The Colonial Geopolitics of the Global Knowledge Economy
21st IRS International Lecture on Society and Space with Sami Moisio, University of Helsinki
The 21st International Lecture of the IRS addressed the topic of the ‘Colonial Geopolitics of the „Global“ Knowledge Economy’. In the talk, Professor Sami Moisio of the University of Helsinki proposed to debunk economic centered perspectives on the knowledge economy by advancing a geopolitical understanding of the knowledge economy as a political productive ‘technology-force’. Or in other words: as a performative vision of the future which valorizes certain types of knowledge as key drivers of economic growth. This is an important lens to look through, as it can help to highlight how the distribution and control of knowledge underlying the expansion of capitalism – through high technology sectors, start-up entrepreneurs, universities, consultancies, international organizations, nation states, local states etc. – is geographically unevenly distributed.
Building upon Harvey’s writings on the geopolitics of capitalism, Professor Sami Moisio advanced then that the expansion of knowledge capitalism takes primarily a colonial form and reproduces social, geographical and racial hierarchies. For this, he coins the term "colonial geopolitics of the knowledge economy". He illustrated this along five dimensions:
- First, colonial dependencies in the knowledge economy are maintained through technological digital tools. Visible in tech-driven market opportunities that firms and investors from the global north seize in the south.
- Second, the knowledge economy intersects with authoritarian, military and neoliberal state projects. For example, under Trump’s administration the Silicon Valley as a formerly colonized, cheap land was used to develop innovation technologies and surveillance tools used.
- Third, the coloniality of the knowledge economy manifests itself in cities, where innovation and platform economy depends on the sustaining of a racialized and polarized city. This is for instance illustrated by the fact that most ‘creative’ jobs in cities are pursued by white people.
- Fourth, the knowledge economy relies on the exploitation and cheapening of nature and of labor, sustained not only by cosmopolitan entrepreneurs, but most importantly by crude racialized and gendered unequal relations.
- Five, the knowledge economy is maintained through various myths of economic growth through the conquest of new worlds and frontiers meant to turn ‘blank spaces’ into something more valuable, for instance visible in Elon Musk’s space colonialism.
By bringing together the expansive logics of capitalism and colonialism, Sami Moisio’s talk contributed to understand how the knowledge economy has led to the reproduction of social and geographical margins as well as geographical and racial hierarchies.