Flows and filters: the politics of ICT regions in a global economy
O'Riain, Sean and Parthasarathy, Balaji and Zook, Matthew A. (2004) Flows and filters: the politics of ICT regions in a global economy. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 28 (3). pp. 617-620.
Since the 1980s, the world economy has been transformed into a global economy that operates in real time as a single unit on a planetary scale (Castells, 1997). This global economy is characterized by an increasing flow of goods, services, capital, ideas, and to a more limited extent, labour, facilitated by information and communications technologies (ICTs). At the same time, ICTs have also accounted for growing shares of world trade, investment and consumption (Freeman and Louca, 2002). In the 1990s, trade in ICTs grew at almost twice the rate of total trade, which itself almost doubled over that period, and technological standards became increasingly globally integrated (OECD, 2002). If the 1990s was the era of the `globalization project' (McMichael, 1996), then ICT was the `project team leader', with a freewheeling, market-led image of `Silicon Valley' becoming the symbol of a `new' economy (Kelly, 1998). Even if the exuberance about a `new' economy is historically and analytically not justified (Varian and Shapiro, 1998), in spatial terms, the `new' economy is new to the extent that it has witnessed the emergence of certain regions, hitherto considered a part of the global `periphery', as key nodes of production. At the same time, informational capitalism is not different from earlier forms of capitalism. It too is characterized by uneven geographies, where select nodes are tied into a global network for the production of goods and services. However, while an abstract rationale of capitalist accumulation can be offered for the integration of these nodes into the global economy, the norms and forms of production in these nodes are hardly identical, as the global flows are filtered in specific ways in different locations by differing institutional structures. Or, more concretely, as Sassen (2001: 190, 192) argues, any analysis of cross-border processes that is limited to international trade and investment will produce a `rather empirically and theoretically ``thin'' account' of the ways in which `the global economy needs to be implemented, reproduced, serviced, financed'. In other words, an analytically nuanced account of the changes to the world economy must not only acknowledge the new `techno-economic paradigm', or the constellation of technological innovations and institutional structures that provide the basis for new global processes of capital accumulation, it must also acknowledge that there is considerable variation in institutional structures, i.e. global regions are a `glocal' project (Brenner, 1998). It is this project that is the focus of this symposium. Drawing on three empirically diverse cases (Silicon Valley, Ireland and Bangalore, India), the authors (Matthew Zook, Sean OÃ Riain and Balaji Parthasarathy, respectively) present two key ideas.
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