Supply chain capitalism and the technologies of global territory

Authored by: Julian Stenmanns , Marc Boeckler

The Routledge Handbook of Transregional Studies

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138718364
eBook ISBN: 9780429438233
Adobe ISBN:


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For almost a century, area studies, just like any other social science, depicted the world as a natural arrangement of bounded societies surrounded by national borders. Surprisingly, for a short time the world resembled this geographical imagination. During the post-war period, the states in the Global North were busy reconstructing their shattered societies in terms of spatial cohesion, and the post-colonial independence movements in the Global South were adopting the idea of national sovereignty by folding land and territory into a state. Consequently, economies were predominantly national economies. However, since the 1970s, this spatial figuration of Fordist production has been reconfigured by an efficacious assemblage of neo-liberal policies, financialization, and increased shareholder pressure toward short-term profits, innovation in transport and communication technologies, as well as new master narratives. Management professors at powerful business schools called on struggling Fordist corporations to globalize their nationally enclosed factories. The firm-specific challenge of ‘global strategy formulation is . . . to determine where the value-added chain would be broken across borders’ (Kogut 1984: 151). Multiple rounds of outsourcing, subcontracting, and offshoring have merged the world’s economic activities into a functionally integrated global economy (Dicken 2011). Largely facilitated by the birth of logistics, we have witnessed the advent of the age of ‘supply chain capitalism’, namely a specific conjuncture of capitalism, in which the sphere of circulation takes over the lead from production and manufacture. Firms compete through spatial arbitrage and the efficient spatio-temporal orchestration of commodity chains across uneven geographies (Busch 2007; Tsing 2009).

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