Volume 44, Number 175,
October-December 2013
Power and Space:
Revising the Theory of Regional Topics in Argentina
Ariel García and Alejandro Rofman
POWER(S) IN SPACE

From the perspective maintained here, space can be conceived as ideological evidence associated to power as a fundamental part of social relations (Crespo, 2006: 19). Based on this idea, it is necessary to examine the dimensions of the accumulation regime, power and space.

In keeping with Sánchez (1991), we will briefly explain five analytical links: a) social relationships, b) the physical and constituent aspects of space; c) the valuation of elements in the form of resources; d) the spatio-temporal contextualization of the phenomena we address and e) the global framework of social relations. These dimensions represent an exploratory attempt to grasp spatial processes, but do not seek to constitute a manual of recommendations, much less be an exhaustive list of all significant processes for regional topics.

Based on a historical-structural perspective, Sánchez (1991: 17) researches links between the conceptual categories of space and power. In the words of the author (ibidem): "When observing the behavior of the human being, we see that he is always related to other human beings, as well as with the geographic space in which he is located, because in the case of the geographic space, this is necessary and essential to ensuring his survival."

And Sánchez (1991: 17) adds that this space: “is the support of his life and his actions, the means through which all necessary resources are obtained, the role that it assumes in terms of means of production that allows for the attainment of goods and services as well as the specific environment to which each individual and each social group must adapt and adapt its actions" (italics inserted by authors).

These precise statements allow us to gain an understanding of the phenomenon of space as an active and leading subject with direct influence on the behavior of those operating in economic activities as the central environment for their social tasks.

First, the above statements emphasize the presence of links among social subjects as the fundamental basis for how accumulation dynamics in all societies work. This study requires identifying the social relationships as a feature relevant to the modus operandi of a society, necessarily linked/conditioned by the geographic space where these relationships are made effective. However, these social relationships complement each other, so that the subject is necessarily and essentially present. Without this, the survival of social subjects would not be ensured. Consequently, the space is a constituent part of social relationships in their multiple expressions – some of which are described at the end of the above quote.

Secondly, the above quote makes some progress in defining concepts that explain the nature of relationships among social subjects and space. In this way, at first glance, space is a “support” for the daily life of social subjects. This physical space that acts as a continent for the actions of political subjects, both producers and consumers, contains, of course, the specific features that determine and influence the actions of social subjects. However, space is more than just a support. Here it should be added that the "means" to which some authors refer classically encompasses more elements than merely material dimensions – or as is often said – its condition as a physical support or absolute space. From our perspective and for purposes of this research, the notion of space can be assimilated to the idea of territory in the terms set forth by Claval (1978) and Raffestin (1980). From the point of view proposed here, besides serving as the support and continent, space is a significant actor when influencing the actions of social subjects. In these terms, expressing that space is a social construction would represent a tautology. Because space is social, it is impossible to extricate society from its spatial expression.

Thirdly, Sánchez (1991) reminds us that the subject obtains the resources for simple or expanded reproduction from space. In this way, for example, generating land revenue is governed by variables such as proximity to markets, the fertility of the environment being exploited and the most significant environmental conditions that determine the production process. To this, we would have to add the legal situation that regulates access to land and its productive use by the social subjects involved.

Fourth, after reading the definitions proposed by Sánchez (1991), the need arises to consider the context in which the productive performance of the political subject under study takes place. In this aspect, which appears as key for the analysis, the evolution of the conditions of society as a whole and of the region in specific matters must be included in order to recognize the margins of maneuver – or more precisely, the power relations – available for social subjects. Although not referenced in detail, a variety of contemporary aspects of the globalization process would need to be included in the analysis, as well as the particular insertion of the country in globalization and the role of the regional socioeconomic system, in the framework where the behavior of the respective social subject takes place.

Fifth, it is useful to reflect on the final paragraph of the text by Sánchez (1991), where the author proposes that it is necessary to acknowledge that the social subject must adopt the global framework in which he operates as a central reference, and therefore, adapt to it in order to advance in a simple and eventually expanded reproduction of his activities.5 The lack of knowledge of this framework or a refusal to adjust to it and recognize the parameters of development that act as signs for his corresponding profile, will inevitably drive the social subject to face significant difficulties for reproduction. However, this does not imply the absence of micro-resistances, which may be modified in the context or the social subject himself may become a political subject with capacity to change his vulnerable situation. Until that happens, the social subject must accept and formally and tacitly acknowledge the rules of the game that were imposed upon him in order to not be excluded from the accumulation regime in effect.

With these briefly described dimensions of analysis, we might wonder: Are all social subjects in similar structural and objective conditions able to perform with the same efficacy and capacity to remain unaffected by pressures or impositions that materialize in situations where the social subject is acting?

5 By developing in the framework of contract agriculture, family production is transformed and subsumption is possible (Whatmore et. al., 1987: 27). These authors introduce the concept recently alluded to address links between production and the market. They refer to the different modes in which family agricultural production with its associated social relations is undergoing transformation in the midst of contemporary capitalism. Based on this definition, they identify two types of subsumption: real - where capital outside of the sector appropriates and controls the means of production for exploitation - and formal - where this capital acts indirectly on the production relations in the agricultural unit without needing to transform the labor process or control the technological means.

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 192, January-March is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Feb 23th, 2018.
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