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American Quarterly 53.2 (2001) 377-385
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Situating Space in "Local" and "Global" Struggles
Lisa Marie Cacho
University of California at San Diego
CAPITAL ACCUMULATION DEPENDS ON SPACE TO FIND NEW MARKETS, NEW CORPORATE locations, and new exploitable laborers. But "space" is not neutral within consumer capitalism. Different spaces confer different privileges upon transnational corporations; different national governments provide different incentives for transnational investors, and different regions value the labor of their workforces differentially. Capital accumulation, thus, depends upon space to produce differentiated laborers and particular struggles within a globalized economy.
Our current historical moment--of IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs, economic free trade zones, deindustrialization, economic restructuring, and transnational corporations--demands that we begin to consider and reconsider the salient role of space in capital accumulation. The exploration of space, as an analytical category, has [End Page 377] intensified in recent years as a critical academic response to the accelerated global, national, and local reorderings of space in the interest of corporate-economic globalization. The three texts reviewed here are just a small part of a growing interest in how space has come to be constitutive of the material production of culture, race, identity, and history.
Understanding "capitalism's geography" is "to see the production of space as a constitutive moment within (as opposed to something derivatively constructed by) the dynamics of capital accumulation and class struggle." 1 According to Harvey, the rise of the term "globalization" signals a "profound geographical reorganization of capitalism" (57) compelling us to reconsider capitalism's presumed "natural" trajectory. He argues that the term "globalization" itself is a powerful ideological tool used to legitimate and naturalize the uneven geographical developments across the world, which serves to either elide the physical and economic violence imposed on highly exploited laborers or construct such violence as an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of transnational capitalism (65).
Recuperating Marx and Engels' The Manifesto of the Communist Party, Harvey masterfully explicates the controversial role of space in the ways in which the Manifesto theorizes capitalist accumulation in relation to the bourgeoisie. While not denying the Manifesto's limitations, Harvey uncovers Marx and Engels' implicit understanding that anti-capitalist and pro-socialist revolution would depend upon the bourgeoisie's "geographical mission" to reproduce class and productive relations by expanding the geographical scale, which in turn would also augment the contradictions of capitalism geographically (26). Although supporting Marx and Engels' vision that only a global anti-capitalist movement could transform the oppressive conditions in society, Harvey also problematizes the teleological view that a universal working class consciousness could lead to revolutionary actions across the globe (39-40). What Harvey emphasizes (that he acknowledges Marx and Engels do not) is how capitalism produces uneven geographical developments, differentiates workers by race, gender, nationality, and degree of class exploitation, and creates divisions within, between, and among local, national, and international regions (40).
By reasserting space within historiography, Harvey accounts for the ways in which capitalism produces differentiated workers, who in turn, have differentiated relations to transnational capitalism. Yet the latter [End Page 378] half of his book refuses to naturalize difference as inherently divisive. To suggest that difference could be viewed as a challenge for, rather than a barrier to, anti-capitalist struggles, Harvey poses that a dialectical understanding of the "body" can better connect discourses on the body with discourses on globalization (98). As he states, "the body . . . internalizes the effects of the processes that create, support, sustain, and dissolve it" (98). Uneven geographical development ascribes differentiated and hierarchical meanings and values to different bodies along race, gender, and national lines. How people and their labor power are "valued" connects the differentiated...