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Area (2013) 45.3, 376382

doi: 10.1111/area.12022

Waste, commodity fetishism and the ongoingness


of economic life1
Andrew Herod*, Graham Pickren*, Al Rainnie** and Susan McGrath-Champ
*Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Email: aherod@uga.edu
**Graduate School of Business, Curtin University, Perth, WA 6000, Australia

Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Revised manuscript received 12 December 2012

Waste in general, and e-waste in particular, has become a topic of interest in recent years. One focus of
attention has been on how commodities are broken up after the putative end of their lives, with such
commodities constituent elements then being used as inputs into other products. The fact that much
waste is recycled in this manner has led several scholars to emphasise the ongoingness of economic life.
In this context, Lepawsky and Mather have recently drawn on actor network theory to make a case in
this journal that analytical attention should be placed on processes of wasting and valuing as a way to
look beyond the end of commodities initial lives. This can be done, they contend, by exploring how
commodities are physically transformed into new objects to the point where their constituent elements
are no longer recognisable as what they once were and through how waste is performed in different
ways in different times and places. Although their paper rightly emphasises economic continuity, we
suggest that their approach nevertheless ultimately fetishises commodities form and that their claim that
[i]n following e-waste qua waste, we were bringing its reality as waste into existence represents an
idealist approach to waste. By way of contrast, we seek to retain their nuanced conception of ongoingness but without abandoning analysis of the movement of value conceived of here in the Marxist sense
of congealed labour through the chain of product destruction, the processing of products constituent
parts, and their reuse through incorporation into new products. In order to do so we distinguish between
two ways in which value can be used up: devalorisation and devaluation. Such an approach allows us
to retain insights into the specifically capitalist nature of waste recycling and to engage with the
materiality of Nature.
Key words: global production networks, waste, linearity, commodity fetishism, devalorisation,
devaluation

Introduction
Recent years have seen a growing body of writing concerning what occurs to commodities after they have been
discarded by their initial purchasers. Although such
writing has focused on what we might call the afterlife of
a variety of goods Gregson et al. (2010), for instance,
have detailed what happens to end-of-life ships in Bangladesh as some of their constituent parts are refashioned
into chock-chocky furniture it is the fate of electronic
items that has perhaps most seized the popular imagination. Whether it is because many of us live in an increasingly gadgetised world where possessing the latest

electronic device iPhone, iPod, iPad, digital camera,


laptop, portable DVD player has become de rigueur or
because the shipping of many electronic products to the
Global South for disposal is seen by some to be a form of
neo-imperialism, the scrapping of e-waste has become a
hot topic. Within this context an important emerging
theme concerns how cast-off commodities are broken
down into their constituent elements, which are then
reprocessed and sold as inputs into various global production networks (for more on GPNs, see Henderson
et al. 2002; Rainnie et al. 2011). This recycling of elements from abandoned product to new product has led
some to argue that it is increasingly problematic to talk

Area Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 376382, 2013


2013 The Authors.
Area 2013 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

Waste, commodity fetishism


about commodities lives as having definitive beginnings
and endings. In this regard, Lepawsky and Mather (2011)
have recently outlined what they see as a way to move the
discussion beyond commodities births and deaths to
emphasise the ongoingness of economic life. Essentially,
to do so they argue for a polyvalent view of commodities
value, one in which commodities can be valued in myriad
terms as tangible goods but also as symbols of things like
love, emotion and morality. Although they touch on
several issues, a central feature of their argument is that a
focus on components alteration in physical form or semiotic denotation as they are broken up and following how
elements like gold circuitry . . . becom[e] gold bars or
gold bars . . . becom[e] cash . . . or jewellery . . . or gifts
. . . or love (2011, 247) provides a useful mechanism for
underscoring ongoingness.
At the outset we should state that Lepawsky and Mathers paper offers an interesting contribution to debates
concerning how to analyse waste and the repurposing of
elements from one commodity into inputs in another.
There is, in fact, much in their article with which we
agree, especially the need to develop a more nuanced
understanding of GPNs and the life histories and journeys
of commodities. Nevertheless, we would suggest that
their approach is problematic for two reasons. First,
despite claims that they are focusing on actions as well as
things (in their case, the actions of valuing and wasting),
their adoption of a performativist framework in which
commodities take on different denotations at different
times as they are performed in different ways means that
many of the actions of transformation that they spotlight
are essentially discursive/semiotic ones gold circuits
become love or, presumably, status, power, hope or
myriad other things based on the perspective of the individuals involved. Certainly, we find consideration of commodities symbolic aspects an interesting pursuit as far as
it goes, but we fear that such a focus has the potential to
ignore the material reality of the capitalist labour process
and pursuit of surplus value. Put another way, in such an
approach the performing of waste as something else does
not necessarily have any linkage to changes in its material
condition.
Second, and closely related, whilst much of their focus
on transformation appears to be in the discursive/semiotic
realm, when they do address the material transformation
of waste they give primary attention to wastes physical
transmogrification. Although such a concentration on
changes in appearance opens up new research questions
for Lepawsky and Mather, we feel that there is a danger in
such an approach of, again, losing sight of the nature of
commodities and waste under capitalism. This is important because the production and management of waste
under capitalism is quite different than it is under other
systems of economic organisation. In contrast to Lepaw-

