Volume 44, Number 175,
October-December 2013
Power and Space:
Revising the Theory of Regional Topics in Argentina
Ariel García and Alejandro Rofman
Economic Power

The economic base of power relations is the surplus. A key question, often forgotten, is to consider whether incorporating new technology implies a reformulation of the power relations in space or if these power relations continue to be based on the appropriation/management of the surplus. In this sense, we can explore who and in what conditions they will produce, manage and appropriate the surplus in the new process, accepted both individually and spatially by each productive model. Every society feeds off of mechanisms that legitimate the appropriation of space. In this way, apparently peaceful examples in the framework of the economic realm may become the standards that regulate the legal figure of private property that offers advantages for economic subjects and implies a privileged situation in the reproduction of power relations. Another case in the economic realm may be the hereditary transmission of goods within family units or the multiple variations of sale and purchase transactions.

In the mode of capitalist production, the mechanisms of domination are explicitly verified in each of the cited ways. For sale and purchase transactions, systems of acquisition of primary goods by an economic subject with significant negotiation capacity appear frequently. This is maintained possible as a function of unequal relationships that are formalized among the subjects that are involved in a transaction. One emblematic situation is the operation to sell primary production to intermediaries with which the vendor – a small farmer usually lacking capital – operates as a subordinate subject with no capacity to make decisions on production and sale, and must accept the conditions of the transaction imposed upon him by the purchasing party. Prices, methods of payment, delivery requirements, technology to use in the production process, quality standards and more are areas in which the sale and purchase relationship takes place and the will of the buyer is imposed in general terms, especially if the buyer has a monopolistic or oligopolistic presence in the market. At the extreme are violent and coercive measures, which would be direct appropriation without compensation. However, the conditions go beyond the sphere of sale and purchase. The margin for small farmers is negligible not only for transactions; this is also the case for what and how they produce.

Finally, it must be noted that technology developed under any mode of production implicitly implies an ideology (Gaiger, 2007: 85-87). If we agree with the precedent under the capitalist mode of production, technology tends to accelerate accumulation processes. In the current phase of the internationalization of capital, technology tends toward the dispossession of democratic rights, revenue, public resources and the social conquest of subordinate sectors (Harvey, 2004), including, for example, small producers, the unemployed, students and the homeless.

Political Power

In this dimension of the phenomenon analyzed here, we can separate out significant instances of links between political subjects on the international or inter-regional levels that offer, make possible or reproduce unequal positions in the scenario of power relations on the global or intra-regional system.

This is a long-debated topic where the system of international relations or national constitutions formally institute equality for political units on the global stage, but the effective links define singular processes of subordinating the weaker to the more powerful.

For all situations where mechanisms whereby imperial powers dominate subjugated nations – known as "imperialism” – whose analysis is profuse in the political, academic and institutional realms, the imposition of some collective subjects over others is a decisive factor for the welfare of participants in inter-related societies and a central element of the dispute over the surplus on the global and inter-regional scales.

Social Power

For research that seeks to address the problem of the behavior of social subjects in the framework of regional topics, defining how these social subjects behave based on previously analyzed processes, without which we could neither understand nor assess this behavior, is significant. In this sense, we can trace and build defined profiles regarding the mechanisms of social subjugation through the dynamics of diverse economic and political processes.

The legal and institutional foundation of society on the global level, in regional terms and with respect to the system of relations defined by economic power, is the mandatory precursor to the diverse forms of social dominance. Among these, the first we highlight are the processes of increasing fragmentation and precarious conditions made possible by the content of lax controls or lack thereof over diverse labor regimes. In the words of Gaiger (2007: 88), "the strategies adopted by the current state of advanced capitalism, the segmentation of the productive process that makes use of versatile laborers and the adoption of precarious labor contracts, are merely legal-formal variations of salaried relations, with the aim of perpetuating accumulation."

Secondly, there are phenomena of social inclusion and exclusion that imply widespread structural heterogeneity as the result of unequal access to collection of the surplus on behalf of different social sectors.

Given all of this, it is challenging to progress in building a theoretical-interpretive framework that links unequal relations of social production, changing technical relations of production compatible with the previous dynamics and dynamics related to the capture of the social dimension of the surplus on behalf of the subjects that make up the dominant pole.

Progressing in determining the concept of a theoretical-interpretive framework in the direction indicated would imply a further understanding and assessment of how the economic surplus is generated, the role of space in generating and circulating the surplus and a discovery of who are the social subjects that appropriate the surplus and give it purpose with their actions.

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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