Speculating on the Supply Chain: Finance, Logistics, and the Politics of Provision

Authors: Martin Danyluk*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Social Geography, Economic Geography, Global Change
Keywords: Financialization, infrastructure, logistics, supply chains, social reproduction
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A3, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines the deepening entanglement of finance and logistics, two industries whose tremendous growth since the 1970s has profoundly reshaped the global political, economic, and cultural landscape. Research has long engaged with these two fields separately. In recent years, however, the circulation of money and the circulation of commodities have become increasingly intertwined. Financial actors have bought up large stocks of the physical infrastructure used to store goods and deliver them to consumers, including ports, pipelines, refineries, electrical grids, and tanker fleets. As a result, the supply chains that furnish the very material provisions of contemporary life—food, energy, clothing, consumer products—are increasingly under the control of Wall Street banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, and other institutional investors seeking short-term returns.

As the arteries of world trade are exposed to the speculative vagaries of financial capital, who stands to benefit, and whose lives are rendered vulnerable? Drawing on preliminary research, this paper explores the growing influence of financial interests within North American infrastructure networks. I conceptualize the logistics system as an apparatus of social reproduction—one whose operation is vital to the perpetuation of social life, even as it threatens the life-sustaining practices of particular racialized, colonized, and poor subjects. I investigate how financialization is transforming power relations along the supply chain, and I interrogate the uneven implications of this shift for the workers, consumers, and communities whose everyday and long-term reproduction is bound up with those networks.

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