Economic Geography Research Group

Fostering research in Economic Geography

RGS/IBG Annual Conference

2006 Kensington Gore, London

30 August - 1 September 2006

Rescaling the Political Economy of Social Justice/Injustice: the Urbanisation and Regionalisation of Inclusion/Exclusion

Session sponsored jointly by Economic Geography (EGRG) and Political Geography Research Group (EGRG)

Convenors: Ramon Ribera-Fumaz and Stijn Oosterlynck (Lancaster University)

Recent literature in urban and regional development theory and research is largely dominated by concerns about agglomeration economies, learning regions and the geographies of inter-space competition. Urban and regional economic development strategies aim at imaging and producing places that are first and foremost attractive sites for capital accumulation. In this sense, there exists a large body of research and theory looking at the development impact of rescaling economic governance mechanisms to the urban and regional level. On the other hand, most of the literature on local social justice is focused on processes of gentrification and on the privatisation of public space and its exclusionary character at the neighbourhood scale. Yet, there is little research available that actually looks at the rescaling of social justice/injustice at the urban and regional level.

This session aims to look at urban and regional development strategies and the economic imageries informing them from a social justice, rather than from a competitiveness perspective. The session hopes to contribute to our understanding of how certain actors' actions and the imaginaries that inform their actions aim at rescaling development strategies to the urban and regional level in an attempt to produce new scales of political intervention on which they have stronger capacities to act. We invite papers that analyse how regional and urban development strategies and the associated imaginaries work to include certain social groups and social interests while excluding and marginalising others.

Sustainable Welfare? Choice, risk and inequality in the 21st century

Session sponsored by the Economic Geography Research Group

Conveners: Kendra Strauss, University of Oxford; Gordon Clark, University of Oxford

This session will explore contemporary economic and social policy, with a comparative regional focus, through the lens of 'sustainable welfare'. In the context of contemporary trends in the provision (and retrenchment) of social welfare goods and services, the often-heard rhetoric of choice and particular framings of social and financial risk need to be analysed alongside issues of equality and social and environmental justice. In what ways are ideologies of sustainability being mobilised both in defence of neoliberal and neoconservative policies and in the promotion of alternatives? How individuals and communities understand and respond to issues of choice in relation to perceived norms of rationality and utility maximisation, and the intersection between choice and environment, are vital areas of research.

The particular construction of the pensions crisis and the challenges ? and opportunities- posed by ageing societies and slower population growth represent one facet of the problematic of sustainable welfare. Other potential topics include employment policy, work-life balance, healthcare, and social reproduction. Papers are sought that explore and interrogate notions of financial, social and environmental sustainability in the context of welfare provision, and which highlight and engage with complex issues of gender, ethnicity and class that underlie concepts of sustainability.

Worker Empowerment and Collective Action in a Global Economy: Bridging the Divide Between Economic and Development Geographies

Joint EGRG / DARG session

Convenors: Al James, Bhaskar Vira, Mia Gray Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Over the last two decades, as firms have restructured in response to globalisation and the opportunities afforded by new technologies, 'flexibility' for many workers has come to mean increased workloads, less predictable work schedules, more unsocial work hours, and greater insecurity as firms seek to minimise labour costs. Yet at the same time, industrial unions have been declining. Likewise in the developing world context, economic liberalization, associated public sector restructuring, and increasing adoption of a 'market logic' have also posed significant challenges to workers' organisations and the labour movement. However,as 'traditional' unions have declined, new forms of labour organising have begun to challenge the dominant assumption that unions are inappropriate to the New Economy. Nevertheless, analyses of labour organising initiatives for worker justice in the developed and developing world contexts have largely proceeded in isolation from one another, reinforced by a powerful but arguably arbitrary structural divide between economic geography and development studies. This not only limits our understanding of the local and national institutional conditions that condition organising success, but also the transferability of subsequent knowledge claims and 'best practice'. This session attempts to bridge this gap by providing a forum in which scholars from both sides of the divide can engage and learn from one another.s work.

Empirical and theoretical papers are welcome. Potential topics might include, but are by no means limited to:

  • The work and employment conditions motivating workers to seek collective representation in different industrial sectors in the Global South and how those conditions compare with those motivating workers to organise in the Global North.
  • Formal and informal institutional barriers constraining membership growth among different social groups within various organising initiatives, and how these constraints vary at the local, regional, national and international scales.
  • Case studies of concrete organising strategies that effectively overcome the above constraints in order to mobilise and represent workers effectively within (and across?) the developed and developing world contexts.
  • Methodological innovations for researching the political-cultural-economy of collective action and labour organising in different national contexts.

The historical origins of, and scope for overcoming, the structural divide between economic geography and development studies.

Organisational geographies of power

Session sponsored by the Economic Geography Research Group of the RGS (IBG).

Session conveners: James Faulconbridge (Lancaster University) and Sarah Hall (Loughborough University).

Economic geographers have provided important critical commentaries on the role of 'global' firms and institutions in the rise of neo-liberal globalisation. Recent research has increasingly analysed the 'geographies of power' produced by and within such global organisational forms (Allen 2003). Attention here has been drawn to the actors that drive and dictate processes of globalisation through complex economic, socio-cultural, discursive and political practices, allowing the exertion of influence over different spaces, places, activities and actors. This session aims to further develop discussion of the 'relational geographies of power' assembled by various actors including firms, institutions and individuals and also of the constraints on such 'powerful' processes.

Potential topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Methodological innovations for researching the 'spatial geometries' (Yeung 2005) of globalisation and relational 'power'
  • Empirical and theoretical engagements with corporate governance and corporate citizenship
  • The role of alternative economic systems in the global space economy
  • Tracings of the actors and network practices in the creation of economic geographies of 'power'.
  • Case studies of particular institutions and/or firms and their production and choreographing of (or inhibiting affect on) globally influential economic practices.

'Alternative' this, 'alternative' that... Interrogating alterity

Sponsored by PyGyWG and EGRG

In reflecting and celebrating the burgeoning interest in alternative economic spaces, this session is focused on bringing together critical analyses of alterity from across the social sciences and beyond. The intention is to advance understanding of exactly what alternative economic spaces are, how they are formed, what difficulties and problems they face, how they can be sustained, and how academics can help in their proliferation. The session will explore diverse themes underpinning the proliferation of local economies, such as tensions and relations with the mainstream economy, alterity and autonomy, social regulation versus self-regulation, ownership and control, the social and economic sustainability of alterity, alterity and otherness, authenticity and morality, 'alternative' knowledges, policy, participation and praxis, etc. Papers are therefore welcomed from all parts of the academy, and/or from those actively involved in the creation of alternative spaces and futures, in whatever form.