File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 400


Date: Sun, 19 Oct 1997 17:10:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: M-I: boom


The discussion has been excellent. I only hope that Rakesh can avoid the
temptation to inject the sort of meta-list questions that so many of us
are sick of.

I would suggest that another dimension has to be factored in when
discussing the strength or weakness of the capitalist system, and that is
the dimension of space. Most analyses of the capitalist system tend to be
shaped by the time-line catastrophism of the early Comintern. Any
"Marxist-Leninist" group on the scene today has a strictly temporal
understanding of the capitalist system's internal contradictions. They are
always looking at the business cycles ups and downs and anticipating (or
hoping for) a repeat of the Great Depression, which never seems to occur.

David Harvey has been more responsible than any other Marxist thinker for
raising the spatial dimension, although he is careful to point out that is
in Marx to begin with. Instead of seeing capital as being on a temporal
plane where the contradictions build up like a boiler with a faulty
pressure-valve with only sixty minutes before it blows sky-high, it is
useful to understand that capitalism is always *displacing* its
contradictions geographically. If South Korea does not pan out, then
capital will flow to Thailand. If Thailand does not pan out, then perhaps
a second look at Africa. The United States is going through this sort of
geographical adjustment constantly. After WWII, capital flowed westward
and southward. After the collapse of the rust-belt, it is flowing once
again into places like Pittsburgh, but only as the realization of
financial capital.

Here is a representative passage from Harvey's latest book "Justice,
Nature and the Geography of Distance":

"...we should pay close attention to the industrial structures developing
in rural and small-town settings in the United States, for it is here
where the decline of agricultural employment (to say nothing of the rash
of farming bankruptcies) over the past decade or so has left behind a
relatively isolated industrial reserve army (again, of the sort which Marx
described so well in Capital--see chapter 25 section 5, for example) which
is far more vulnerable to exploitation than its urban counterpart. US
industry has long used spatial dispersal and the geographical isolation of
employees as one of its prime mechanisms of labor control (in industries
like chicken processing and meat packing the equation is obvious but this
principle is also deployed in electronics and other supposedly
ultra-modern industries). But recent transformations in industrial
organizations have here been turned into a totally unsubtle form of
coercive exploitation which is pre- rather than post-Fordist in its
organizational form. The effect in North Carolina, for example, is to
produce a dramatic contrast between the much touted and much researchedd
'Research Triangle Park' of high-tech information-based companies and the
radically and largely ignored world of scattered rural enclaves of the
chicken-processing plants an hour or so away."

Louis Proyect



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