CHAPTER III UNEVEN GEOGRAPHICAL DEVELOPMENT
INTRODUCTION: CAPITALISM UNDERSTANDS SPACE AND TIME
The French director Chris Marker in the film Sans Soleil makes one his characters traveling between Asia and Africa say the following: “In the nineteenth century mankind had come to terms with space and the great question of the twentieth century was the coexistence of different concepts of time” (Marker).
Certainly in the 21st Century –so far– one of the questions is still how to come to terms with the notion of space and the different concepts of time, the emergence of globalization and the speeding up of life are just but the most clear examples of current problems of space and time. In this chapter, my concern is to find out how capitalism came to terms with both.
David Harvey has some answers. In what follows, this chapter will engage the theory of uneven geographical development, along with the concept of the spatial/temporal fix, to further understand how capitalism advances by the destruction of both, space and time. By bringing Harvey’s insights to this discussion, the intention is, first, to delimit the filed of operation: the where, how, who and what of capitalist logic; and secondly, the intention is to bring clarity to the procedures of material dispossession and destruction. All the sections of this present chapter will show the destructive aspect of capitalism, by different means, with different goals, under different circumstances; there is always a center, the destruction that capital leaves wherever it takes hold.
To introduce David Harvey, let’s start by remembering that he was born in 1935 in Kent, England, where he obtained a PhD in Geography from Cambridge University. In the early 1970s he moved from The United Kingdom to the United States, teaching at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and later in 2001 moved to New York where he currently teaches, at the Anthropology Department in the City University of New York.
If Explanations in Geography, his first text, published in 1969, is an influential methodological treatise on geography, then it is his third book, Social Justice and the City, published in 1973 by John Hopkins where the critical aspect of geography and urbanism in Harvey’s theory takes flight. More precisely, Harvey finds in Marxism the theory that at the end of Explanations in Geography, some commentators observe, he was looking for21. Social Justice and the City is a collection of essays arranged under two different perspectives, the first part titled, ‘Liberal Formulations,’ and the second part ‘Socialists Formulations,’ from this moment on, Harvey will be deeply interested in the second strain of formulations, developing an impressive body of work that intersects Marxism and spatial relations. Moreover, the field of critical urbanism embedded in the Marxist critique of capitalism and urbanism is, in part, forged by Harvey himself.
Derek Gregory commenting on Harvey’s work in “Introduction: Troubling Geographies” finds two clear patterns of development:
While it would be a mistake to collapse Harvey’s work into a single journey, two key text frame his project and reveal a remarkably consistent template: Explanations in Geography and The Limits to Capital. These are usually read as opposing contributions, separated by the transitional essays of Social Justice and the City that recorded Harvey’s movement from spatial science to historical materialism. (2)
Precisely these are the apparent two strains, although constantly collapsing on each other, which encompass Harvey’s work, behind them an impressive body of work piles up.
In this opportunity I rather not expand on Harvey’s profuse work, it is not the intention of this section to produce an extensive presentation of his work, but rather to locate Harvey’s theory in the political spectrum to better understand its complexity and ramifications. It is also, not the intention of this section to produce a review of the different works that this research is interested in, but rather the intention is to center the attention, for a brief moment, on three major works that signal the path Harvey took to produce the theoretical grounds that I will work with in this research.
Following Derek Gregory’s introductory article in David Harvey: A Critical Reader it is important to mention three major works that will delineate, not only Harvey’s interests, but also, the evolution of his work, Explanations in Geography, Social Justice and the City and The Limits to Capitalism. In 1969 appeared in London and New York Explanations in Geography, Harvey’s first book. Basically a methodological and philosophical work that tried to convey the differences between disciplines of knowledge, more concretely:
Harvey’s entire project was based on a central philosophical claim. He rejected the traditional exceptionalism that could be traced back to Kant’s foundational distinction between different knowledges, and which had received its canonical disciplinary statement in Hartshorne’s The Nature of Geography in 1939, because he believed that the division had both marooned Geography and History outside the mainstream of scientific progress and also separated them from one another. (Gregory 2006, 4)
From the beginning, Gregory explains, Harvey’s theoretical project involved the elucidation of the concept of space, as a particular category of knowledge; although in order to achieve this, a transformation was needed:
[S]pace had to be transformed from the planar categories of Euclidean geometry, and its materializations had to be transformed by process (‘the key to temporal explanations’). From the very beginning, therefore, one of Harvey’s central concerns was to establish the connection between spatial structure and process. (2006, 4).
It is in this context, for Gregory, that Harvey wrote Explanations in Geography against two different backgrounds. On the one hand, the ‘Quantitative Revolution,’ a misleading expression to signal the academic move from the regional and nuanced understanding of geography, towards a general theory of geography, or a “spatial science” (2006, 3); and a second revolution; that not necessarily finds any impact on Explanations in Geography per se, but it produces a shift on academic standards and the society in general, the anti-war and civil rights movements.
