Economic Geographies: Circuits, Flows and Spaces


Ray Hudson

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    During the 1990s, I worked intermittently on a book focused on geographies of production, eventually published in 2001 as Producing Places. As I did so, I was increasingly aware of three related developments within economic geography and more generally within the social sciences. First, there was an increasing interest on issues of consumption, complementing the previous emphasis on issues of production. Secondly, there was growing recognition of the grounding of the economy in nature and of the centrality of relations between economy and ecology. Thirdly, there was growing interest in cultural approaches to understanding economic geographies, which were seen as offering alternative ‘bottom up’ perspectives to the variety of ‘top down’ political economy perspectives that had dominated in the 1970s and 1980s (and which I had drawn on heavily in Producing Places). This raised a number of intriguing questions for me. They partly arose because my own research career as a doctoral student had begun in the late 1960s with an interest in how consumers made choices about shops and shopping centres, the knowledge that they had about the retailing environment, the criteria they used in making such choices, and with the processes through which they learned about new environments. They also arose because much or my subsequent work had investigated geographies of industries such as coal mining, steel making and chemicals production, each of which in different ways raised important questions about relations between economy and environment. More fundamentally, these developments revived questions as to understanding the totality of the production process in capitalism, and the significance of processes of exchange, sale and consumption in capital accumulation.

    However, if only for reasons of space, there was no possibility of extending the scope of Producing Places adequately to consider these issues (although there was some consideration of them, especially economy/environment relations). Therefore, even while finishing work on that book, it seemed to me that there was a good case to consider writing another book that sought to develop an approach to economic geography that encompassed issues of production and consumption and that sought to develop a more nuanced pluri-theoretical approach. This would allow economic geographies to be explored in a number of registers and draw on political economy and cultural perspectives as complementary, while holding on to the strengths of political economy perspectives. Indeed, in many ways it sought to return to the traditions of political economy before the neo-classical marginalist revolution, reconnecting analyses of production and consumption, sensitive to both the cultural construction and material grounding of the economy in nature. This book is the result.

    As always, it is at least as much a collective endeavour as it is an individual one, drawing on the generous help and assistance of numerous colleagues and friends. They include: Ash Amin; Kay Anderson; Huw Beynon; Costis Hadjimichalis; Peter Dicken; Nicky Gregson; Roger Lee; Gordon MacLeod; Doreen Massey; Linda McDowell; Stan Metcalfe; Jamie Peck; Helen Sampson; Ian Simmons; Denis Smith; Sue Smith; Adam Tickell; Nigel Thrift; Henry Yeung; Dina Vaiou; Paul Weaver; Sarah Whatmore and Allan Williams. In addition, several of my recent doctoral students have provided valuable ideas, especially Doug Lionais, Alison Scott, Leandro Sepulveda Amanda Smith, Delyse Springett and James Wadwell. Thanks also to Edward Arnold for permission to use a revised and edited paper from Progress in Human Geography as the basis for Chapter 1. As ever, however, the responsibility for the end product is mine.

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