The spaces of Australian capitalism: Making “place” out of “space” in "The Unknown Industrial Prisoner"

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Political Geography, 2021, 85, pp. 1-11
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Radical geographers have emphasised the centrality of class relations to the production of social space. In particular, this literature makes the distinction between the homogenising “abstract space” of global capital and meaningful, specific social “places.” The tension between the two expresses itself in spatial forms, creating the landscapes of capitalism. This political-economic conception of space and place is generally under-explored in the Australian context, particularly regarding the highly important post-World War II Long Boom period. This article interrogates the spatiality of this epoch through David Ireland's award-winning novel The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. Rooted in the notion of literary geography, which argues that literature “knows” things about the space of the society into which it is born, the article argues that Ireland portrays and handles in a particularly vivid and powerful way the dialectical articulations, simultaneously contradictory and intertwined, of space and place in the spatiality of Australian capitalism. Whilst he ultimately concludes that the powers of capital's abstract space dominate, he nevertheless demonstrates that through explicitly spatial projects of place-making, workers can attempt to impose their own political economy on the spatial form.
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