CANDIDATE NAME: CAITLIN BURBRIDGE CANDIDATE NUMBER: 311158 POLITICAL ECONOMY OF DEVELOPMENT TUTOR: GIOVANNI COSI With reference to a particular case study, explain how an understanding of spatial processes can better inform our understanding of political economy. WORD COUNT: 2,962 The political economy is inherently spatial. A common flaw of analytical treatments of globalism is that they have ‘tended to naturalise and exogenise their object of study-be this in the form of an all-powerful globalisation process or the allencompassing politics of neoliberalism’ (Peck,2002;383). In order to redress this assumption which informs much policy, it is necessary to understand the complex ways in which spatial processes produce specific local realities. In a critique of the World Bank’s approach to space as a ‘fixing’ mechanism for neoliberal inevitabilities (2009), it is necessary to understand space as a complex process in which the local and global are mutually constituted. Only through this understanding of spatial processes can a more comprehensive understanding of the political economy be achieved. This essay shall pursue four forms of spatial process, with particular emphasis on post 1980’s neoliberalism as a way of applying the study to contemporary situations; capital’s spatial fix, growth of cities, the relationship between the local and the global, and finally the way which special relationships construct particular imaginations. This process of analysis shall inform a more indepth study of the relationship between oil and space in the Niger Delta exposing the way international processes both mask and produce complex realities on the ground. An understanding of complex spatial processes is fundamental for a comprehensive understanding of political economy, both of exposing for whom capitalism is beneficial, and in turn revealing inequalities which are inherent within this spatial system. For Ross, ‘history has gone spatial’(1988;76). An analytical focus on the ideas of Henri Lefebvre provides a necessary starting point from which to understand the political economy. As Smith identifies, Lefebvre ‘coined the phrase ‘the production of space’(Lefebvre in Smith,1990;90). Lefebvre’s revolutionary thinking exposed the idea that the reproduction of social relations of production constitutes the central and hidden process of capitalist society, a process which is inherently spatial (Smith,1990;90). The means by which Lefebvre perceives capitalism to attenuate its own internal contradictions is ‘by occupying space, by producing space’ (Smith,1990;91). ‘Space, occupied by neo-capitalism, sectioned, reduced to homogeneity yet fragmented, becomes the seat of power’(Lefebvre, in Smith 1990;91). Soja extends this understanding of spatial relations by arguing that ‘not only is the fragility and transitoriness of contemporary social relations expressed ‘in’ space; the production of space is increasingly the means by which social difference is constructed and reconstructed’(Soja,1992;64). Having provided an analytical and philosophical understanding of the way that space is reproduced, it is important to begin by outlining the World Bank’s neoclassical vantage point on the relationship between spatial processes and development, in order to understand how a critique from a heterodox perspective can expose the complexities of spatial relationships masked in neoclassical ideology. It must not be ignored that the devotion of the 2009 World Development Report to ‘reshaping economic geography’ and to elevate ‘space and place from mere undercurrents in policy to a major focus’ (World Bank,2009;3) provides an encouraging move within mainstream policy. However, the World Development Report 2009 report reflects a narrow understanding of these spatial processes, advocating the unleashing of the market, in spatial terms. The problem, as identified by the World Bank, is that of concentration and convergence; economic growth is and ‘will remain’ unbalanced’ (World Bank,2009). Therefore, to address this problem, the World Bank advocates three spatial solutions; agglomeration, migration and specialisation (World Bank,2009). Agglomeration is seen to ‘foster economic growth’ by speeding up migration, capital mobility and trade. Migration reduces distance to density and is influenced by processes of agglomeration and specialisation. Finally, specialisation is prescribed such that scale economies have reduced transport costs and technology benefits from being geographically concentrated (World Bank,2009). A fundamental flaw of this 2009 World Bank report is its appropriation of space as a means by which to adjust existing weaknesses in the capitalist system, rather than recognising, as advocated by spatial political theorists, the totalising way that space is reproduced. The report sees uneven development is inevitable, but also a primary means of stimulating growth. Addressing in particular the process of microfinance projects, the report argues that the extension of such credit into slum areas and the subsequent market integration of what we might refer to as the ‘bottom billion’ (Collier,2007) is a key solution to global poverty. However, as articulated by