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sky and Mathers approach, we feel that a more useful


way to determine where commodities lives end under
capitalism is to follow the movement of value (used here
in its Marxian sense of congealed labour) as it cycles
through various commodities that may have the same or
quite different outward appearances or semiotic denotation. Studying ongoingness from a Marxian political
economy perspective rather than from a performativist
one, we would argue, better connects understandings of
the management of waste to the labour process and the
logic of accumulation under capitalism.

Of boundaries and edges, wasting


and valuing
In their article Lepawsky and Mather recount their
research on e-waste. In discussing e-waste recycling in
Bangladesh, they declared that, after four months in
country, they could not find any:
[w]e found used printers. Old monitors (tons and tons of
them). Hard drives from the US embassy and Exxon. Old
silicon chips, mother-boards and piles of circuitry. Amidst
all this stuff we could find hardly any waste. Almost everything had value. Every object. Every component. Every
material. They were all being bought and sold, assembled,
disassembled and reassembled. (2011, 242)

Expecting to end up in dump sites, they had instead


found themselves in production sites. As a way to make
sense of what they found, they ultimately concluded that
the focus of research on the lives of commodities should
not be on determining origins and end points but, rather,
on the search for boundaries and edges [which] are not
pre-defined [but which] are the results of relations (2011,
243). For them, boundaries and edges are created by
actions that order. Stated as generally as possible, boundaries and edges are effects of ordering relations. We cannot
know in advance where (or if) we will find them, but they
emerge at performed sites . . . where practices and the
affordances of objects and materials mingle. (2011, 243)

Put slightly differently, what they suggest is that the analytical focus of understanding commodities lives should
not be on locating the starting and ending points of a GPN
but, instead, on how products are transformed into something else at various points along the way.
Drawing inspiration from actor network theory,
Lepawsky and Mather argue that a way out of the linearity
of much GPN analysis is to focus on actions, not just
things, in tracing economic activity (2011, 242). Adopting such an approach, they assert, can avoid arbitrary
designations of beginnings, endings, front-ends or backends, ups or downs [and] jettison any presuppositions
about inherent directionality, without losing directionality

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Herod et al.

as such (2011, 247). The key in all of this, they propose,


is to shift analytical concentration from waste and value to
wasting and valuing. Hence, in their analysis of e-waste
processing they state that:
[w]hat we came to realise was that we could follow
actions until the things they enacted were enacted as
something else . . .; where, for example, copper wires or
gold circuitry became unrecognisable as electronics but
were now, for example, copper ingots or gold bars. These
moments of transformation, the sites where they occurred,
and our research about them constitute some of the
boundaries and edges of the geographies of e-waste.
(2011, 247)

What this means for them is


that rather than following things assumed to have an
essential ontology as this or that type of thing, we needed
to think in terms of distributed and transitory ontologies
that are effects of intermingled material affordances and
practices (2011, 247)

with the result that they had to entertain the possibility of


coincident realities. It is through so studying the processes of wasting and valuing, they suggest, that we are
able to keep going, to keep following the action without
presupposing inherent directionality (2011, 248).
We concur with Lepawsky and Mathers call for a more
sophisticated analysis of the beginnings and endings of
commodities lives. We also agree that the actions of
wasting and valuing [can seem] unending and that there
needs to be a mechanism to realistically bound . . .
research about the geographies of waste. Although we are
unsure whether they are calling for a methodological
bounding for the convenience of the researcher, in which
certain elements are bracketed off analytically so that they
may be studied, or whether they are suggesting that these
bounds are the actual ending points of the waste itself, we
nevertheless would also agree that there are definite material endings to certain types of waste.2 Our point of divergence, however, is where they suggest that the boundaries
and edges of waste are only discovered when materials in
one form are transformed into things that are fundamentally different in shape and character, as when copper
wires or gold circuitry end being such and begin being
instead copper ingots or gold bars that is to say, where
things . . . becom[e] something else in action (2011,
247). This divergence comes about for two reasons.
First, the answer to the question about where can we
plausibly stop searching for beginnings and endings that
they present performativity is, for us, far from satisfactory. Thus, they suggest, the waste they sought in Canada
and Bangladesh did not exist until they, as researchers,
brought its reality as waste into existence [through] performing it (2011, 247). Whilst interesting as an exercise in

