The Eurozone Crisis and Emerging-Market Expansion: Capital Switching and the Uneven Geographies of Spanish Urbanization


The theory of capitalist urbanization posits that the built form serves as a crucial sink through which overaccumulated capital is ‘switched’ from industrial production into long-term investment in urban infrastructure. Since Harvey’s (1978) deployment of the theory, researchers have attempted to empirically substantiate the switching thesis with limited success. Christophers (2011) revisited the debate with new data and methods to support the claim that significant investment had switched into the built environment at the onset of the 2007/08 financial crisis. However, Christophers’ study overlooks how crises are also geographically displaced. This article analyses Spanish trade data for the years 1993 to 2013, the years prior and subsequent to the housing-induced economic crisis (1997 to 2006). Two studies are undertaken. The first replicates Christophers’ methodology to assess how and to what extent a sectoral switch into property investment occurred in Spain between 1997 and 2006. The second modifies the methodology to investigate the extent to which overaccumulated capital in Spain has been geographically displaced through investment in the Moroccan building industry since 2006. These approaches situate uneven development (geographical switching) and turnover time (sectoral switching) as the twin dynamics through which capitalist urbanization is spatio-temporally fixed.