The Critical Relationship Of Processes Cultural Studies Essay

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David Harvey and Manuel Castells, they both developed critical analyses of the relationship between the spatial and the socio-economic processes within the contemporary capitalist world. In their analyses, while the former came up with the concept of "spatial fix", the latter used a dialectical opposition of "the space of places" and "the space of flows" to explain this relationship. These two distinct approaches towards the "restructuring process of capitalism through spatial reconfigurations" (Harvey, 2001a) still have some common points to be explored. However, firstly we shall start with briefly summarizing these concepts.

David Harvey's concept of "spatial fix" is "a general term that refers to many different forms of spatial reorganization and geographical expansion that serve to manage, at least for some time, crisis- tendencies inherent in accumulation" (Jessop, 2006). "Spatial fix" is a response to the overaccumulation and devaluation problems of capitalism within a given region. This concept could be better understood when the meanings of "fix" employed by him are made clear. In his article, Globalization and the "Spatial Fix", Harvey talks about two types of fixes - "one is about resolving the problems inherent in the capitalism through production of space, the other one is tying up the capital and labour through fixed and immobile capital in the built environment" (Harvey, 2001a). He asserts that the contradiction and interplay between these two fixes manifested through the (re)formations of space are constituting the central concern of the spatial theory.

His analysis forms its basis on Marxian understanding of "annihilation of space with time". Harvey takes that one step further and assumes that the solution to capitalism's inherent problems is to "overcome the space through production of space" (Harvey, 2001b). For him, this solution can be realized through "spatial fix". But this solution is also creating a vicious circle in a sense that the capital produces fixed spaces to function within, but this "spatial fix" is temporary and after a while it destroys this fixed space to create new "spatial fixes". This contradiction is resulting in the successive rounds of creating and destroying the spatial organizations. Although this situation resembles the "creative destruction" issue of Schumpeter, Harvey relates this contradiction to the Marx's argument about the unpreventable destruction of capital rising not from exdogenous factors but from its endogenous dynamics to survive - like "spatial fix'.

Different from Harvey's argument, Manuel Castells starts with concentrating on the penetrating transformations that societies are undergoing in the global era. His focus is mainly on the information processing activities and he asserts that a new "spatial logic" has emerged as a result of the transformations in these activities. He names this logic as "the space of flows". Castells describe "the space of flows" as "the material organization of time-sharing social practices that work through flows" (Susser, 2002). These flows are not only the ones which are part of the social organization but they are also expressions of dominant processes within the economic, political and symbolic spheres of our lives. Therefore, "the space of flows" encompasses all kinds of activities within the society.

In opposition to "the space of flows", Castells puts "the space of places". "The space of places" is like Lefebvre's "representational space" where the lived experiences of people are fundamental. This specific space contains the meaning, culturally or personally for these people who live there but "the historical emergence of the space of flows supersedes the meaning of the space of places" (Castells, 1989). Because socities and cultures which are based on "the space of places" are excluded from the dynamics of power which are prominently dominated by "the space of flows". "The space of flows", in a way, overcomes "the space of places" in the information age.

Although these two arguments - as explained above briefly - are different, still some connections could be found between them. First of all, both Harvey's and Castells' concerns are not about looking at the effects of globalization - employed as informational age in Castells' works - on the reconstruction of space. Their concern is on the other-way around. They attempt to see the impact of processes of spatial reorganizations on the creation of the dynamics of globalization. One example of this can be seen in Harvey's emphasis on the solution to the overaccumulation problem of capitalism - which is one of the "spatial fixes" - creating the globally interconnected economy through geographical expansion of capital. Another example comes from Castells' focus on how "the space of flows" enables the information-based global networks organized beyond the national and regional.

In addition, the arguments of both of them include an emphasis on the uneven geographical development. Harvey sees this uneven geographical development from the side of capital movements which make the rich regions richer and the poor ones poorer. Castells' analysis of uneven development is from the point of power-holding organizations. He talks about nodes and hubs created within "the space of flows", and the determination of a region as node or hub comes from its situation within the hierarchical order of the network of many different processes like the decision making one. So while Harvey concentrates on the economic dynamics of the uneven geographical development, Castells gives a wider analysis of it through looking at the power relations embedded within this unevenness.

