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How has time-space compression produced new uneven economic geographies of development?

How has time-space compression produced new uneven economic geographies of development? Illustrate your answer with examples.


Time-space compression is the notion that assorted societies have lessened the friction of distance, and are now more in contact than ever before, thanks to advances in transportation and telecommunications (Leyshon 1995; Warf 2011; Mackinnon & Cumbers 2007). Although society has benefited positively in many aspects from time-space compression, it has also undoubtedly created new uneven economic geographies of development or the tendency for wealth, growth, and investment to become clustered in certain geographic locations over others (Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007; Mackinnon & Cumbers 2007).

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This essay will highlight how time-space compression has produced new uneven economic geographies of development by explaining how capitalism drives time-space compression and the resulting uneven economic development consequences including technology and economic restructuring.

How Capitalism drives Time-Space Compression

To understand how time-space compression has produced new uneven economic geographies of development it is key to look at capitalism principles, and how it practices in our modern society. Fundamentally and most importantly capitalism relies on the exploitation of someone, somewhere, to earn a profit, therefore it can be stated that unevenness in economic geographies is a necessity of capitalism (Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007; Mackinnon & Cumbers 2007). For example, for global retailers to maximise profit, sweatshops are established in developing nations instead of developed nations, because less cost is spent on producing the product and more profit is gained because of lack of legal rights (child labour, poor working conditions, limited unions/or none, and poor wages) (Robbins 2010).

Harvey (1989) (quoted in Leyshon (1995) & Warf (2011)), suggests that this necessity for uneven development is created and continued by time-space compression. Harvey (1989) (quoted in Leyshon (1995) & Warf (2011)) states that it is the dynamics of capitalist production, namely capitalist’s endless quest to reduce turnover of capital and the search for new technologies and markets that generate geographical expansion or time-space compression. It is within Harvey’s (1989) explanation of why time-space compression happens ( quoted in Leyshon 1995 & Warf 2011) that one can begin to unravel how capitalism induced time-space compression has brought about new uneven economics of geographies, this is especially seen in capitalists need to be highly creative and innovative, in developing new technologies.

Time-space compression Technologies

The continuing capitalist search and survival for profits mean that time-space compression technologies are being produced at a terrific speed. With the advent of the commercial jetliner and a communications revolution, many scholars predicted the ‘death of geography’ as quoted in Gillespie & Robins (1989), yet this was/is not the case. While the world is shrinking, it is very uneven owing to the phenomenon discussed below.

Outsourcing/offshoring or opting to have an outside party perform a task that was once handled inside is another phenomenon that has been made capable due to time-space compression technologies such as; internet, containerisation, commercial jet, mobile phones and satellites (Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007). Due to these time-space compression technologies outsourcing is creating new uneven economics of development. For example, India is now a place where labour is plentiful and highly skilled, multinational corporations (MNC) outsource back-office jobs to India, where it is cheaper to staff/run than it would be in America for the same skills (D’Costa 2003; Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007). For instance, an IT professional in America could earn $75000 per year and only $26000 in India (Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007).

As Gillespie & Robins (1989) suggest one has to consider when new time-space compression technologies are developed whose interest are they developed for and what intent do they serve? If we assume that capitalist is the ones developing these technologies it is safe to say that they look to generate a profit from these new technologies, usually through privatisation (Gillespie & Robins 1989). This makes the co- modification of information greater throughout the globe, and time-space compression technologies tend to act as a barrier; that is creating new uneven economic development (Gillespie & Robins 1989; Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007). Far from helping to reduce existing regional inequalities in economic development, the uneven geography of technology further distances rich and poor areas. For example, internet users in America accounted for 24% of global users because money is more accessible, while Africa only countered for 2% of global users (Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007).

Economic Restructuring

Most notably in developed countries, time-space compression technologies have to lead to an economic restructuring of the workforce, or the shift away from the old economies of manufacturing, to the new economies of services and finance. This is called a post-industrial economy and it means that less importance is placed on manufacturing (especially unskilled labour), and instead placed on finance, information, and services (Waitt et al 2000). This is occurring because of time-space technologies that have increased the need for higher education in the workforce and devalued the work of the unskilled (Smart & Smart 2003) which has been sent offshore as highlighted above. Edwards (2006) and O’Neil et al (2000) have stated that while this boom of post-industrial sectors has noticeably increased wealth, it has also created uneven economic development.

This post-industrial economy has led to socio-spatial polarisation or the gap between rich and poor households in both economic position and geographical location (Wulff et al 2010). A good example of this phenomenon of economic restructuring can be seen in Detroit, America. Detroit was a city that rode the boom of the automobile, but when car manufacturing was sent offshore, Detroit was plunged backwards. Detroit suffered poverty, unemployment and violent power struggles due to the loss of its primary industry, and still has not recovered (Kodras 1997). If we compared Detroit to New York City (a city that adapted well to the economic restructuring) it is clear to see that new uneven geographies of development have occurred. In 2009 Detroit median household income was $26,098, compared to New York City $50,033 ( 2009).


It can clearly be surmised in this essay that time-space compression is created/increased by the exploitive nature of capitalism (Coe, Kelly, & Yeung 2007; Mackinnon & Cumbers 2007), and this, in turn, has led to new uneven economic geographical development, globally, nationally and locally. The unevenness is explained through technology that has allowed outsourcing, as well as technology creating a barrier under the capitalist system, which is acting as an obstacle to growth and development creating new unevenness in the world.

This technology has in turn also created the restructuring of the economy and the uneven development made possible by time-space compression technology. It can therefore be rationalised from this essay that the ‘death of geography’ will not happen for as long as capitalism induced time-space compression occurs; there will always be new uneven economic geographies of development.

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How has time-space compression produced new uneven economic geographies of development?. (2021, Mar 08). Retrieved July 17, 2021, from