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How did Japan rise to challenge the U.S. economic supremacy? We argue that the foundation of Japan's rise from a defeated nation in 1945 to an economic powerhouse is the…
How did Japan rise to challenge the U.S. economic supremacy? We argue that the foundation of Japan's rise from a defeated nation in 1945 to an economic powerhouse is the raw materials that Japanese firms have turned into cars, ships, consumer electronics, and of other industrial products. A small island nation that lacked adequate domestic supplies of virtually all the raw materials essential to industrial production became a world leader in the production of steel and of products which required millions of tons per year of raw materials. Japanese firms and the Japanese state turned an apparent material and economic disadvantage, the need to import large volumes of raw materials, into a competitive advantage over the U.S., Europe, and the rest of the world economy by driving down the cost of importing raw materials over long distances. We argue that the strategies of Japanese firms and the Japanese state to resolve the problems of procuring bulk cheaply and reliably from multiple distant locales drove the technical and organizational innovations that underlay Japan's rapid industrial development and restructured the world economy in support of Japan's development. Contrary to claims that globalization supercedes the national state, we find that the actions of the Japanese state, in coordination with firms and industry sectors, were crucial in developing and applying these strategies. The linchpin of these strategies were the MIDAs (Maritime Industrial Development Areas) built on land reclaimed by the Japanese state. This economic success in Japan was also critically dependent on the extraction of billions of dollars of wealth from its raw materials peripheries, most notably Australia, Brazil, and Canada.
The works of Stephen Bunker represent early, sometimes unacknowledged, contributions to a sociological imagination regarding the role of nature and raw material extraction…
The works of Stephen Bunker represent early, sometimes unacknowledged, contributions to a sociological imagination regarding the role of nature and raw material extraction in processes of social change. By engaging debates defined within a world-systems frame of national state power and cycles of capital accumulation, Bunker's work maintains the hierarchy of core, semi-peripheral, and peripheral states. While bridging the local and the global in unusual ways, his emphasis is predominantly on the external limits posed by nature and global markets on peripheries and the converse advantages offered to cores, thus allowing less room in the analysis for questioning which particular totality(ies) of social structure and relations are open to sociological inquiry. Gleaning the contributions from a socionatural approach and relating them back to Bunker's commodity-based approach may expand the purview for analyses of the intersection of the natural and the social. In this chapter, I argue that attention to ‘nature’ in its multiple socionatural occurrences contributes to an understanding of the structuring of power in time and place. I rely on geographer Eric Swyngedouw's deployment of the concept of ‘socionature’ and the framework of actor-network theory to explore the benefits as well as challenges of a more relational, nondualistic sociological analysis of society and nature.
This chapter relates Bunker's innovative view of nature, raw materials and political economy to the “global commodity chains” (GCCs) approach. The chapter contends that…
This chapter relates Bunker's innovative view of nature, raw materials and political economy to the “global commodity chains” (GCCs) approach. The chapter contends that his view of the importance of primary material extraction, shipping, and energy used in various “transformations” of these crucial products can be fruitfully married to a GCCs perspective.
In this introductory chapter, we briefly outline the history of the political economy of raw materials, focusing particularly on the relationship between raw materials and…
In this introductory chapter, we briefly outline the history of the political economy of raw materials, focusing particularly on the relationship between raw materials and economic development. We then introduce the chapters of this volume, and we conclude by discussing future directions for research in this area.
In this chapter I outline different theories of ascent to and decline from hegemony. In particular, I discuss Arrighi's finance-based theory of cycles of accumulation and…
In this chapter I outline different theories of ascent to and decline from hegemony. In particular, I discuss Arrighi's finance-based theory of cycles of accumulation and Stephen Bunker's materio-spatial theory of hegemonic ascent and decline. Then, I ask whether the different explanations of ascent and decline can be reconciled and/or how we can begin to adjudicate between them in terms of their relative explanatory powers throughout the history of the world-system or at different times in history. Finally, I discuss the implications of theories of hegemonic change for our understanding of local economic change, and particularly the relationship between path dependencies and points of exit from them.
Creating a continental energy market, including an interconnected electricity industry, was a central motivation for the U.S. government in the negotiation of the CUSFTA and NAFTA. Free trade agreements and regulatory changes in North America have fundamentally altered the characteristics of the electricity industry and the strategies of its constituent firms over the past decade. Markets are replacing extensive regulation in many states, many new firms have entered the industry, long term stability and predictability of returns to firms and of electricity prices have been replaced with the uncertainties of competition, and blackouts in California have become global headline news. In this period of rapid transition in the electricity industry, firms, states and consumers confront both new opportunities and new problems that were unimaginable a decade ago. The essential role of electricity in all economic activity makes this industry a critical component of the North American economy, but the future of the industry is far from clear.
This paper discusses the material characteristics of the electricity industry and outlines the provisions of the CUSFTA and NAFTA and regulatory changes that affected the electricity industry over the past decade. The paper then examines the evolution of the continental electricity industry, with particular emphasis on the efforts to create competitive markets. The paper then analyzes the strategies of particular firms to respond to and take advantage of these processes. The conclusion analyzes the policy implications of these processes and firm strategies.
Incorporating local space, matter, and society into our concepts of the global in analytically compatible ways poses a major challenge for contemporary scholars of both…
Incorporating local space, matter, and society into our concepts of the global in analytically compatible ways poses a major challenge for contemporary scholars of both world systems and globalization. Many analysts ignore both materiality and locality of production. They assume the global as their point of departure, and attempt to incorporate the local into it. In this chapter, we aim to reverse that logic. We will take into account and theorize the interaction of natural and social processes. In other words, we will integrate ecologic or materio-spatial logic with sociologic within the economic logic of global markets.
This chapter examines the fur trade commodity frontier in northeastern North America as a contested periphery, involving an evolving process of conflict and cooperation…
This chapter examines the fur trade commodity frontier in northeastern North America as a contested periphery, involving an evolving process of conflict and cooperation between North American indigenous groups and European powers. Native people used European powers for help in their battles with other native groups, and European colonial authorities attempted to use native people as proxies in their attempts to make up for often low European populations in the various North American colonies. Within the colonies there were also splits between commercial/trading interests and more purely geostrategic concerns. This chapter will explore these various conflicts involving the Iroquois, English and French, and will consider how the trade's fundamental material, environmental and geographical structure shaped the evolution of this peripheral extractive political economy and the efforts of those in the core seeking to exploit the area's resources.