While Harvey and Castells differ in their assessments of whether globalization will annihilate or defensively energize the community formations, they both maintain a sytemic disjunction between local and global social processes (Smith, 2001).

Castells gives power to the social actors with saying that they can resist the destructive dynamics of "the space of flows" through creating an alternative space of flows and maintaining the meaning within "the space of places". At the end of the Informational City, he talks about the possible ways for resistance and the role of each actor. Not in detail but Harvey is also talking about the possibility of an alternative through the oppositional movements at the end of his article Globalization and the "Spatial Fix". He thinks that the globalization process naturally would develop political discontents and resistances. On the other hand, both Castells and Harvey think that these oppositional movements are fragmented - for Castells fragmented because of disconnection with other movements, for Harvey fragmented because of their geographically uneven distribution.

A possible combination of Castells' and Harvey's arguments would give us a more complete picture about the relationship between the global dynamics of capitalism and the spatial formations. In an attempt to combine their arguments, it would not be wrong to see the "spatial fix" as the cure to crisis tendencies of contemporary capitalism and "the space of flows" as the organizational logic of this cure. This new spatial logic through employment of the "spatial fix" continuously undermines the structural coherence and the meaning of "the space of places".

This statement above needs clarification. As Harvey puts it, "spatial fix" requires innovations and investment in technology and communications which result in transformations within the information processing activities and these transformations, on the basis of Castells' argument, create the new spatial logic which is "the space of flows". "The space of flows" consists of the organizational basis and the socio-spatial reconfigurations which are enabling the functioning of capital within a given space and time but also in interaction with the other spaces through time. So, Castells' conceptualization of "the space of flows" offers a suitable ground for the realization of two kinds of "spatial fixes" of Harvey. In line with Harvey's arguments, the contradiction between these two fixes undermines the structural coherence of a given region - which is "the space of places" for Castells.

A combination of Harvey's and Castells' arguments may fulfill some of the points that lack in Harvey's analysis. One of the critiques of Harvey is that his "approach tends to emphasize the ongoing structural dynamics without providing a framework for understanding the micro- and meso-politics of time and space, and the space for political choices that emerges in this tension between accumulation and spatial fixity in capitalism" (Riain, 2006). It may be said that Harvey gives a macro-analysis of the relation between the capital and the spatial configuration and that he ignores or doesn't give a fully account on the micro dynamics of this relationship. Castells' emphasis on the role of elite groups in the formation of "the space of flows" and also his focus on the role of the local government in reformation of meaning in "the space of places" are forming the micro and meso part of the analysis which are missing in Harvey.

Harvey's elaboration of the motion of capital lacks an inherent tie between structure and agency (Katznelson, 1992).

The difference between Castells and Harvey - Castells saying: spatial logic is not limited by any means to capital flows!!! Harvey is stuck in material determinism and continously looking from the side of capital accumulation and flow. Castells gives more emphasis on the organizational part and not only concentrating on the capital flow but power holding situation. Castells' argument includes social actors, social practices, the role of state (not like instrumental view of Harvey), power issues, a detailed argument about possible resistance and oppositional movements, grassroots mobilization. Castells talk about the elites and architectural design. Nodes and hubs - the hierarchical organization between them. These are missing in Harvey's arguments about spatial fix. ****

As a conclusion, I would like to make a restatement. When the arguments of Harvey and Castells about the spatial configurations of the restructuring process of capitalism are combined, it becomes more possible to get a more complete and comprehensive picture. While Harvey gives a general structure of the issue by employing a materialist perspective based on economic determinism, Castells fill in this structure with social practices which are supported materially by the space. If a comparison is to be made, they are like Marx and Weber. Harvey strongly attaches his arguments on globalization and geography to the arguments of Marx although he acknowledges that Marx ignored the outer transformations of capitalism which are spatial reorganizations. So he tries to accomplish a task which was intentionally left undone by Marx. Castells' focus on organizations, social actors and the state not as instrumental but as a possibly effective actor within the process of change may be related to the Weberian perspective. Similar to the debate about whether Marx's and Weber's arguments about capitalism are contradictory or complementary, there may be a debate about the kind of relation between Harvey's and Castells' arguments on the interaction between globalization and geography.