Alternative Economic Spaces

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Edited by: Andrew Leyshon, Roger Lee & Colin C. Williams

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    List of Contributors

    Theresa Aldridge Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK

    Ash Amin Department of Geography, University of Durham, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK

    Kate Brooks Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Winter Street, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

    Angus Cameron Department of Geography, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK

    Louise Crewe School of Geography, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK

    Duncan Fuller Division of Geography and Environmental Management, Lipman Building, University of Northumbria, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE1 8ST, UK

    Nicky Gregson Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Winter Street, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

    Ray Hudson Department of Geography, University of Durham, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK

    Jeffrey Jacob Graduate Division of Educational Research, The University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive, N.W., Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada

    Andrew E. G. Jonas Department of Geography, University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull HU6 7RX, UK

    Roger Lee Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK

    Andrew Leyshon School of Geography, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK

    Andrew Lincoln Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK

    Jane Tooke Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths College, University of London, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, UK

    Colin C. Williams Department of Geography, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK

    Jan Windebank Department of French, University of Sheffield, Arts Tower, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

    Preface: Geography, Diversity, Change and Ends

    The geographies and histories of predicted ends remain, thankfully, to be written. What seems, however, to be true is that the prophets of recent predictions embody an apparently contradictory mix of a-geographic structural determinism and libertarian pretensions. What are conceived unproblematically as a-social (but liberal!) and in-variant markets have, at least in the views of the likes of Francis Fukuyama (1992), brought social change to an end as we now live in the best of all possible social worlds. Rather more realistically, others – equally impressed with the ‘apparent triumph of the market’ (Yergin and Stanislaw, 1998: 16) – point to certain social and material tests which must be met by ‘the return to traditional liberalism around the world’.

    Niall Ferguson (2000: 8) seems to go one social stage further in seeing ‘modern economic history as a tale of capitalist triumph’. But that this socially-constructed link between capitalism and change is more apparent than real is revealed in his prior a-social acceptance of ‘the fundamental notion that it is money – economics – that makes the world go round’. Indeed, he ridicules the notion that capitalism is a powerful social shaper of history and so falls back on an unproblematic separation of an unproblematic politics and economics. Further, although claiming that ‘[T]he nexus between economics and politics is the key to understanding the modern world’ and that the ‘causal connections between the economic and political world … are so complex and so numerous that any attempt to reduce them to a model with reliable predictive power seems doomed to fail’ (2002: 20), Ferguson's economic, political and social imagination is, like other similar luminaries, profoundly a-geographic and so fundamentally limited.

    In contrast, the authors of this volume present rather less simplistic attempts to understand the world. This is not surprising. For one thing, they write from a geographically-sensitized perspective which recognizes the differentiated, multi-scalar and relational networks of change. For another, these essays present original research. Here, then, there is less a reliance on meta-generalization and notions of undifferentiated change than on detailed, theoretically-informed empirical research founded on the diverse social construction of economy and polity in which geographies are formative and generative of differentiated transformations.

    The concern of the book is the presentation of research on a variety of ways in which people create and implement ways of practising economic life shaped and directed through sets of social relations differentiated from – and in some cases opposed to – mainstream relations. The research interest in these creative processes relates to the diversity of social relations underpinning economic activity, the degree to which, and the criteria by which, these practices may be judged to be ‘successful’, and the relations of influence between them and mainstream alternatives.

    Above all, however, it is the celebration and analysis of the possibilities of diversity and economic proliferation that is the most significant contribution of the research reported here. Less a concern with closure and ends than with the perpetual opening out and transformation of social life. In the stultifying and unintelligent – to say nothing of the morally reprehensible – world of the assertion of hegemonic superiority, post-11 September 2001, these essays show how such diversity and proliferation are not only possible but reflect the irrepressible vitality and diversity of social life. And this despite the powerful pressures of conformity embedded in economic globalization.

    The research reported here makes it clear that attempts to write geographies and histories of ends are, as yet, premature. And, in any case, if they are capable, ever, of being written, they must be able to take account of the micro-origins of social construction and resistance as well as of the multiple scales and meta-narratives of geography and history. It is the presentation of a number of attempts to flesh out such interpretations through empirical research that is the major purpose of this book.

    References
    Ferguson, N. (2000) The Cash Nexus: Money and Power in the Modern World 1700–2000. London: Penguin.
    Fukuyama, F. (1992) The End of History and the Last Man. London: Penguin.
    Yergin, D. and Stanislaw, I. (1998) The Commanding Heights: The Battle between Government and the Market Place that is Remaking the Modern World. New York: Simon & Schuster.
    RogerLee and AndrewLeyshonLondon and Nottingham

    Acknowledgements

    The idea for this book emerged from discussions that surrounded an Economic and Social Research Council-funded project on Local Exchange Trading Systems (R: 000237208) that the editors helped to co-ordinate. We are very grateful for the contribution and support of Theresa Aldridge, Jane Tooke and Nigel Thrift, who were our fellow collaborators on that project, and who participated in numerous discussions about alternative economic spaces. Andrew Leyshon is also grateful to David Matless and graduate students in the School of Geography, University of Nottingham, for the provocative ideas about alternative economic geographies produced during discussion sessions in the Critical Human Geography and Current Research in Human Geography modules. We would also like to thank the contributors to this volume for their initial enthusiasm for participating in this project and for their patience in waiting for the final manuscript. Last, but certainly not least, we would like to express our thanks to Robert Rojek of Sage, who was enthusiastic and supportive at the outset and displayed a degree of forbearance and faith in the project that was well beyond the call of duty.


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