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Electrification in the Pacific Northwest and Problem of Embeddedness

Green, Mitchell (2014): Electrification in the Pacific Northwest and Problem of Embeddedness.


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The surplus approach of classical political economy is applied to the problem of qualitative change in the social provisioning as concerns the Pacific Northwest. Two features of the surplus approach, 1) emphasis on structural interdependence and 2) the Sraffian notion of ‘viability’, allow for the economic history of the Pacific Northwest to be recast as a problem of embeddness. It is argued that two distinct provisioning processes were embedded in two societies, and viability of each is mutually inconsistent with the other. That is, capitalist use of the Columbia River watershed undermined the viability of the non-capitalist provioning process that precedes it, in which indigenous groups were central. Taking the social relation as the unit of analysis qualititive change is examined with reference to the electrification of the region, and the subsequent rendering of the watershed as an ‘organic machine.’

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