thinking about waste in a kind of Zenos paradox manner,


where we never quite get to an end-point because, following Lepawsky and Mathers formulation, researchers
presumably can always bring new things into existence
by performing them differently, this ultimately idealist
approach waste is what we perform it to be seems to
us to be unhelpful in understanding the material nature of
waste production and processing under capitalism. There
are, in fact, very real beginnings and endings to wastes
transformations, ones shaped by capitalisms relationship
to the material world of Nature and by processes of capitalist accumulation.3 Second, their argument that a commoditys end of life (where it meets its boundaries and
edges, to use Lepawsky and Mathers terms) can be determined by concentrating on the transformation of its form,
so that it is no longer physically recognisable as what it
once was, it seems to us, ultimately fetishises commodities and their constituent elements by focusing on their
material form as they move through the process of manufacturing, consumption, disposal, destruction, processing,
repurposing and, again, manufacturing.
Rather than shifting all of our analytical attention from
waste and value to wasting and valuing, then, we think
that a better way to go is to follow the journey of congealed labour qua value through GPNs and subsequently
what we might call global destruction networks (GDNs).
We contend that if we are to understand how capitalism
functions as a political-economic and geographical
system, then analytical focus must always be placed on
the movement of value, regardless of the physical form of
the commodity in which that value is embedded. This
does not preclude other types of semiotic analysis of
ongoingness and of value itself, nor how things carry on
outside relations of capitalist value unrecyclable waste,
for instance, still undergoes chemical and physical transformations as food for bacteria or as toxins in water,
bodies and the air, as Lepawsky and Mather point out.
But, in engaging with ongoingness, we find it crucial to
not abandon the centrality of labour and capitalism in
shaping its nature. To help us in this endeavour we draw
on Neil Smiths contrasting of two quite different processes as they impact commodities under capitalism:
devalorisation and devaluation.

Devalorisation and devaluation


In Volume 1 of Capital, Marx described how machines do
not create value but merely transfer the value that was
incorporated within them at the moment of their own
manufacture to the products they fabricate Machinery,
he argued,
like every other component of constant capital, creates no
new value, but yields up its own value to the product it
serves to beget. In so far as the machine has value and, as

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Area 2013 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

Waste, commodity fetishism


a result, transfers value to the product, it forms an element
in the value of the latter. (1867 [1990], 509)

When the machines normal working life comes to an end,


then, all of the value held within it value created by the
labour of those who constructed the machine and manufactured its constituent parts is seen to have been transferred to the commodities it produced over its lifetime.
However, should a machine be put out of operation by
being made uncompetitive before the end of its normal
working life through the introduction of newer technology
or the relocation of production to communities with
cheaper labour, then it will still retain some of the value that
was incorporated into it when it was assembled. This value,
though, is lost forever because it will never be transferred to
finished commodities through the manufacturing process.4
Neil Smith (1981) has argued that the former occurrence is
best described as the devalorisation of the machine,
whereas the latter represents its devaluation. As he put it,
whilst devalorisation represents a transfer of value from
machine to commodity, devaluation is [q]uite different
from the routine devalorization of fixed capital in the
production process [and] represents an absolute destruction of value (1990 [1984], 126, emphasis added).
We would suggest that cast-off commodities might be
thought of in an analogous way.5 Thus, when a commodity
literally wears out and its constituent elements cannot be
used for anything else, then we might think of it as having
been devalorised and the value incorporated within it and
its constituent parts used up, with none left to be passed on
to new products. However, when a commodity is replaced
with a newer model and yet it is either still functioning
and/or its constituent parts may be reused (either by taking
them out and putting them unchanged into another commodity or by processing them and turning them into raw
materials for new products), then we might think of it as
having been devalued. This distinction is important, we
would aver, because whereas traditional GPN analyses
tend to see the value in still-usable commodities and their
parts that are replaced by newer models as being forever
lost and commodities as thus having reached their lives
end because they have now become waste, exploring
how commodities move through GDNs allows us to trace
how the value incorporated in an old commodity may be
transferred to a new commodity as the constituent raw
materials from the first are used in the second. In sum,
although from a visual point of view components drawn
from devalorised commodities may appear identical to
those drawn from devalued ones, from a value standpoint
they are quite different. Thinking in such terms, we believe,
can keep analytical focus on value rather than on commodities physical forms. This has implications for thinking
about the organisation of the labour process and the geographical transfer of value across the Earths surface.

