Contextualizing the state mode of production in the United States: Race, space, and civil rights

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Abstract

In 1967 Dr Martin Luther King Jr began organizing a "Poor People's Campaign" in an effort to bring 3000 families to Washington, DC to address widespread poverty in the US. King's efforts were the culmination of a political transformation that he underwent in the middle of the 1960s concerning his views on Vietnam and US global hegemony. I argue that by focusing on King and the US Poor People's Campaign we can better understand the changing coordinates of the US political economy, what has been termed the "state mode of production" or SMP. Associated with the gradual decline of the Keynesian state, the SMP refers to new kinds of politicospatial arraignments that emerged during the 20th century and continue the process of capital accumulation. I maintain that in the United States the political-economic transformations encapsulated through the growth of the SMP are inseparable from the USA's racial legacy. Hence the failure of the US civil rights struggle to remake economic processes demonstrates the limits of social democratic movements to fully critique capitalism. For this reason King's efforts at leading the Poor People's Campaign are a model of social and political engagement that has purchase in the wake of current economic and political crises and is transforming contemporary economic processes across the globe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2120-2134
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Volume45
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 26 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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