Sunday, 11 January 2009

The (spatial) fix we're in...

Monthly Review has done an excellent issue recently (Nov 2008), called "Beyond Capitalist Ecology." A recurring theme across all of the articles, which are all worth very close attention, is of the 'spatial fix'.

"A certain portion of the total capital is literally fixed in and on the land in some physical form for a relatively long period of time (depending on its economic and physical lifetime). Some social expenditures (such as public education or a health-care system) also become territorialized and rendered geographically immobile through state commitments. The spatio-temporal ‘fix’, on the other hand, is a metaphor for a particular kind of solution to capitalist crises through temporal deferral and geographical expansion." (Harvey, The New Imperialism, 2003: 115)
This is also known as fucking something up and running away from the consequences, or, these days, exporting those consequences to some dark/poor/vulnerable people and places.

Marvin Harris
has a good book called Cannibals and Kings. One of the arguments in it was that humans would learn out how to exploit one set of ecological niches for their energy, exhaust it, and then figure out some new technologies. At some point I'll get round to doing a blog posting about "biological taylorism".

Anyway, here's a quote from an article in that Monthly Review, namely Jason Moore's "Ecological Crises and the Agrarian Question in World-Historical Perspective"-
"Once ecological relations of production are put into the mix, one of the chief things that come into view is the production of socio-ecological regimes, on regional- and world-scales both. These initially liberate the accumulation of capital, only to generate self-limiting contradictions that culminate in renewed ecological “bottlenecks” to continued accumulation. Whereupon the cycle starts anew, and historically speaking this has entailed progressively more expansive and intensive relations between capital, labor, and external nature. This is not to say that the environmental history of capitalism is repetitive or universal in any rote fashion; rather, the system’s contradictions are resolved only through amplifying the underlying contradiction. It has been a spectacular form of temporal deferment. Although the point is certainly arguable, the moment of global expansion seems to have been central over the long run and it is not at all clear that capitalism can survive on the basis of the internal fix—pace David Harvey. This historical approach would get us closer to a more useful formulation of “ecological crisis” and to the idea of multiple forms of ecological crisis in the modern world, past, present, and future."
I haven't yet read Giovanni Arrighi's Spatial and Other “Fixes” of Historical Capitalism, but it looks good...

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