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The politics of comparing capitalisms

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Research engaged in the comparison and analysis of different forms of capitalism has been a significant growth area of political economy scholarship in the 21st century. Yet this scholarship, referred to in the article as the Comparative Capitalisms literatures, has struggled to respond to the challenges posed by post-2007 developments in and across the global political economy. This article engages with the critique offered by a number of critical-geographical interventions: the variegated impacts and experiences of conditions of crisis highlight the fact that questions of variety and unevenness necessitate a considerably more holistic methodological approach to comparison than a singular ‘national state as container’ focus would allow for. While important, these ‘variegated capitalism’ interventions have not said enough about comparison as an intrinsically political research practice. Building on the work of especially Juliet Hooker, Reecia Orzeck and Heloise Weber, the article makes the case for (i) being explicit about what is analytically and politically at stake in the act of comparing, and (ii) putting analytical and political concerns on an equal footing. It further argues that a broadly conceived critical political economy approach, discussed in the final section, is best-placed to make the most of the potential of such an understanding of comparison. This makes it possible to deploy research strategies that juxtapose different constellations of crises, conflicts and contradictions in order to articulate critiques of capitalism and/or focus on social and political struggles taking place in, against and potentially beyond the ‘cases’ being considered.




Bruff, I. (2021). The politics of comparing capitalisms. Environment and Planning A.

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