RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019

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225 Geographies of political economy, governance and development (1)
Chair(s) Tony Binns (University of Otago, New Zealand)
Timetable Thursday 29 August 2019, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Skempton Building, Room 163
Linked Sessions Geographies of political economy, governance and development (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: ac2019@rgs.org
Deconstructing the Green Economy in South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region
Daniel Basubas (University of Otago, New Zealand)
Tony Binns (University of Otago, New Zealand)
Etienne Nel (University of Otago, New Zealand)
David Bek (Coventry University, UK)
The threat of food, fuel and financial crises has increased global pressure on governments to transition from a ‘business as usual’ economy to a green economy that strives to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, reduce inequality and alleviate poverty. It is essential that this transition is inclusive of marginalized communities if a more socially equitable society is to be achieved. This paper draws upon the results of field-based research in South Africa’s Western Cape province, a region that has faced serious developmental challenges since the end of apartheid and where the majority black and colored population are marginalized. International agencies, national and local governments and local civil society organizations have all demonstrated strong commitments towards achieving a green economy transition, however these efforts do not always translate into positive achievements on the ground. Thus far, much of the green economy research in South Africa to date has focused on quantitative measures (e.g. number of jobs created, resource efficiency) rather than considering qualitative measures that can provide an insight into how institutions and organizations engage with the green economy. This research utilizes a qualitative approach to unpack the green economy discourses at international, national, and local levels, and examines local perspectives from the Cape Floristic Region, an ecologically significant area in the Western Cape province. The findings of this research can help to provide a more nuanced appreciation of how national legislation and strategic frameworks for the green economy actually work on the ground in a region characterized by extreme inequalities.
Mundane financialization: Financier/developer interactions and the residential development process
Laurence Murphy (University of Auckland, New Zealand)
In the aftermath of the US subprime mortgage crisis much attention has been given to the rise of exotic financial activities that shape housing markets. However, this focus on financial innovative can result in the neglecting of more mundane calculative practices that contribute to everyday ‘market making’ (Smith, 2011) processes. Employing ideas around ‘agencement’ and ‘calculative practices’ (Callon, 1998 & 2009), this paper examines the everyday practices of development feasibility and residual land valuation that underpin residential development processes globally. In particular, the paper draws upon a series of interviews with finance and developer interests operating in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand, to examine the manner in which taken for granted economic calculations are imbued with power relations that profoundly shape the nature and character of housing development.
Collaborative Landscape Governance and the Conservation-Development Nexus: An Investigation of the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative
Rachel Fleener (University of Otago, New Zealand)
Tony Binns (University of Otago, New Zealand)
Etienne Nel (University of Otago, New Zealand)
David Bek (Coventry University, UK)
Landscape approaches to integrated land management represent the most recent attempt to reconcile broad-scale conservation and development issues. While this approach is becoming more prominent in the scientific literature and international conservation circles, it is still under theorized and few case studies have been conducted to investigate how this approach is used in practice. This paper draws from field-based research in South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region (CFR), an area that is ecologically significant and a region that suffers from severe development issues like extreme poverty, inequality and unemployment. Most of the land in the CFR is privately owned and therefore requires collaboration between stakeholders to address environmental issues such as fires and invasive alien plants. This paper investigates the Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI), a local organization that has adopted a landscape approach to facilitate collaboration between 30 conservation and development-minded organizations to foster biodiversity through sustainable environmental, economic and socio-cultural development. This paper unpacks the landscape approach by highlighting the complications of partnerships between sectors in a multi-functional landscape and interrogates the ability to create integrated and equitable solutions. The findings of the research contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the benefits and limitations of collaboration within the conservation-development nexus and provides vital insight into how landscape approaches are used in practice.
The New Zealand Economy and the Geography of Statistics
Russell Prince (Massey University, New Zealand)
The postwar international state system was underpinned by a statistical system centered on the United Nations System of National Accounts. Measures like Gross Domestic Product made it possible to imagine and act on a new governmental object: the national economy. This was a novel development in the middle of the twentieth century, but in the decades that followed, it came to be central to what was regarded as the main task of government: the management of the economy. This paper considers this development from the perspective of New Zealand – a country that occupies a place in the global order that is neither in what was regarded as the developing world but which was also outside the capitalist core of North America and Europe. This can cast a light on how the enterprise of statistics globalised to become central to the postwar state system and the organisation of capitalism. At a time when the usefulness of measures like GDP are increasingly called into question, and private corporations now outstrip the state in their capacity to collect and use statistical knowledge through ‘big data’, understanding the role of statistical knowledge in the present world order is vital for understanding what these changes could mean.
Accounting Against Development
Rebecca Warren (University of Essex, UK)
David Carter (University of Canberra, Australia)
This paper explores the relationship between critical geography and accounting in the context of advanced financial capital and neoliberalism. There has been a tendency for research into financialisation to suggest a form of de-spatialization. We contest this, by arguing that the ultimate beneficiaries of financialisation (advanced financial capital holders) employ accounting techniques and technologies for the purposes of creating boundaries. Accounting for advanced capital occupies an underexplored role in spatialization. While accounting is presented as apolitical, objective and neutral, there is a hegemonic focus on accounting for advanced financial capital. This creates inequalities, uneven distribution and may act contrary to development goals.

We explore the connections between critical human geography and accounting by reviewing literature and exploring the nature of accounting as its power is hidden and obfuscated rhetorically by claims of objectivity, expertise and problem solving. We focus on two examples: first, how advanced capital economies use accounting to construct emerging economies as dependencies in the recent development of IFRS for SMEs, which opens up spaces for indebtedness and second, how the calculative accounting practices of advanced capital are employed vis-a-vis emerging economies for labor and material (such examples include Export Processing Zones).
The commodification of urban land and the new political economy of the city
Michael Rafferty (University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg)
The financialisation of housing and commodification of urban land are fast becoming predominant processes of accumulation in capitalist political economies globally, necessarily implicating cities as principal sites for the extraction, circulation and concentration of capital. Debates on topics in this field such as gentrification and neo-liberalisation are increasingly turning towards political economy approaches, coinciding with comparable shifts in focus within economics on definitions of “value” in the economy, and within political science on the mechanics of neoliberal reform through what Mike Raco and others have identified as “regulatory capitalism”. Within urban studies, new applications of Neil Smith’s rent gap theory, which aim at explaining precisely how gentrification occurs through the problematic process of creating rent gaps, have produced opportunities to directly address these concomitant theoretical developments empirically not only in new cities, e.g. in the Global South, but also to reveal how these processes are unfolding generally in cities and impacting the wider economy. This paper will operationalise the rent gap approach to explore how these political-economic processes are producing an urban rentier economy in housing and land, situating this with respect to current debates on value creation/extraction in the social sciences opened by Mariana Mazzucato and others. It will explore approaches to certain empirical cases in the Global North and South, particularly to ascertain the scope for comparative case studies for further research. This paper aims to bring pertinent theoretical debates in the wider social sciences directly into urban studies to develop further empirical and conceptual research into the new political economy of the city.