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 ( ...continuation )

At least for an accumulation regime such as the prevailing regime at the beginning of the twenty-first century on the global scale, the distinctive and predominant features consisted of identifying notorious inequalities in the development of social relations. For a full understanding of the presence of power relations among social subjects with a variety of backgrounds and social roles, a basic concept must be developed: "All social relations foreshadow relations of interest where each member will seek or ensure that his objectives prevail over those of the rest or will have to reduce these objectives. All relationships contain some component of power relations” (Sánchez, 1991: 22, italics inserted by authors).

From this, it can be undoubtedly deduced that any social relation has the mark of the power exercised by one (or many) over another (or others). This relationship contains at least two mechanisms to validate it: obedience and dominance. Without going into too much detail as to these mechanisms, it is necessary to specify that obedience can be understood as the logical consequence of asymmetrical relationships, which are generated and reproduced when someone (or many people) must obey what another (or others) impose. This is a dialectic dynamic. It implies the figure of regular subordination, extended over history and time, among land owners and those responsible for exploiting the land on behalf of the former or an operator in the environment of production or commercialization of agricultural goods and the agricultural provider of these goods.

One more conceptual specification is needed. In relations of subordination, where power is clear, there is a double mechanism for relations that persist over time. The demand for obedience, which is basic in dominance-dependence relationships, may begin and be maintained in a stable manner beyond the time elapsed either due to coercion or acceptance. This distinction implies a different view of the same relationship, even when attempting to modify it in its origin or over time. Coercion takes on various forms, some more violent than others, but it is notable for guaranteeing asymmetrical relationships through some mode of violence. By contrast, acceptance implies a voluntary act on the part of the dominated social subject, which even may appear natural to the social subject when the contextual or cultural conditions place this subject in a passive situation and the requirement to be obedient. In this case, the presence of systems that generate values is common – for example, through formal and informal education – which take asymmetrical power relations to be “natural,” where the subject dominated neither disputes nor questions nor is even aware of his subordinate situation. The cultural legacy of being subject to hierarchies is maintained and permanently encouraged by the dominant sectors. This concept of power relations in a capitalist society is even more meaningful as a result of the links between capital and labor, the foundation for how the social system functions and from where the interactions that allow some to impose roles of submission and exploitation on others arise.

These relations could not exist in full if they were not inscribed in space. We fully agree with Sánchez (1991: 30), who ascertains “that power relations take on a special spatial-territorial form given that space is the environment in which they materialize."

Now, the spatial materialization of the surplus implies that the domain of those that hold power also control its circulation in space, while the phenomena of productive or financial globalization has fragmented the geographic environments, separating space from where production takes place with respect to accumulation or re-investment.

It is in this dimension of analysis that space takes on a fundamental role, as it influences the behavior of dominant sectors and also determines the decisions of subordinate sectors. This last aspect is a strategic feature of our analysis for various reasons; a social sector may unlawfully hold the property of rural lands or usufruct it through a temporary agreement for exploitation. In these circumstances, it could decide to change the destination of production to obtain increasing portions of the surplus in the form of land revenue or extraction of company earnings, which requires a modification of the pre-existing technical relations of production. Usually, a new productive process constitutes a change both to the prior environmental conditions as well as to the supply and quality of the workforce. As tends to happen, there are significant changes in demand for labor. The "leftover" population must migrate and the surplus – increased as a result of new technical ”relations” of production by the actor dominating activities and the space including these – in the form of revenue and earnings may also increase. Usually, social subjects that have processed the productive transformation reside in areas far from the place of production, where the surplus that is not re-invested in activities is directed. In these areas, there are different ways to use the new surplus that were previously unknown (in this sense, the mechanisms determined by the hyper-accumulation of capital in the financial sector and its re-investment in agricultural and mining activities may serve as an example. See Harvey, 1991 and 2004).

In summary, space is important in two ways, both on the local level and for production, although it is also important as an environment and a means through which surplus is displaced. In this way, social distribution is perpetrated as a function of the possibilities of spatial distribution. The rest of this work will present some evidence to confirm the relevance of actions and power relations on space, explained from the perspective of dimensions contributed by Sánchez (1991) that we have reworked: economic, political and social power.

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 195 October-December 2018 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,
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