Harvey, ‘there is plenty of evidence that this ‘raiding’ of ‘the wealth at the bottom of pyramid’ by financial institutions extracting high rates of return actually constitutes a system of ‘debt-peonage’ for the mass of the population’ (Harvey,2001). As argued by Smith, the problem of uneven development ‘is like a plague of locusts. It settles in one place, devours it, then moves on to plague another place’ (Smith,1990;152). Appropriating spatial solutions to fix neoliberal ‘inevitabilities’ only re-enforces neoliberal principles for development. In order to apply this rather abstract critique, it is necessary to turn to the work of David Harvey. As Harvey identifies, ‘for geographers like myself…the production, reproduction and reconfiguration of space have always been central to understanding the political economy of capitalism’(Harvey,2001;24). Harvey’s assertion that ‘the question is not…how globalisation has affected geography but how these distinctive geographical processes of the production and reconfiguration of space have created the specific conditions of contemporary globalisation’ (Harvey,2001;24), reveals the relationship between Lefebvre’s theory of the production of space, and its relevance to capitalism. For Harvey, globalisation has largely been interpreted in terms of ‘the spatial fix’. Globalisation, as a contemporary form of capitalism, is obsessed with constant geographical expansion in pursuit of a spatial fix for its crisis tendencies(Harvey,2001). Harvey draws three important conclusions from this assertion. Firstly, ‘capitalism could not survive without being geographically expansionary (and perpetually seeking out spatial fixes for its problems’ (Harvey,2001;25). Secondly, ‘major innovations in transport and communication technologies were necessary conditions for that expansion to occur (hence emphasis on the evolution of technologies to break down spatial barriers)’, (Harvey,2001;26). Finally, its modes of geographical expansion depended crucially upon whether it was the search for markets, fresh labour powers, resources (raw materials) or fresh opportunities to invest in new production facilities that was crucially at stake (Harvey,2001;26). Sassen provides more specificity to Harvey’s analysis by identifying exactly how the ambiguous processes of globalisation cause agglomeration on the ground; her analysis uses the lens of global cities. The example of the North Atlantic Region reveals a ‘sharp concentration (of cross border capital flows) in certain areas of the world and a growing incorporation of particular sites in the less-developed world’ (Sassen,2002;18). The major concentration of economic processes in the world today are held in the North Atlantic region, be it general foreign direct investment flows, overall financial flows, or the new strategic alliances among financial centres. (Sassen,2002;18). Secondly, studies reveal a significant amount of growth in the absolute level of flows going to other parts of the world (Sassen,2002). It becomes clear that capital is actually flowing to a select number of sites. For example, what appears to be a huge increase in foreign direct investment flows to Latin America, is actually concentrated in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina (Sassen,2002). If we pursued this line of analysis further then it would be possible to disaggregate the ways in which these flows construct centres and peripheries within those countries. Therefore this transnational economic system has its centre of gravity (both in terms of intensity and value of transactions) in the North Atlantic region. ‘Thus, while globalisation does indeed entail dispersal, it is also evident that the combination of concentration and network expansion makes for a strongly hierachical system’ (Sassen,2002;19). Therefore, the spatial relations of different localities are determined and produced through the process of the internationalisation and globalisation of capital flows. Peck refers to this construction of the ‘local-global’(Swyngedouw,1997,Massey;1988) in terms of regulation. ‘Just as neoliberalism is in effect a high politics that expressly denies its political character (Beck,2000), so it also exists in a self-contradictory way as a form of “metaregulation,” a rule system that paradoxically defines itself as a form of antiregulation(Peck,2002;400). The irony of neoliberalism therefore, is the how the process of deregulation actually regulates and shapes the local through processes of coercion. ‘...it shapes environments, contexts and frameworks within which political-economic and socio-institutional restructuring takes place’(Peck,2002;400). An important example of this relation can be seen in the constraint of neoliberalism on the localised or bottom up political action (Peck,2002;386). In the 1990’s, removing social and environmental regulatory standards and eroding political and institutional collectives upon which more progressive settlements had been constructed, induced localities to compete with one another(Peck,2002;385), thus critically undermining the potential of non neoliberal projects at the local scale. Giving local institutions responsibility without