THE EIGHTEENTH CONTRADICTION AND THE END OF LOCAL DEVELOPMENT
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The seventeen contradictions may be the most structuralist among Harvey’s work. It is no coincidence that the author reiterates that he does not deal with the contradictions of capitalism but of capital itself. This essentialism is not without consequences for our analysis, since it also affects the geographical concepts that Harvey unfolds to interpret the contradictions of capital. Strictly speaking, only the eleventh contradiction is inherently and explicitly spatial. What is most striking is the superficiality with which Harvey deals with the concepts that revolve around the imaginary of place, a term largely missing from the Seventeen Contradictions. Proper use of «place» as a geographical concept is reduced to about ten occurrences. Something similar happens of course for the corresponding adjective «local»: Harvey privileges «regional» over «local». His account of the regional dimension of the economy is almost disarming. Not only: his reading of the regionalization of economic processes seems to ignore the geographical political economy, largely inspired by him. This contribution aims to display his notion of «contradiction of capital» to assess how neoliberal capitalism has incorporated the discourses and practices of local economic development, e.g. in the light of a program called Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) in the OECD, established in 1982. From this perspective, the eighteenth contradiction of capital (its capability to feed incessantly of what is other or even opposite to itself) comes to coincide, in a sense, with the first contradiction of local economic development and, more generally, of all critical thinking. In the final section of the article, in particular, I return to the Seventeen Contradictions looking for some ideas of interpretation that allows to reflect critically on the cooptation of local development issues into neoliberal narratives and practices. Certainly, a critical rethinking of the categories and the fantasies that nurtured local and territorial development is a step that is unlikely to be circumvented, if we want a way out of our contradictions.