Chapter 11: Brave new world?
In the final years of fordism, it was not uncommon for marxist scholars, like Mandel (1975) for example, to refer to the world around them as having entered the phase of “late capitalism,” a term that carries with it the more or less open implication that the end is nigh. The economic crises of the 1970s and the devastation that was visited on the major manufacturing regions of North America and Western Europe at this time lent an air of credibility to this manner of viewing the world. The emergence of postfordism and postmodernism over the 1980s was taken in other quarters as a further indication of impending doom, the former being interpreted as a morbid and opportunistic means of shoring up a crumbling economic system (Pollert 1991), and the latter being seen as a passionless, irrational substitute for a waning cultural modernity (Hicks 2011). However, capitalism, like nature, is vastly more cunning than most of the analysts who subject it to scrutiny. The “late capitalism” of the 1970s and early 1980s was not followed by systemic collapse, but by a significant reconfiguration of the technological and organizational arrangements underlying the production system, and – of special importance in the present context – by big shifts in the geographic outlines of economic development.
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