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What we want to suggest here, then, is that distinguishing between devalorisation and devaluation allows us to
acknowledge the materiality of Nature and the operation
of capitalism in a way that Lepawsky and Mathers
approach does not. In particular, it forces us to recognise
that, amidst all of the ongoingness, it is Nature and the
social relations of production rather than analysts as
performers that impose material endings on the use of
certain elements. Thus, their chemistry means that many
plastics degrade during reprocessing and so have only one
successful recycling. The result is that after an initial recycling many are downcycled into items like plastic lumber
to which no additional value will later be added because
they will not be reworked into something else. For its part,
paper can usually be recycled five to seven times before
its fibres become too short to make it usable. What this
means is that some waste elements have a limited
lifespan, at the end of which all of the congealed labour
that they contain has been used up and no more value
will be added to them because they have reached an
endpoint in their lives they have been devalorised.
On the other hand, elements like precious metals have
a more or less infinite lifespan, with the value embodied
in them when they were part of one commodity being
carried with them as they are melted down and fabricated
into parts for a subsequent one. In such instances, the
value incorporated in all of the elements previous forms
is never lost but is continuously transferred, though the
greater the number of times a metal is recycled the more
does the value that was embedded in it in these previous
forms of its existence become a smaller proportion of its
overall value, as new value is added every time it is
reused. Clearly, then, the chemical properties of commodities play a crucial role in their devalorisation and
how often they may be recycled. However, just as important in shaping the life trajectories of various types of
waste are the economic realities of capitalism. Thus, even
if it is chemically possible to recycle, say, plastics, to allow
their devalorisation, if it is no longer profitable to do so
then they will simply be abandoned and their lives as
potential components in new electronics will come to an
end they will have been devalued.

The capitalist production of waste


We have suggested that the production and nature of
waste under capitalism is intimately tied to how it operates as an economic system and that, consequently, focusing on what happens to the value incorporated in
commodities as they are either devalorised or devalued is
a more helpful way of understanding the political
economy of waste under capitalism than is a focus on
changes in such commodities form and how waste is
performed. What we want to do below, then, is to

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Herod et al.

outline a history of post-war US capitalism and its waste


generation as a way to operationalise the two concepts of
devaluation and devalorisation, for whereas all societies
produce waste, capitalism produces waste in quite particular ways Gille (2007), for instance, has recounted
how socialist Hungary maintained its own waste regime,
one very different from that in the capitalist West. This
means that the devalorisation and/or devaluation of commodities takes on a specific role in capitalisms history. In
fact, an argument can be made that the production of
waste and the ever-more rapid devaluation of commodities as product half-lives become ever shorter has actually
been central to capitalisms survival, although it is important to recognise that there is a particular geography to this
shortening and hence devaluation for example, whereas
the average American in 2010 replaced their handheld
device after one year and nine months, the average Indian
did so after seven years and nine months and the average
Brazilian after six years and eight months (Entner 2011, 2).
What we have seen, then, is a growing practice of manufacturers devaluing commodities through planned obsolescence rather than allowing them to be devalorised as
they wear out through normal wear and tear. In this
regard, wastes ongoingness via its passage through GDNs
is shaped more by the capitalist logic of value production
and capture than by the performance of recyclers bringing waste into being.6
In considering wastes production under capitalism,
then, we must recognise that capitalism departs from
other forms of social organisation in its relationship to
Nature and society. Profit is the ultimate goal of production, so from collective capitals point of view the generation of waste and pollution on the one hand and use
values on the other only matter in so far as they pertain to
facilitating surplus value extraction. Creating more use
values for people or creating less waste comes second to
the need to accumulate. The result is that waste is
endemic to the system and has become ever more so over
the past half century. Indeed, the post-Depression economic system developed in the Atlantic economies was
fundamentally structured around the very necessity of
producing waste as twin to accumulation. Hence, in an
effort to stop the US economy from falling back into
recession, Congress passed the 1949 Housing Act to
encourage suburbanisation, which in turn stimulated the
purchasing of consumer durables. However, consumption
needed to be managed because if people held on to their
newly purchased goods for too long markets might
become saturated. A solution to the contradiction of, on
the one hand, needing to produce commodities for sale
and, on the other, not producing so many that markets
became moribund, then, was found by encouraging the
new middle class who had lived through the Depression
to shed their frugal habits in favour of the convenience of

