chapter  2
Labour Geography: Where Have We Been? Where Should We Go?
ByAndrew Herod
Pages 14

I initially pondered whether there was anything to say about Labour Geography, for in the view of some commentators both labour and geography seem to have become irrelevant of late. On the one hand, we have heard in recent years that the organized labour movement is dying, if not dead, and that workers, at least within neoliberal eyes, should not be seen as labourers (far too much of an antediluvian identity for such times of alleged market triumph!) but, instead, as consumers and/ or members of employment teams, teamwork being the leitmotif of contemporary discourses about work. On the other hand, in the age of globalization, geography, it has been argued by some, has been annihilated; hence the litany of books heralding the ‘death of distance’ and the emergence of a ‘flat and borderless’ world (Cairncross 2001, Friedman 2005, Ohmae 1990). Thus, it is contended, the revolutions in transportation and telecommunications technology that are transforming the spatial and temporal organization of capitalism mean that ‘[i]n the age of the global economy, physical location is much less important [than previously and it] no longer matters where a company is based’ (Ohmae 2005: 13, 94). Within this situation, few places are now more than 24 or 48 hours apart, such that São Paulo or Guangzhou can be considered manufacturing suburbs of Los Angeles, London, Sydney, or Paris. In such a world, neoliberal globalization discourse suggests, capital is active and can overcome space, the erasure of geographical boundaries is automatically leading to greater competition for many workers, who are passive and confined to place, and the best thing that workers can do is to get on the neoliberal train or be left at the station.