Cities and Regions in the 21st Century
Chapter 1: A brief historical geography of capitalism
One of the major accomplishments of social science over the last halfcentury or so has been the recognition of the deepening significance of geographic space in the working out of human affairs. There is, at first glance, something paradoxical about this proposition, for the last halfcentury has also been one in which geographic space has seemed to shrink steadily as improvements in transport and communications technologies have brought far-flung parts of the world into ever deeper contact with one another. In a very real sense, we live in an age in which the exotic is fading away as a meaningful category of human experience. Yet at the same time, the increasing accessibility of any given place to every other place on earth is actually making it possible for new and ever more subtle differentiations of geographic space to occur, above all in regard to the urban and regional foundations of economic life. Rising levels of accessibility are assuredly responsible for the elimination of many kinds of human diversity across the world, especially those that are linked to preor extra-capitalistic forms of social existence; but, all the same, the drive in modern capitalism toward the proliferation of multiplicity and variety (in regard to sectors, inter-firm relations, market niches, and so on) is associated with the formation of a system of increasingly specialized locations harboring many different forms of production and associated patterns of settlement. The mechanism underlying this trend is the pervasive urge to agglomeration within specialized fragments of the capitalist production system.
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