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The Crisis of the National Spatio-Temporal Fix and the Ecological Dominance of Globalizing.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date06/2000
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Journal number2
Volume24
Number of pages38
Pages323-360
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article addresses globalization from a doubly heterodox regulationist viewpoint. The regulation approach is already heterodox in relation to mainstream economics; my own perspective also differs from that of the hegemonic Parisian regulation school. It can be interpreted as the work of an 'informed outsider' (1) who has attempted to re-specify the object, modes, contradictions, dilemmas, and limits of regulation in three main ways. First, I proceed more consistently than do most Parisian regulationists (2) today from the Marxist premise that capital involves inherently antagonistic and contradictory social relations. Thus my approach stresses the inherent limits to the regulation (or, better, regularization) of capital accumulation and seeks to avoid a 'premature harmonization of contradictions' (3) in analysing capitalist social formations. (4) Nonetheless, in contrast to the tendency for non-Parisian theorists to turn the regulation approach into soft economic sociology, I share the Parisians' hard political economy emphasis on the central role of economic mechanisms in Department of Sociology at Lancaster University 2 capital's reproduction and regulation. Second, I aim to provide an account of the structural coupling and co-evolution of the economic and extra-economic in capitalist development that is more radical and extensive than Parisian studies have offered. (5) My analysis of these issues owes much to Polanyi and Luhmann and recent students of governance. In contrast to the approaches of most such thinkers, however, mine remains firmly rooted in Marxist political economy. In particular I will suggest how one can use their ideas to reformulate the traditional but inadequate Marxist principle of 'economic determination in the last instance' and to radically rethink its implications for base-superstructure relations. Third, while Parisian regulationists often privilege the national level in their analyses � an understandable tendency given their initial focus on Atlantic Fordism and its crisis, my analysis is more concerned with the creation and articulation of different scales of accumulation and regulation. My account is closer here to other variants of the regulation approach, notably the Grenoble and Amsterdam schools, and its appropriation by geographers (e.g., Groupe de recherche sur la régulation d'économies capitalistes 1991; Overbeek 1993; van der Pijl 1998; MacLeod 1998). This approach is applied below to five issues regarding globalization. Much of the confusion surrounding this topic derives from failures to examine the interconnections among different scales and/or to define and analyse relevant topics of inquiry at equivalent levels of abstraction-concreteness and simplicity-complexity. Thus it is important to distinguish scales and levels of analysis in exploring the five issues. They comprise: (1) the structural and strategic dimensions of globalization seen from a perspective that is temporal as well as spatial; (2) the role of globalization, especially in its neo-liberal form, in enhancing the ecological dominance of the capitalist economy, i.e., in enhancing the relative primacy of the capital relation in an emerging world society; (3) the significance of the global scale for capitalist reorganization and its relationship to other scales of economic activity; (4) the impact of the new scalar dynamics of globalizing capitalism on the relative primacy and forms of appearance of capital's inherent contradictions and dilemmas; and (5) the implications of globalization for the state and politics. To address these issues adequately, however, the theoretical underpinnings of my doubly heterodox regulationism must first be presented. Thus I begin with a strategic-relational analysis of capital and its inherent contradictions and dilemmas and also assess its implications for the regularization of capital accumulation. Then follows a review of some key concepts from evolutionary theory for analysing the relation between the economic and extra-economic moments of capital accumulation and the conditions under which the self-expansion of a globalizing capital might come to dominate an emerging world society. Next comes a discussion of the spatio-temporal fixes that help to secure the always partial, provisional, and unstable equilibria of compromise that seem necessary to consolidate an accumulation regime and its mode of regulation. This involves not only relatively stable institutions but also capacities for governance in the face of turbulence. Thus equipped, I then offer some provisional answers to the five issues mentioned above. My contribution ends with some general remarks on the limits to neo-liberal globalization.

Bibliographic note

The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com (c) Blackwell 2000.