power was significant in terms of restructuring the space within which local actors could mobilise themselves. Deconstructing anticompetitive institutions such as labour unions, social-welfare programs and anti-interventionist arms of government regimes, with the absence of a spatially redistributive extra local framework, ‘neoliberal constitution of competitive relations between localities and regions placed real limits on the practical potential of localised or bottom up political action’(Amin,1999). Addressing the mutual production of the local and the global through capitalist processes raises the issue of scale, as a means of looking beyond the material. Paasi identifies the importance of scales in shaping practices(2004). If scales-as forms of social practice/discourse-are the results of power relations and struggles…these categories can thus have productive power in shaping practices and discourses in academia, and also well beyond’(Paasi,2004;543). Orientalism provides a necessary spatial platform from which to understand how capitalist relations construct both a new imaginative space which in turn constructs space on the ground. Complex spatial relations which are formed through imaginative geographies have dramatically radicalised the relationship between different sovereign states, strengthening the concept of ‘other’. ‘After 9/11 we were all in some sense both New Yorkers and Palestinians’ (Gregory,2008). Graham argues that it is through the experience of war that the dialectic place attachment is mobilised, fuelling an understanding of what is ours and what is not. These two conceptions work together to create, ‘an unbridled sentimentality of one’s own while dehumanising the enemy’s people and land’ (Graham,2006). Oil has a similarly ‘imaginative’ spatial dimension. In accordance with Kapuscinski, ‘oil creates the illusion...of a completely changed life, without work, life for free...The concept of oil expresses perfectly the eternal human dream of wealth achieved through lucky accident...In this sense oil is a fairytale and like every fairy tale, a bit of a lie’ (Kapuscinski,1999). Watts’s analysis of the Niger Delta provides an important account of the way that capitalist relations construct new spatial imaginations which manifest in the production of new ‘spaces’ within Nigeria, spaces of inequality and complex political relations which are masked in the neoliberal agenda. An important comparison identified by Chomsky is that of oil relations in Libya. ‘It is ironic that it is in the interests of both the UK and the US to prevent the growth of democracy in Libya, to prevent the demands of the people on their precious oil reserves’ (Chomsky,2011). International interests are often detached from, and yet critical in the production of, spaces on the ground. According to Collier, if a country had ‘no primary commodity exports its risk of conflict would fall to only one half of a percent’ (Collier,2000). Despite identifying the significance of oil in capitalist relations, Collier fails to engage with the complex ways in which oil produces space at the local level. ‘Nigeria-the thirteenth largest producer of petroleum products accounts for 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings-provides at least 5 percent currently of US daily consumption (and over 10 percent of US imports)’(Watts,2004;1). In particular Watts identifies the important ‘international significance of Nigerian oil as articulated by the Petroluem Finance Company (PFC) to the US Congressional International Relations Committee SubCommittee on Africa, taking particular notice of the strategic value of West African oil whose high quality and low cost ‘sweet’ reserves-including new offshore, deepwater discoveries which all demanded substantial foreign investment’(Watts,2004;1). ‘The presence and activities of the oil companies as part of the oil complex, constitute a challenge to customary forms of community authority, inter-ethnic relations and local state institutions principally through the property and land disputes that are engendered, via forms of popular mobilisation and agitation’ (Watts,2004;54). For Watts, the insertion of centralised oil revenues (unearned income) into the Nigerian political economy constructs new forms of governable space(Watts,2004). ‘Each governable space is the product of the oil complex and petro-capitalism, but these spaces curiously work against each other’ (Watts,2004;54). This can be identified both at the level of the nation state, and also at the level of civil society. In 1973, (post oil boom), black gold became both the fiscal and material foundation for modernisation and autocratic state led development, and oil production in Nigeria became the project of ’16 oil majors bound by joint operating agreements to determine the distribution of royalties and rents’ (Watts,2004;60). Watts identifies four features of this political economy of oil which both mask in the international sphere and have produced on the ground, three distinct ‘governable spaces’ in the Niger Delta. Oil capitalism operates through a statutory monopoly over mineral exploitation, a nationalised oil company, the security apparatuses