The Age of Space and the Time of Capital

Sami Khatib



This paper starts from the assumption that world capitalism in its “age” after the end of history has not abolished the idea of teleological progress; it has only changed its staging ground: progress is translated into space. Time is stripped off its historical dimension and reduced to a sequential marker of dehistoricized space. The seemingly eternal presence of the world market knows different local temporalities; but these temporalities are always already mapped in spatial terms. The rise of “area studies” as a major academic discipline (which substitutes the historical science of sociology) is symptomatic of this conjuncture. If the postmodern mode of spatialization is driven by “the will to use and to subject time to the service of space” (Fredric Jameson, 1991), today we realize that this postmodern will has created a world after its own image. The capitalist posthistoire knows no history, only the pre-history of its own con-temporaneous space. Since modernization is no longer bound to historical teleologies, postmodern modernization is measured by the accessibility of space(s) to global capital investment, production and reproduction. Once space is mapped, measured and defined as a specific place, it can be evaluated, ranked and valorized by global capital. The results of this development range from neo-colonial land-grabs and legalized expropriations to the dynamic of gentrification in global cities. Capital simply asks: how does a certain place perform within the global space of the capitalist world market? How far is a place developed? From this perspective any form of political and social resistance appears as impediment to “development.” Consequently, in the global space of capitalism, counter-historical struggles of “The Wretched of the Earth” (Frantz Fanon) or the “Tradition of the Oppressed” (Walter Benjamin) are fought as battles of local places against global space. However, not every form of anti-capitalist resistance is emancipatory. It all hinges on the political capacity to translate local struggles into a universal struggle that cannot be mapped by capital. In other words, the political struggle of the present has to revisit the terrain of universalism and history in order to formulate a universal, yet local strategy of de-spatialization as de-commodification.