Volume 44, Number 175,
October-December 2013
Power and Space:
Revising the Theory of Regional Topics in Argentina
Ariel García and Alejandro Rofman
The Spatial Circuit of the Surplus: Developing a Geography of the Surplus

In light of what we have explained up until now, it is time to specify the difference between a geography of production and a geography of surplus.

This will allow us to identify a geography of production at the level of value production with its various quantitative and qualitative aspects. However, this does not conclude the analysis if the goal is to advance from a spatial perspective. On the contrary, this geography can be used to disguise the purpose of accumulation. For example, it can be used in the treatment of the "ideology" of industrialization through the regional promotion of projects subsidized by the State to the benefit of capital as a development factor in peripheral regions. In many cases, these subsidies do not imply anything else besides a monetary transfer to social subjects that would have made the investment with or without this support or implies increasing, without solid justification, the profit rate of the favored parties to the detriment of those that cannot access this promotion as they are located outside of the area promoted.

Now, from the perspective of power relations, what interests us is the value, and more exactly, the surplus depending on the moment in question. This is called geography of the surplus. What is meaningful here is the circuit of value and social and spatial distribution.

Thus arises the possibility of the spatial displacement (mobility) of the surplus as the necessary condition for spatial expansion, either in merchandise or monetary form, towards places that the appropriators/managers have decided to send it, either for their own direct appropriation or for (re-)investment. In these processes, conflicts surrounding space are intrinsically linked to social conflict regarding the production of value, surplus and its mobilization.


Using the critique of dominant thought as a starting point from which to contribute to designing a theoretical-interpretive framework through which we can address the social construction of the region by incorporation the behavior of social subjects that participate in it is a difficult, but inevitable, task if the goal is to build a discourse that influences the design of public policy and the entangled complex of social subjects involved in its conceptual basis, design and effective execution.

In the current international stage, where the capitalist mode of production is undergoing a crisis in its flexible accumulation regime, we must make progress in defining a theoretical-interpretive framework that supports a renewal/rethinking of concepts, new progress, content and proposals for issues related to specific national and regional needs. The traditional structuralism is under crisis with a theoretical-methodological framework to interpret the processes on the spatial level that brought about the crisis of capitalism in its current form and its repercussions on the global stage. It is now time to search for renewed theoretical perspectives upon which to build a fertile terrain for a superior perspective.

The theoretical-interpretive framework defined here for some of its significant elements hopes to contribute to a study whose dimensions might allow us to:

  1. Obtain an analytical tool whose theoretical-methodological approach allows us to grasp the dynamics of accumulation in regional spaces that constitute a national territory. This tool would not only allow us to understand how the surplus is produced, accumulated and distributed among the social subjects operating in a determined region – in accordance with the dominant social relations of production. It would also allow us to identify the commercial and financial exchanges developed from and towards the region. In this way, the processes of accumulation relevant to the regional profile can be described starting with the mechanisms of internal production and reproduction and considering inter-regional flows.
    This analytical tool must be based on a multi-scale perspective that incorporates the links among the diverse orders/state levels (municipality-subnational units-central/federal state, as applicable) and among the interventions of economic actors of diverse origins into studies.
    By considering the social relations of production it is also necessary to establish that these relations may arise in different ways. In a broad sense, there is a continuum of how relations are developed, which goes from horizontal to asymmetrical. Asymmetrical relations include those where one of the parties or “poles” formally or specifically assigns a significant quantity or quality of conditions to its own benefit and to the detriment of the other party. Horizontal relations are those characterized by democratic decision-making, production and distribution processes where the multiple and changing interests of the parties are considered.

  2. Understand the transformations that technical relations of production have undergone, directed toward ensuring a "satisfactory" accumulation process for the social subjects in control of it. This implies considering the effects of technological transformations on the conditions of the development of economic activity in relation to the levels of accumulation of different sectors made up of social actors with differing negotiating power. In this sense, contemporary studies on the regional arrangement of Argentina, with regards to rural activities, allow us to describe: “how the variable of technology has been incorporated as both the central axis and motor of many quantitative and qualitative changes starting in the mid-1970s and up through today, and how this variable has been incorporated and combined with other productive and social variables, leading to different results and meanings for different regions and historic moments" (Urcola, 2011: 105).
    In this way, there is an explicit admission that technical relations of production have become the independent variable in their historical sequence and constant process of changes, leading to the temporal development of the social relations in effect in each region analyzed.

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 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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