disposability. In other words, devaluation would come to


take centre stage in Atlantic capitalism as the devalorisation of commodities was increasingly seen as antithetical
to its survival.
Such a need to encourage disposability was quite
explicitly stated. As an article in the Journal of Retailing
proclaimed in the spring of 1955, the new model of
consumption being developed required that
things [be] consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and
discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have
people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. (Lebow 1955, 78)

The consumer goods revolution that followed involved


the restructuring of industry towards mass production/
consumption, design changes that decreased the lifespan
of commodities, and the meteoric rise of the packaging
and advertising industries (Blumberg and Gottlieb 1989;
Strasser 2000). The idea of planned obsolescence came
to be a manufacturing mantra, as engineers figured out
ways either to make products break faster whilst still
maintaining consumer faith in the quality of the product
(Slade 2006) as Bilton (2012, np) notes, Light bulbs
were made to burn out sooner and stockings snag by
early afternoon or they made largely ornamental
changes as a way to encourage consumers to dump the
commodities they already had and to buy new ones.
Thus, automobile manufacturers discovered that by
making cosmetic rather than mechanical changes to a
vehicle (say, adding progressively larger tail fins), they
could get people to replace their car before it actually
wore out. Meanwhile, the packaging industry developed
out of the confluence between advertising and the petrochemical industries as a way to combine the magic
of plastics production with brand identification, leading
eventually to packaging becoming a dominant part
of the waste stream (Blumberg and Gottlieb 1989, 10).
More recently, such consumerism has even been
elevated to an act of patriotism as President George
Bush famously stated after the attacks of 9/11, to stop
the economy from faltering Americans should just go
shopping, a mantra he repeated in December 2006.
[Lest this be thought to be solely an American response
to fears of economic collapse, both British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrtien likewise suggested that shopping was the thing to
do in the days after the attacks.7]
This logic of devaluation, though, is perhaps most
visible in the electronics sector, where Intels founder has
remarked, regarding the launch of a new chip: This is
what we do. We eat our own children, and we do it faster
and faster . . . thats how we keep our lead (quoted
in Ramstad 1994). Indeed, capital accumulation in the

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consumer electronics field is particularly predicated on
planned obsolescence and increased product turnover
in September 2012, for example, economists with JP
Morgan estimated that the US release of the iPhone 5 in
December 2012, just 14 months after its predecessor
came to market, would potentially add between 0.25 per
cent and 0.5 per cent to 2012s fourth quarter annualised
GDP growth (Feroli 2012). In short, devaluing working
products rather than letting them be devalorised by
wearing out paves the way for further accumulation,
giving rise to conditions in which ongoingness is possible
on the scale that it exists today. The point, then, is that a
resource-intensive, throwaway society was not some
natural socio-economic evolution but has instead been a
necessity to a system of production and consumption
constantly in crisis, one that only incidentally meets
human needs. Developed as a way to avoid overaccumulation, paradoxically the expansion of domestic and international markets for consumer goods through forced
consumption has actually allowed the systematic tendency towards overproduction to continue, with waste
generation acting as a kind of safety valve that has kept the
treadmill of production going. Whether this is ecologically or culturally sustainable, of course, is another
matter. Indeed, with regard to the latter there is indication
that some consumers are beginning to suffer from
upgrade fatigue in 2007, for example, on average
Americans upgraded their mobile phones every 18.7
months, but by 2010 this had increased to 21.1 months,
whereas Finns average upgrade times jumped from 41.8
months to 74.5 months (Bilton 2012). What we do know,
though, is that under capitalism, ongoingness is produced
in particular ways and it is so in the pursuit of surplus
value. Given this fact, following the movement of value
and how commodities are either devalued or devalorised
provides better insight into capitalist dynamics, we would
aver, than does following shifts in the form or semiotic
denotations of the commodities that contain such
value.

