Cultural politcal economy: on making the cultural turn without falling into soft economic sociology
Faculty of Social Sciences. Sociology
Geoforum. - London
, p. 1155-1169
This article explores the implications of making the cultural turn in the engagement of economic and political geography with issues of political economy. It seeks to steer a path between a fetishistic, reified economics that naturalizes economic categories and a soft economic sociology that focuses on the similarities between economic and other socio-cultural activities at the expense of the specificity of the economic. We show how combining critical semiotic analysis with an evolutionary and institutional approach to political economy offers one interesting way to achieve this goal. An evolutionary and institutional approach to semiosis enables us to recognize the semiotic dimensions of political economy at the same time as establishing how and why only some economic imaginaries among the many that circulate actually come to be selected and institutionalized; and Marxian political economy enables us to identify the contradictions and conflicts that make capital accumulation inherently improbable and crisis-prone, creating the space for economic imaginaries to play a role in stabilizing accumulation in specific spatio-temporal fixes and/or pointing the way forward from recurrent crises. The paper illustrates these arguments with a case study on the Flemish anchoring strategy as a specific regional economic development strategy. It concludes with a set of guidelines for the further development of cultural political economy.