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Post-Neo-Classical Perspectives on Economic Development: Emerging Global Cities and Varieties of Capitalism Theorization

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Dr. Pablo B. Markin,The University of the People, USA 


Capitalism can be approached as an abstract system that has a structuring influence on economic, social and cultural forms in the modern period, as it creates complex relations and interdependencies between different geographical sites and regions (Athanassakis, 2008, p. 10). In this respect, the reconsideration of capitalism in relation to cities that epitomize it can help examine the geographic dimension of capitalism as a process of economic development that has historically been unevenly distributed (Davis, & Turpin, 2015, p. 9).

In other words, it can be argued that capitalism is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that introduces a historical rupture in economic, social, and cultural structures (Kiss, 2011, pp. xvii-xix). Capitalism represents a system of spatial relations self-referentially governing the functioning of economic, social and cultural activities (Flusser, 1992, pp. 9-10). Thus, it is possible to trace in spatial configurations the manner in which relations between the economic, social and cultural spheres have been formed (Hüppe, 2013, p. 9).

This approach follows Kracauer’s conception that the operation of capitalism can be diagnosed on the basis of various aspects of urban life, such as luxury in global cities (Kracauer, 1995, p. 285). From this perspective, capitalism belongs as much to the theory of ideas as much as it does to the history of modernity (Rohbeck, 2005, p. 187). Thus, it is possible to concur with Weber’s (1922) position that capitalism is both an economic and a social and cultural phenomenon that can take multiple historically and spatially specific forms, such as imperial capitalism (Whimster, 2015, p. 2). Therefore, this special issue of Open Economics will comparatively explore the role that modern capitalism has played in the transformation of spatial relations (Wallerstein, 1976, p. 273).

Accordingly, the development of capitalism can have alternative explanations, such as in relation to cities that have played key roles in its emergence in its modern form at different historical periods, as Sombart (1922) would argue (Grundmann, & Stehr, 2001, p. 257). While London epitomizes the transition to the imperial, industrial or colonial capitalism with the global expansion of the economic relations of the British empire, Paris, as a historical capital of fashion, consumption and culture, represents an alternative type of capitalist relations that demand a reconsideration of modernity (Benjamin, 1982, p. 479). In this respect, the rise of Asian mega-cities, such as Shanghai, can be treated as indicators of the ascendancy of the non-Western varieties of capitalism that demand theoretical and empirical investigation (Marcuse & Van, 2008).

Therefore, this topical issue of Open Economics will explore post-neo-classical perspectives on economic development in relation to emerging global cities, such as in Asia, and varieties of capitalism theorization. Thus, this special issue seeks to clarify the role that contemporary and historical world cities, such as Shanghai, London and Paris, have played in the emergence of different configurations of capitalism revolving around particular urban centers.


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