Knowledge for the West, Production for the Rest?

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This article develops the argument that a ‘knowledge economy,’ despite its cheerful optimism, is also an elegant incarnation of the demise of Western economies. An analysis of policy documents, research statements, and national accounts reveals this paradoxical coexistence of anxiety and progress in the discourse on knowledge economies. While the concept is often hailed as a temporal concept (superseding other forms of economic production), this article argues that a knowledge economy is best understood as a spatial concept – it is a way of contending with global reorganizations of production. This spatial approach is elaborated to tackle three paradoxes. (1) A knowledge economy enfolds defeat with progress. (2) A knowledge economy downplays the importance of industrial labor and simultaneously depends on it to materialize its ideas. (3) While seemingly intangible and ephemeral, a knowledge economy is fixed in place in national economies through government and corporate policy (including through the emergent phenomenon of ‘knowledge-adjusted gross domestic products’). A spatial approach provides a view of the tenuous global interconnections and specific conditions that prop up a knowledge economy, and shows how the concept is mobilized to redraw the map so that endangered economies can regain their challenged sense of centrality in a world economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-500
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2014

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