The spatio-temporality of capitalism



Publication Details

Castree, N. (2009). The spatio-temporality of capitalism. Time and Society, 18 (1), 26-61.


This essay seeks to explain the constitutive role that space-time plays in the dynamics of capital accumulation. Through a close reading of David Harvey's work, I show that time and space work together in ways particular to the capitalist mode of producing, distributing, selling, consuming and disposing of commodities. This does not, I argue, mean that space-time is reducible to capital accumulation - there are, to be sure, other forms of space-time that are relatively autonomous from the now dominant mode of production. My aim is not to provide a definitive account of space-time tout court but, instead, to show both the organic connection between space and time within capitalism specifically as well as the necessary - rather than simply contingent - role that space-time plays in the dynamics of accumulation. My argument is that capitalist space is inconceivable in abstraction from capitalism's temporal compulsions, and that space-time functions as a concrete abstraction that internalizes the whole gamut of contradictions that Marx identified over a century ago. The essay makes its analytical contribution by surveying previous Marxist and non-Marxist contributions to understanding space and time in the social sciences, en route to a close reading of Harvey's Limits to Capital. The political implications of paying careful attention to capitalist space-time are explored by counter-posing Harvey's work with Doreen Massey's recent writings about spatio-temporality.

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