It is Harvey’s third text, Social Justice and the City published in 1973 where, one might argue, this latter revolution finds its impact. This text, as Harvey explains in its introduction, is centered upon four different but strongly related questions.
First, the nature of theory, set to understand theory not as an isolated thinking process but as practice: “When theory becomes practice through use then and only then is it really verified” (Harvey 1973, 12).
Second, the nature of space, understood not as a search for the final definition of space, as in the nature, or core of the concept, but: “The question ‘what is space?’ is therefore replaced by the question ‘how is it that different human practices create and make use of distinctive conceptualizations of space?’ ”(13-14).
Third, the nature of social justice it is the perspective that signals Harvey’s point of entrance to Marxist theory. In this particular analysis Harvey investigates the collapse between the notions of production and distribution and between efficiency and social justice. His question here is to find the materiality of justice: “I move from a predisposition to regard social justice as a matter of eternal justice and morality to regard it as something contingent upon the social process of operating in society as a whole” (15).
Finally, the fourth concept, central to his analysis, is urbanism. In his perspective, what it is needed is a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of urbanism and socio-geographic theory.
As Gregory explains in the cited introduction (2), Social Justice and the City is considered a transitional text in Harvey’s work, the transition from Explanations in Geography to The Limits to Capital. This latter one published in 1982, almost a decade later than Social Justice and the City is written against a different socio-political background.
This research will expand on this particular text later on, but as a succinct description it is important to mention two brief details, the double meaning of the title and the critics’ perspectives towards the text.
On the one hand The Limits to Capital alludes to the limitations Marx’s text has: “There are limits to Marx; he doesn’t go far enough. Missing in Marx’s theory is a geographical imagination, which David Harvey attempts to redress” (Barnes 2004, 408). On the other hand, the limits in the title alludes to the very limits that capitalism has: “Capital doesn’t always get its way…Harvey’s contribution is in showing that one of the limits to capital, one of the obstacles to the generation of surplus vale, is geography” (409).
In the introduction to a special issue celebrating The Limits to Capital in the journal Antipode the authors expressed that The Limits to Capital:
[C]ulminated Harvey’s earlier efforts to elaborate the theoretical foundations for an historical geographical materialism, while also providing a solid conceptual foundation for his own (and many other’s) subsequent work on more concrete aspects of capitalist urbanisation, regional development and the political-economic geographies of capitalism restructuring. (Castree et al 2004, 401)
I acknowledge that there is more to say about this particular text, this research will concentrate the analysis of it, further in this chapter, more concretely, in the precise subject with which the text ends, the concept of geographical uneven development. For now, it might suffice to say that these three works set a solid foundation for the later body of work that Harvey produced in the 1980s, 1990s and the more recent works from which this research benefits immensely. The intersection between space and capital will be a recurrent theme in Harvey’s work; it builds a theoretical edifice that links Marxism and spatial theory, a central relationship in this current research.
The argument in this chapter will proceed with a brief review of Harvey’s work, including an analysis of the theory of uneven geographical development along several of Harvey’s texts. First, the foundational piece The Limits to Capital, where Harvey initiates this particular line of thinking, deploying the basic concepts that, later on, will be central to the analysis of the relationship between space and capital. In particular, I will concentrate the argument around the discussion of Hegel’s perspective to the problem of accumulation.
Secondly, I will focus the analysis on The New Imperialism. Here, Harvey shows some tensions that eventually evolve into conflicting contradictions in the operation of capitalism. How capital finds a way out of these tensions, he explains, is by searching, and creating, a spatial/temporal fix that only reallocates, in space and time, the irresolvable contradictions that capitalism itself creates. In this scenario, I will suggest along with Harvey, the need for new locations to escape devaluation and depreciation of capital provokes the outsourcing of these contradictions somewhere else, creating devastation wherever they are reallocated. I will analyze first the construction of space, then the destruction and finally, the inner contradictions of this pervasive logic, I will also make a detour to the discussion, the case of the Chinese Olympic Games; in order to crystallize the argument even further.
In a third step, I will turn to A Brief History of Neoliberalism, in this piece Harvey provides a map of the new –or not so new– version of liberalism, a sort of unfettered capitalist practices. Without showing any sign of social compassion and solidarity at all, these new practices tried –and succeeded– to develop profit by maximizing the capital gains at the cost of social and cultural disintegration. In this particular instance, Harvey advances an effective perspective concerning neoliberalism, it is not about the implementation of certain policies to bring about economic development by the means of liberal market policies, but instead, it is about the restoration of class power.
The technological and social advances witnessed at the end of the Second World War and the Keynesian policies that put emphasis on full employment and state intervention of the market brought, not only, the enhancement of living standards on many populations, but also, the decreasing of power in many elites. The events of 1968 marked a turning point in this regard, while many thought of the multiple uprisings as the beginning of a different kind of society, some others saw the kind of threat that mobilized the rise of class power, a sort of social backlash. This is another way in which capitalist policies were put in place to destroy.
