This has been the centre of my intellectual contribution in the last twenty years. Much of this work has been done in collaboration with Aram Eisenschitz. It encompasses work on local and regional economies, the nexus of local economy and social life, and the role of levels of the state and ‘partnership’ organisations; on this basis it attempts to understand localities as wholes. My work combines theoretical and political debate with analysis of particular territories in particular periods, with a particular focus on Britain since the 1970s.
My/our theorisation has key elements which distinguish it from the institutionalism dominant in economic geography, the Weberian approaches dominant in social and urban geography, and the elite and pluralist approaches dominant in studies of local politics. Its distinctive elements are:-
- a Marxist analysis of economy, and social life, and their deep (‘internal’) relations;
- thus a foregrounding of issues of power, empowerment and politicisation with respect to class, gender and ‘race’/ethnicity;
- a focus on the contradictions of these structures, including those bound up with territorial enclosure, scale and distance;
- an Open Marxist approach to the state which sees its institutions, actions and spatialities as arising out of (internally related to) the contradictions of economy and social life, and as being correspondingly unstable and conflictual; this approach differs from the influential regulationist approach to localities in which state and civil society are externally related;
- teasing out the effects of the contradiction between market regulation and (spatial) freedoms of capital on the one hand and non-market coordination (‘socialisation’) of production and social life within territories on the other; a key aspect of this contradiction is the tension between capital’s discipline over labour and its collaboration with its workforce in place;
- social identity and culture as integral moments of these relations, substantially formed at sub-national scales;
- a focus on the relations between scales of economic, social and cultural governance (workplace and home, neighbourhood, locality, nation, world); this argues that inter-scalar relations are not constructed merely by technical-economic and organisational processes but also by relations of power, so that scale is actively used by social groups in pursuing their interests;
- thus a critique of various academic and political conceptions of the local, localism and decentralisation of governance.
On this basis, some of my work contains extended critiques of other approaches to urban and regional studies.