Handbook of Employment and Society
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Handbook of Employment and Society

Working Space

Edited by Susan McGrath-Champ, Andrew Herod and Al Rainnie

This Handbook deepens and extends the engagement between research concerned with work and employment and labour geography. It links fundamental concepts concerning the politics of place that human geographers have developed in recent years with the world of work.
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Chapter 12: Plastic Palm Trees and Blue Pumpkins: Synthetic Fun and Real Control in Contemporary Space

Chris Baldry


12 Plastic palm trees and blue pumpkins: synthetic fun and real control in contemporary workspace Chris Baldry Spaces and places The comparatively recent coming together of social geographers, labour process analysts, organisational theorists and researchers of the built environment has resulted from a common desire to see the spatial dimension reincorporated into social analysis. However, as this book demonstrates, this has been marked by a wide variety of ways in which the term ‘space’ is used in the context of understanding the capitalist organisation. This chapter is concerned specifically with what Harvey (1985) calls ‘assembly points’ (and what are more conventionally referred to as ‘workplaces’), particular points in space where capital and labour power are brought together in order for production to proceed – factories, mills, hospitals, hotels and, particularly, offices. This built working environment cannot be understood without reference to its geospatial and political-economic context for there are, as Halford (2004) puts it, ‘multiple, interlocking spatial scales’ in which every workplace is at the intersection of networks of capital and communication and is sited, usually quite deliberately, in a specific socioeconomic locational context. The workplace, however, differs in one fundamental respect from the other spatial dimensions of capitalism in that it forms the immediate context for the extraction of surplus value and the social action associated with this and can thus be said to be directly experienced. On this subjective level, then, the concept of inhabiting or ‘dwelling’ sums up the way humans relate to places and the fact that...

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