taylor et al. (1995). Watts (1992/1996).
research question|How does a process work in a particular case or small number of cases? What produces a certain change? What did the agents actually do?|What are the regularities common patterns, distinguishing features of a population? How widely are certain characteristics or processes distributed or represented?|
relations|substantial relations of connection|formal relations of similarity|
type of groups studied|causal groups|taxonomic groups|
type of account produced|causal explanation of the production of certain objects or events, although not necessarily representative ones|descriptive \'representative\' generalizations, lacking in explanatory penetration|
typical methods|study of individual agents in their causal contexts, interactive interviews, ethnography — qualitative analysis|large-scale survey of population or representative sample, formal questionnaires, standardized interviews — statistical analysis|
limitations|actual concrete patterns and contingent relations are unlikely to be \'representative\', \'average\' or generalizable — necessary relations discovered will exist wherever their relata are present, e.g. causal powers of objects are generalizable to other contexts as they are necessary features of these objects|although representative of a whole population, they are unlikely to be generalizable to other populations at different times and places — problem of ecological fallacy in making inferences about individuals — limited explanatory power|
appropriate tests|corroboration|replication|
intensive research Sayer\'s summary of intensive and extensive research (Sayer, 1992, p. 30)



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