Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 73 ›› Issue (8): 1407-1420.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201808002

• Theoretical Frontiers • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Uneven development process of geographical space in distinct scales driven by accumulation of capital: A discussion on Smith's spatial Marxist theory

XIE Fusheng1,2(),GONG Xiaoran3()   

  1. 1. School of Economics, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
    2. Collaborative Innovation Center for China Economy, Tianjin 300071, China
    3. School of Marxism, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, Shanghai 201620, China
  • Received:2017-11-03 Online:2018-08-15 Published:2018-07-31
  • Supported by:
    Fund for Building World-class Universities (Disciplines) of Renmin University Of China (2018)


Neil Smith is among the most renowned academics in human geography and Marxist geography. Based upon uneven development theory, Smith has integrated both the categories in Marxist theory and those in geography such as seesaw movement of the capital, spatial integration and scale evolvement to propose an approach to the even development, which has enriched Marxist geography significantly. Smith mainly reckons geographical space as a means of production, a social product and an ensemble of spatial relations. Currently, there is still a lack of overall understanding of Smith's spatial Marxist theory, though introductions to parts of his theoretic tapestry have been made. The paper summarizes Smith's spatial Marxist theory and divides it into four aspects including space production, geographical scale, American imperialism and gentrification. Thus, the paper attempts to analyze the uneven development of geographical space, to interpret the complex interactive relations among society, space and geographical scales, to illustrate the logical connections of capital seesaw movement, American imperialistic expansion and gentrification, and to end with an analysis of seesaw movement of the capital in urban scale via rent gap theory. The paper aims to offer an outline of Marxist spatial theory and geography for domestic academia, as well as theoretical and methodological inspirations for urbanization transition and economic growth in China. Smith's spatial Marxist theory is under several criticisms, to which the paper has discovered justifications. Primarily, Smith focuses on socio-spatial problems under capitalist flexible accumulation regimes, hence the accusation of spatial-temporal limitations to the explanatory power. Besides, remarks on Smith's production determinism are due to the production primacy and the effort to include political and ideological processes via cultural production inspired by Frankfurt school. Additionally, to answer queries about geographical scale, its major difference from other geographical terms is its nature as a social product that translates social divisions into spatial differentiations. Finally, Smith focuses on mediation role regarding urban ground rent to spare controversies on rent categories; hence the comment of neglecting Marxist ground rent theories. Four conclusions and policy suggestions accordingly are as follows. Firstly, high housing price is a form of secondary deprivation of labor and a potential source of social conflict in reproduction process. Long-term effective housing regulation requires public housing provision and rental right improvement. Secondly, multivariate supply of land boosts rental housing construction and meets urban dwelling needs. It may also help lower commercial housing price due to a mitigation of land scarcity. Thirdly, precautions against accumulation by dispossession of real estate developers should be taken in mature urbanized societies. Lastly, rent gap index based on price to rent ratio forecasted by hedonic price model may help stabilize housing market.

Key words: spatial integration, seesaw movement of capital, geographical scale, rent gap, gentrification