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Reclaiming the knowledge society from « urban economization » : thinking with the Frankfurt School

Veit Bachmann & Sam Moisio, « Reclaiming the knowledge society from ‘urban economization’ : thinking with the Frankfurt School« , GZ Geographische Zeitschrift, 110(2), June 2022, p. 62-87

Since the 1990s, much political capital has been invested to develop advanced capitalist states as knowledge-based societies. In this paper, we first discuss how this development has been characterized by knowledge-based economization, i. e. the generation of economic value through extracting knowledge and human capital more broadly. Such capital-centered development has marginalized alternative processes of building knowledge-based societies based on social value and progressive politics. We argue that the processes of knowledge-based economization are spatially polarizing and highlight the strategic value of large cities as laboratories of innovation and economic value generation more generally. This urban emphasis does not only produce hinterlands but also narrows down the idea of the urban as instrumental value. We further suggest that knowledge-based economization hinges on pervasive “spatial theories”, such as specific types of urban economics. Second, we discuss the work of Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer in order to rethink the ways in which the knowledge-based society can be re-worked spatially and socially on the basis of social values and related knowledge generation. Here, we explore Adorno’s thoughts on education as transmitter between theory and practice. In sum, we argue how Adorno’s take on education offers an approach for transforming the contemporary capitalist, often exclusive and polarizing, knowledge economy into a more inclusive knowledge-based society.