Logistical Violence, Logistical Vulnerabilities

A Review of The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade by Deborah Cowen

In: Historical Materialism
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  • 1 Oberlin College

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In this ground-breaking work, Deborah Cowen makes the first book-length critical intervention into the field of business logistics. Tracing the social, spatial and political transformations wrought by the ‘logistics revolution’, Cowen argues that logistical systems have blurred the boundaries between production and circulation, civilian and military life, and geopolitics and geo-economics, constructing an architecture of the supply chain animated by both the art of war and the science of business. This review considers the political stakes of Cowen’s argument that logistics has reconfigured capitalist social relations of production, especially in relation to the securitisation of spatial mobility and the restructuring of the labour process. In particular, Cowen’s wager that logistical supply-chains are characterised by their vulnerability – and that attendant possibilities for building solidarity emerge out of movements that disrupt such flows – is interrogated in order to question whether such interruptions effectively produce challenges to value-in-motion, or actually become integral to processes of value production.

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