of the state, and finally, an institution mechanism by which federal oil revenues are distributed (Watts,2004;60). The consequences of this vast unearned income flowing to the federal exchequer, was the centralisation of the state, ‘rendering the unity of capitalism and modernity, and the process of state building’(Watts,2004;61). However, these centralised oil revenues flowed into weak institutions and a charged, volatile federal system produced an undisciplined, corrupt and flabby oil-led development that was to fragment, pulverise and disintegrate the state’ (Watts,2004;61). The three spaces produced, according to Watts(2004)are, spaces of chieftainship, spaces of indegeneity, and the space of the nation state. The space of chieftainship reflects how the combination of youth-driven violence and intense political competition has transformed a system of governance (Watts,2004). The Nembe community stands at the point of oil production, thus when the large and rich Nembe oil fields were opened, through the imaginary process of ‘creating an illusion to which people aspired’, extraordinary violence and inter-ethnic conflict broke out among local people in pursuit of control over their own oil reserves inducing them to break down the power of the chieftainship (Watts,2004;62). The space of indigeneity reveals how, the Ibo majority in the Eastern region, has been home to a great deal of inter-ethnic dispute. The Ogoni have seen a large number of conflicts within the Delta region which Watts suggests are largely a result of the slave trade (2004). These conflicts each reflect complex struggles for identity, which as the analysis of spaces of chieftainship identify, are often re-structured and confused as new alliances are made between local, clan and family loyalties (Watts,2004). Such pre-existing tensions when coupled with a fight over natural resources such as oil, lead to a people who are fighting for the space to assert an identity which is already deemed unstable and weakened by the overwhelming awareness of exploitation by large scale oil industries. Finally, the space of nationalism. Oil was integral to the process of nation building and remains as such today. Not only is it integral, but it is also a national resource upon which citizenship claims can be constructed. Conceptually, ‘communities use oil wealth to activate community claims on what is seen properly as unimaginable wealth-Black Gold’ (Watts,2004). It is therefore through this process of making claims on ‘things’, in this case, oil, that the governable space of Nigeria as a nation is established. Interestingly, it has been argued that the transformation into this particular space of nationalism has caused ‘the ‘Nigerian symbolic’ to grow weaker as a result of the political economy of oil(Watts,2004). ‘Oil has been a sort of idiom in which new social forces are unleashed, overturning traditional power structures and in some cases generating violent conflict, albeit along a series of rather different vectors (age, class, ethnicity, and so on)’(Watts,2004). An important criticism of Ross and Collier is that both authors tend to steadfastly ignore how oil’s contribution to war or authoritarianism builds upon pre existing (pre-oil) political dynamics(Watts,2004). Although they are not wrong to identify how oil can and does generate rents, enhance the military and security budget, and may generate limited employment and linkage effects (Ross and Collier,2003), the political spaces that emerge from ‘the oil complex’ are spatially heterogenous and not readily encompassed by the idea of predation, looting or rebellion (Watts,2004). A poor understanding of spatial complexities leads to policy that fails to address inequality and marginalisation. Harvey’s theory of the ‘spatial fix’ exposes the reality that the capitalist system is inherently spatial. Sassen’s analysis of the growth of global cities provides an important materiality to underpin Harvey’s theoretical analysis; identifying the ways in which spatial processes can be beneficial in terms of agglomeration of services and resources, whilst producing spaces of exclusion, as identified by Peck. Peck’s exposition of how the local and the global are mutually produced through complex global processes redresses the binary assumptions of neoclassical theory. A spatially heterodox critique of this assumption redresses the inherent flaws in the neoliberal project which often perceive space as a ‘fixing’ mechanism, whilst exposing how capitalism constructs damaging ‘imaginaries’ and the exacerbation of political tensions. Policy which makes binary assumptions about the local and the global, and nature and society, (for example, perceiving oil as a fast means to growth) can never identify and therefore meet the needs, of the marginalised. Unless growth is the only answer, which as this essay has advocated, it is not, then spatiality is critical. Space must be understood in terms of a process which plays on pre-existing dynamics, as well as producing new imaginaries. Reproducing the neoliberal agenda, without engaging holistically with space, will never be productive. 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