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Patrick Bond on territorial alliances at International Studies Association, 6 April

David Harvey in IR: Time to Mend an Unwarranted Neglect?

Date:Saturday, 6 April 2013
Venue: Golden Gate 8

  • Glenn, John (Chair)

  • Panitch, Leo (Discussant)

  • Papers
  • Curtis: The Enigma of Harvey: Assessing the Significance of David Harvey for IR Theory

  • Fournier: Harvey on Postmodernity: what lessons for IR?

  • Rioux: What would David Harvey say to Justin Rosenberg?

  • Roccu: Capital Eat Capital: Cannibalism as Last-Resort Option against Economic Crises

  • Sutton: Harvey's Imperialism as Periodisation

  • Bond:Territorial alliance formation and dissolution as building blocs for geopolitical theory

  • Despite being arguably one of the main drivers behind the resurgence of contemporary Marxism, David Harvey and his substantial contributions to the theorization of late capitalism have been virtually ignored in International Relations (IR) and International Political Economy (IPE). His imposing body of work encompasses the changing dynamics of class formation, the spatiotemporal diffusion of capitalist practices, a theory of imperialism and a fine-grained analysis of global cities, all of which are highly relevant subject matters for International Relations. The panel aims to assess Harvey’s significance for the study of global politics by reviewing these different aspects of his work. It is argued that the latter can constitute an alternative to both the current strictures of IPE and the often-convoluted attempts to blend realism and historical materialism in IR. Although Harvey can be criticized for over-emphasizing the material features of contemporary transformations and for his lack of direct engagement with the developing world, his wide-ranging exegesis of advanced capitalism, which includes an analysis of the cultural dispositions that enable its reproduction, responds to the pressing need for adequate theoretical tools in the midst of the ongoing global crisis.

    Territorial alliance formation and dissolution as building blocs for geopolitical theory
    David Harvey identifies (in The New Imperialism) “a cascading and proliferating series of spatio-temporal fixes” to persistent economic crisis. These fixes do not result in crisis resolution, but instead, lead to new contradictions: “increasingly fierce international competition as multiple dynamic centers of capital accumulation emerge to compete on the world stage in the face of strong currents of overaccumulation. Since they cannot all succeed in the long run, either the weakest succumb and fall into serious crises of devaluation, or geopolitical confrontations erupt in the form of trade wars, currency wars and even military confrontations.” The territorially-rooted power blocs generated by internal alliances (and conflicts) within national boundaries, or occasionally across boundaries to regional scale, are the critical units of analysis when it comes to fending off the devalorization of overaccumulated capital. By uncovering these units – which, aside from ‘circuits of capital’, are not sufficiently studied within IR and IPE – it is feasible to root a durable geopolitical theory appropriate for understanding uneven and combined development. The paper considers the past half-century of territorial bloc formation and dissolution within world politics, amidst repeated bouts of overaccumulation crisis.

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