In this context it is important to acknowledge that the concept of class requires more explanation. Harvey’s use of this concept does not answer to the restoration of an ancient or long-forgotten social class anchored to particular interests, but instead, it is the restoration of the importance of class as a concept to analyze social relations, only because the inequality that neo-liberalism brought became a definite social divider. What Harvey will help to explain in this case, is the steps that this restoration entailed. I will, first, map the deployment of neo-liberal policies in the United States and the United Kingdom followed by the immediate consequences of this deployment in Chile and Argentina.
Finally, I will turn to Spaces of Global Capitalism, Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development, in this text Harvey advances his later version of this particular theory. In a nuanced way, this is the necessary step to develop a theoretical body of work that denounces the capitalist’s abstractions that obscures the daily destruction that it brings. It is the confluence of class restoration, accumulation by dispossession and the constant need for a spatial/temporal fix. Harvey’s theory will connect them to elucidate these procedures. After a brief introduction of this project, I will work towards the elucidation of these ‘notes’, focusing later on the process of accumulation by dispossession, bringing a second detour in this chapter, the Santa Fe Style.
This latter one is part of the several examples included in this research that illustrate the effects of neo-liberal policies. Along with the previously mentioned cases, the South African experience transitioning to democracy –and neo-liberal policies– and the Argentina’s default. What might look like a mish-mash of different situations is brought to the discussion to signal the ubiquity of capitalism and, in this particular instance, neo-liberal capitalism. Although these examples are distributed along this chapter to further elucidate particular points or to illustrate theoretical discussions, there is a common denominator that can be identify in all these examples, the consequences of neo-liberal policies implemented.
I will conclude this chapter expanding on the process of financialization and privatization, their implications and consequences.
HOW TO SOLVE HEGEL’S MYOPIA
Harvey starts to theorize uneven geographical development by invoking the tension that is inherent to capitalism. This tension, which is the core of this research, is what Hegel and Marx were not able to resolve. More concretely, Harvey focuses on Hegel’s explanation of the internal expansion of population and industry within civil society, pointing out how in his Philosophy of Right Hegel explained the tension that exists in the capitalist practice of accumulation. Hegel observed, as Marx would do later on, the accumulation of wealth in few hands, on one side, and on the other, the accumulation of misery and despair. This ‘inner dialectic’ of alienation where the labor is transferred to capital, cannot be resolved by the existence of the middle class, neither as a cushion between the wealthy few and the immense misery, nor as a buffer that softens the sharp contradiction that emerge in each capitalist society, as a result of mass poverty and massive concentration of wealth.
What Hegel proposed to find ways out of this internal contradiction, is to outsource the crisis product of this unequal accumulation. The constant expansion and creation of markets in Asia and Africa added to the European ‘discovery’ of new lands in America brought new air to the exhausted European societies. To export the contradiction to new places, that at the moment of their discovery, were not capitalist seems to be the way out of these contradictions:
This inner dialectic of civil society thus drives it –or at any rate drives a specific civil society– to push beyond its own limits and seek markets, and so its necessary means of subsistence, in other lands which are either deficient in the goods it has over-produced, or else generally backwards in industry, &c. (Hegel 1952, 78) By finding new places to increase their investment and by finding new markets to inundate with their products and industries, is how the European capitalist societies resolved their internal contradictions of capital accumulation over much of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Although Harvey rightly points out, Hegel did not explain if this ‘way out’ is never-ending or how sustainable this ‘solution’ is22:
Somewhat uncharacteristically, Hegel leaves open the exact relation between the processes of inner and outer transformation and fails to indicate whether or not civil society can permanently resolve its internal problems through spatial expansion. (Harvey 2006b, 414) But, assuming a never-ending world, what would be the next step to continue the capitalist expansion?
Before answering this question, Harvey warns the reader, Hegel is not the only one that cannot fully explain the way out of this ‘inner dialectic’. For all the critical analysis that Marx initiated, and for all the insightful analysis that he produced of capitalism as a system, Harvey observes, that in this particular, Marx is on the same place that Hegel was.
2. Research Question and Plan of Work
2.Creative Destruction, The Inner Logic of Capitalism
3.Dynamism, Innovation, Competition and the Figure of the Entrepreneur
4. Political Aspects of Creative Destruction
2.a. How to Solve Hegel’s Myopia
3. Formation and Destruction of Space Economy
4. Neo-liberalism: The Restoration of Class Power or the Dismantling of the Welfare State
5. An Unified Theory of Uneven Geographical Development
2. Theoretical Work
4. Further Research
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DESTRUCTIVE CAPITALISM, AN INVESTIGATION ON THE INNER LOGIC OF CAPITAL Roque Martin Saavedra