Policy Press

Publishing with Purpose

Living in a Vacuum?

Fabrications of Regulation and Deregulation in Global Network Capitalism

By Matthew David

Published

Sep 1, 2021

Page count

192 pages

ISBN

978-1529210293

Dimensions

234 x 156 mm

Imprint

Bristol University Press

Published

Sep 1, 2021

Page count

192 pages

ISBN

978-1529210323

Dimensions

Imprint

Bristol University Press
GBP 26.99 GBP 21.59You save GBP 5.40 (20%)
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    Living in a Vacuum?

    On February 5th 2002, 800 workers in an English vacuum cleaner factory were told their jobs were relocating to Malaysia. The company claimed this was inevitable. But was it really?

    Using extensive archival research, ethnographic storytelling and local myths to powerful effect, this bold new book uses the closure of one factory as a case study to explore the contradictions of globalisation and the sociological problem of order.

    Deftly examining how global network capitalism operates within and through particular places at particular moments, the book raises fundamental questions about the meaning of society.

    “What’s natural and what’s political? What’s necessary and what’s contingent? What belongs to the global market and what specifically to a market-town in Wiltshire? Matthew David has written an imaginative, witty, and very intelligent account of what was at stake in the modern vacuum business.” Steven Shapin, Harvard University

    “In this imaginatively structured and engagingly written book Matthew David shows us, not just that the international patent system is a significant cog in the global capitalist machine, but also what that means for real people, their lives and their livelihoods. This is an important book for anyone wanting to understand what can happen - politically, economically and socially - in the wake of an intellectual property monopoly.” Fiona Macmillan, Birkbeck, University of London

    “When, in 1992, US Presidential candidate Ross Perot reimagined the flight of jobs from the US to Mexico as a ‘giant sucking sound,’ little did he know of the provenance of his metaphor. Professor Matthew David adds gravitas to Perot’s sound bite and its kin. Free trade reminds us of the challenges posed by the vacuum for scientific and political authority. This engrossing book connects the dots between the Boyle-Hobbes debate of the 1600’s to Dyson’s own Brexit first in 2002/2003 to Malaysia with its factories and then in 2019 to Singapore with its offices. Professor David unlocks a legal sociological inquiry into economic and social displacement. His must-read book fills the void created by political rhetoric with possibilities for an informed rebuilding of our economies and aspirations.” Shubha Ghosh, Syracuse University

    “Essential reading. This book is a treasure trove of insight into what cultural and economic sociology can accomplish.” Chris Rojek, City University, London

    “This is a joyous and disruptive work of social theory, seriously amusing and deeply serious by turns. It brings Thomas Hobbes into collision with the Dyson airblade, and connects a medieval monk’s fantasy of flight with the neo-liberal fiction of a frictionless market. All are brought to earth in Malmesbury by the necessarily local work of ordering the entailed states of nature and society (and of sociological explanation itself).” John Holmwood, University of Nottingham

    “Matthew David delivers a whimsical take on globalisation and capitalism that weaves curious historical tales into the seemingly unrelated overseas relocation of the Dyson vacuum cleaner factory in 2002. Living in a Vacuum? explores how the ‘facts’ of intellectual property and the global market are as open to challenge as the local myths that delight us.” Bethany Klein, University of Leeds

    “From the Boyle-Hobbes dispute over the possibility of a vacuum to Dyson's offshoring of its vacuum cleaner production, Matthew David provides a rich, engaging and carefully interwoven narrative documenting the tensions and contradictions in global network capitalism. Challenging the prevailing assumptions about globalization, this book will make you rethink the debate on regulation and deregulation.” Peter K. Yu, Texas A&M University

    “Living in a Vacuum? is a quirky account of the closure of a Dyson plant in England’s West Country, and yet also a paradigm for conducting multi-perspectival research into science-society relations. It could easily become a staple in methods courses in science and technology studies.” Steve Fuller, University of Warwick

    “Enter the quirky world of Malmesbury – alien big cat sightings, escaped pigs, vacuum cleaning inventors, possible murder, flying monks - and at the crux of it all is a tale of globalization where the people of Malmesbury struggle as they are abandoned to the ‘savage’ world of capitalism where animals (real or imagined) are provided more protection than their human counterparts. David’s work tells the tale of the illusory nature of Malmesbury's Thomas Hobbes' state of nature. He identifies the way the state constructs the rules of global capital while at the same time promoting the lie that forces beyond the control of mere humans – the free market – requires such inequality, not the forces of global capital itself." Debora Halbert, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

    “Drawing on a wide range of histories and accounts, Matthew David’s exploration of the complex political economic context of Dyson shows that indeed everything is connected. Balancing analytical rigour and wry amusement, this book is insightful and a joy to read.” Christopher May, Lancaster University

    “A playful but no less profound rumination on globalization and digital-age capitalism told through the story of a single commercial product (the Dyson vacuum). Not for the faint-hearted, “Living in a Vaccuum” explodes myths and challenges paradigms in order to explore new contemporary understandings of the geo-politics and legal regulation of everyday life.” Jessica Silbey, Boston University School of Law

    “Matthew David explores a set of coincidences and parallels that all revolve around the Wiltshire town of Malmesbury. This is where James Dyson made vacuum cleaners until their manufacture was moved to Malaysia. This is where Thomas Hobbes was born, the political philosopher who lived in fear of a moral vacuum. David explores the parallels of case after intriguing case from Malmesbury, and uses these to raise questions for social theory and how we go about explaining not only past events on the basis of sketchy and incomplete archival data, but also how we explain contemporary events: why was Dyson manufacturing moved to an Asian Tiger economy? What sorts of account can be given and when should we stop looking for more reasons? This book is theoretically important but written in an accessible and cleverly entertaining manner.” David Zeitlyn, Oxford University

    Matthew David is Associate Professor in Sociology at Durham University. The author of numerous books and journal articles, his latest work builds on prior expertise relating to intellectual property and global network capitalism.

    Introduction

    Hobbes and the Airblade

    Two Escaped Pigs

    Quasi-Subjects/Quasi-Objects

    Hannah Twynnoy/Twynney ‘Kil’d by a Tygre’

    Decisions, conditions and ‘matters of fact’

    Eilmer the ‘Flying’ Monk

    A shadow factory, outsourcing and dating a non-event

    9,000 Patents or £9,000 fees

    Thing Theory

    The Problem of Order. Where is society now?

    In Conclusion

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