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The production of capitalist “smooth” space in global port operations

Wilmsmeier, Gordon; Monios, Jason


Gordon Wilmsmeier

Jason Monios


New developments in a post-Fordist economic environment have changed the source of port competitiveness from economies of scale based on basic production factors (capital, land, labour) to economies of scope based on advanced production (service) factors. The institutional setting in which ports are now embedded requires methods of analysis that go beyond those traditionally applied in transport geography, but port geography research has not embraced critical, radical or relational geographies. Thus, questions relating to the new conceptions of space and networks created through the corporatisation of the industry remain unanswered. This paper examines prevailing conceptualisations of space in port geography and elaborates the case for a smooth space conceptualisation. In doing so, it draws on two theoretical traditions of the spatial impacts of capital accumulation, beginning with Marx and Harvey to demonstrate how ports represent an exemplar of the inherently unstable “spatial fix” of mobile capital, then turning to the concept of “smooth space” introduced by Deleuze and Guattari. Using these concepts, the paper reflects on the production of capitalist smooth space in the global port operations sector, in which a handful of multinational corporations manage portfolios of major ports across the globe. The result is an inherent contradiction between a port’s embeddedness in its local setting and regional hinterland and the expanding global corporatocracy driving its operational strategy. This paper argues, therefore, that port devolution and development cannot be understood in the absence of a critique of their capitalist context.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jul 2, 2015
Publication Date 2015-07
Deposit Date Jul 31, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 15, 2017
Journal Journal of Transport Geography
Print ISSN 0966-6923
Electronic ISSN 1873-1236
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 47
Pages 59-69
Keywords Ports; terminals; shipping lines; Post-Fordist; globalisation; networks; spatial fix; scalar fix; Post-structuralist;
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date May 15, 2017


The production of capitalist “smooth” space in global port operations (526 Kb)

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