Discussion
To conclude, we have argued that the distinction
between devalorisation and devaluation has a number of
advantages for understanding commodities afterlives
compared with the type of performativist approach
offered by Lepawsky and Mather. First, it avoids idealist
formulations in which wastes life is seen to end when it
is performed as something else and instead forces discussions of waste recycling to recognise the relationship
between the chemical properties of certain types of elements and the demands of capitalist accumulation. Circuits of value have very real endings, endings shaped
not by the end of a performance but by material eco-

381

nomic and natural constraints. For example, as television


production has shifted away from cathode-ray tube displays (CRTs) to flat screens, markets for CRT glass recovery have collapsed, leaving states like California with a
massive glut of stockpiled material (Resource Recycling
2012). CRT glass, then, is not simply performed as waste
but is now actually wasted as that material form is
devalued. Whereas the material itself continues on as
landfill glass, from a value perspective the circuit ends.
This means that beginnings and endings are materially
determined but contextually specific, as they can change
over time and between places. These moments where
something physically can no longer be recycled seem to
us to be instances where it is indeed appropriate to talk
of endings, at least in terms of closing circuits of capitalist value. Equally, if new quantities of the material
need to be obtained to replace that which can no longer
be recycled (as through pumping more oil to turn into
new plastic), then it is also a time to talk of beginnings.
For materials that have been devalorised because they
are no longer recyclable, then, it is indeed both possible
and necessary to indicate where their life ends.
However, for materials that have only been devalued it
makes little sense to talk in such terms, because the congealed labour from previous generations of workers can
still be carried forward in them as they move through
history and across space, being transformed from one
product to another.
Second, this distinction allows us to consider surplus
value and what happens to it. In turn, this enables us to
retain a sense of specifically capitalist processes being at
work in the production and destruction of commodities
and to analyse how the pursuit of surplus value leads
GPNs and GDNs to be constituted in particular ways
and certain types of work to be conducted in specific
places by specific people. Our approach, we would
maintain, rather than focusing on the physical transformation of waste and its constituent parts, instead places
the labour process, the accumulation process and the
transfer (or not) of value from commodity to commodity
and place to place under capitalism squarely at the
centre of the analysis. As such it avoids both fetishising the commoditys physical form and ignoring the
reality of capitalist social relations as shapers of waste
processing.
Finally, contrasting devalorisation and devaluation
forces us to recognise that ongoingness is both socially
and naturally determined and that its achievability can
change depending on the socio-spatial contexts within
which waste finds itself and the specificity of the types of
waste we are examining. Whereas much analysis tends to
see ongoingness in an a-historic and a-spatial manner, as
a universal, we now have a method for tracing its historical geography.

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Notes
1 We dedicate this paper to Neil Smith, whose untimely death is
a great loss to efforts to understand the nature of capitalism.
2 If the former, we would, of course, face a situation in which a
commoditys death is seen as occurring at the point where a
researcher determines to draw such boundaries rather than
being an outcome of its material existence.
3 We recognise that some people will recycle waste for reasons
unrelated to seeking to ensure capital accumulation say, to
feel virtuous. However, the vast majority of e-waste that is
ultimately recycled will be so because somebody believes that
they can sell the components for a profit.
4 To be more precise, it is always possible that such value might
be recaptured if an old machine were brought back into
production. However, the nature of competition under
capitalism means that this does not often happen as older
technologies will usually be less efficient producers of
commodities and therefore their products will be less
competitive in the marketplace.
5 We recognise that there is clearly an important difference
between commodities like computers and iPhones and
machines, because the former are not fabricating new
commodities whereas the latter are. This is why we say that this
is an analogy, one that might help us think through the transfer
of value, rather than that they are equivalents.
6 To rework a little Marxs (1867 [1990], 450) comment that It is
not because he is a leader of industry that a man is a capitalist;
on the contrary, he is a leader of industry because he is a
capitalist, it is not the performance of recyclers that makes
something waste but it is the production of waste that leads
recyclers to perform.
7 Blair declared: People in this country [Britain] ask what should
they do at a time like this . . . The answer is that they should go
about their daily lives: to work, to live, to travel and to shop.
For his part, Chrtien pleaded: Dont cancel your plans . . . we
have to keep the travel and tourism industry alive. It is the way
to fight back. [Now] is [the] time to go out and get a mortgage,
to buy a home, to buy a car. In similar vein, Miami-Dade
County Mayor Alex Penelas urged people to Go out and
contribute to the economy . . . As my wife said, it has never
been more patriotic to go shopping (Vardy and Wattie 2001).

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Area Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 376382, 2013


2013 The Authors.
Area 2013 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)