The Spatiotemporal Dynamics Of Capital Accumulation

One of the many original conceptual moves within Capital—and one central to making sense of Umgeni Water's panic-stricken actions in the early 1990s—lies in Marx's understanding of capital as value in motion. There appears to be no underlying motivation behind the accumulation process except the need to keep capital circulating and profits amassing through constant reinvestment. Marx contrasts the miser with "the more acute capitalist" who constantly throws money back into circulation (1976:254-225), leading to the never-ending augmentation of exchange value. This need to keep capital in circulation is helpful in interpreting some of the restless dynamism in capitalist society. In several rich theoretical studies, David Harvey has emphasized the important implications this has for the space economy of capitalism (1982; 2003). Thus, the regular bouts of creative destruction so typical of the cityscape in advanced capitalism, and the ceaseless restructuring of scale economies are both consequences of this need for capital to be in continual motion and the contradictory requirement that buildings and infrastructure remain rooted in space. Through his integration of financial considerations and an analysis of "fictitious capital" formation, Harvey is thereby able to show the manner in which the physically rooted city is able to become an "active moment" in the process of capital accumulation. In Neil Smith's pioneering work on the production of nature (1984), it becomes clearer that the dynamics of the accumulation process are also embodied within (and productive of) our socio-natural environment (see also Harvey 1996). By going back to historical materialist basics, Smith relates the labour process to a metabolic fusion of the socio-natural. He is thereby able to theorise the production of scale and uneven development from this socio-natural base. As Swyngedouw has gone on to show, it becomes useful to conceptualize urban political ecology in terms of such metabolic processes or circulatory mechanisms (see Chapter 2).

With these points in mind, in this chapter I seek to show how the financial fortunes of Durban's bulk-water supplier are inextricably interwoven with the shape and form of the city's socio-natural waterscape. Merrifleld (2003) distinguishes Harvey's understanding of the city from Castells', in terms of the former's view of the urban environment as an "active moment" in the process of capital accumulation and not merely a container for the reproduction of labour power. Similarly, I wish to emphasize both the crucial function of potable water in the reproduction of life itself, as well as its more recent emergence as an "active moment" in the accumulation of capital. Here, my argument follows that of Swyngedouw (1999; 2004) in several important ways.

The majority of this understanding focuses on the actions of the city's bulk-water supplier. It is through this entity, I argue, that we see the embodiment of the accumulation process in Durban's waterscape. As noted earlier, Umgeni Water has been seeking several routes out of its recent economic difficulties. Eager to find new investments for money borrowed in the early 1990s, the bulk-water supplier has expanded into new territories and channelled funds into new infrastructural projects. These strategies, I shall argue, should be situated within a broader understanding of the spatio-temporal dynamics of capital accumulation. Following Harvey (1982), such strategies might be understood as spatio-temporal fixes. In developing his argument, Harvey traces Marx's understanding of what he terms the "first-cut" theory of crisis. He defines this as "firstcut" because of Marx's failure to integrate all the insights worked out over the first two volumes of Capital. It is the task of integrating these insights that Harvey sets himself. Thus, he extends Capital in new and fruitful directions by arguing that overaccumulated capital can be switched to a secondary circuit and crises thereby temporarily alleviated (but not resolved). Thus, new profitable investments can be sought over a longer time period (a temporal fix) or by exporting overaccumulated capital to new investments in a different region (a spatial fix) or through a combination of the two (a spatio-temporal fix). If situated within a broader understanding of a crisis of overaccumulation within South Africa, Umgeni Water's actions may be seen as typical spatio-temporal fixes.

On top of this, Umgeni Water has embarked upon an expansion into rural water markets and struggled to raise bulk-water tariffs to the two main municipalities it serves. These latter two strategies, whilst being viewed as simultaneous with the spatio-temporal "fixes", should also be seen as part of a process of accumulation by dispossession (Harvey 2003). Accumulation by dispossession is understood as a broadening of Marx's analysis of primitive accumulation. Whereas this is classically understood as involving the enclosure of common lands and the transformation of such land into profitable investments by an emerging bourgeoisie, recent theorists have argued that such an understanding should not be isolated to an historical past (De Angelis 2002; Perelman 2000; Bonefeld 2002). Instead, enclosures—and the struggles against them—should be seen as continuous, encompassing the privatization of resources formerly considered under common ownership, such as water. Whereas Harvey understands this as intimately linked to the need for capital to seek out new areas for profitable investment, as part of a response to continuing problems of overaccumulation (here we see a form of "internalized" spatio-temporal fix), others have emphasized the importance of the reproduction of social relations in such a process. Thus, just as Marx noticed in Wakefield's modern theory of colonization the importance of the reproduction of relations of production for the lifeblood of capitalism (and thereby made the point that

"capital is a social relation') (1976: ch. 33), so others have emphasized renewed efforts on the part of capital to ensure a propertyless proletariat. For De Angelis (2002), the importance of this lies in an understanding of the fact that the possibility for liberation is embodied within the dialectical negation of such a situation. This is fundamentally important for making sense of some of the immanent potentials that lie within Durban's troubled waterscape.

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