The politics of circulation. Re-visiting corporate geography in the light of Amazon.com

Authors: Markus Hesse*, University of Luxembourg
Topics: Economic Geography, Political Geography, Cyberinfrastructure
Keywords: corporate geography, digitalization, flows, Amazon.com
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Columbine, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Terrace Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In a seminal paper, Walker (1989) suggested a requiem to corporate geography, in the light of “alternative forms of industrial organization and their spatial configurations” (Walker 1989, 43) that were observed in those days. This would give reason to dismiss the prominent role of the large firm in economic geography. 30 years after, with electronic commerce, digitalization and platform economies gaining momentum, it seems wise to re-visit the geography of the firm. This paper looks at the subject matter through the lens of the digital corporation, by exploring the practices, geographies and politics of circulation of Amazon.com, the global No. 1 in e-commerce. The goals of this paper are twofold: On the one hand, it explores how the company’s two worlds, the material and the virtual, intersect. A particular interest is devoted to the firm’s geographies, which are not confined to cyberspace, but unfold in real-world circumstances: comprising facilities (servers, distribution centres, mobile devices) which are operated through labour, bodies, vehicles, conveyor belts, and increasingly AI and robots. On the other hand, the paper illustrates a peculiar politics of circulation – the variegated ways within which flows of data and information, goods and commodities, people and money are organized (Hesse 2018). As a consequence, the firm is going to become systemic. Amazon.com thus not only aims to rule the market, but it is on its way to become the market. Apart from the severe political ramifications this may have, it also gives good reason to re-visit corporate geography again.

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