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Works, Products, and the Division of Labour: Notes for a Cultural and Political Economic Critique
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Dr Matt Davies
Best, J; Paterson, M
Cultural Political Economy
RIPE Series in Global Political Economy
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Henri Lefebvre argues that products can be distinguished from works: products are the outcomes of repetitive acts, while works have a “unique” and irreplaceable character. Products and production thus become routinized, banal parts of everyday life, while works are understood as works of art, a specialized “higher” activity separated from everyday life. This distinction is reflected in Raymond Williams’ etymological elaboration of three distinct meanings of “culture” in
. What are the material foundations for these distinctions, and what are the implications these have for a “cultural turn” in International Political Economy? This paper will examine these related distinctions as the historical outcomes of the development of the mental/manual division of labour. In so doing, it will argue that a “cultural turn” for International Political Economy must situate its critique in materialist terms, not hypostatising “culture” as codes, values, or discourse but as embodied and historically determined practice.
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