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Assemblages of State Power: Topological Shifts in the Organization of Government and Politics



Abstract:  Multi-scalar or multi-site power relations offer two contrasting ways of understanding the shifting geography of state power. In this paper, we argue for a different starting point, one that favours a topological understanding of state spatiality over more conventional topographical accounts. In contrast to a vertical or horizontal imagery of the geography of state power, what states possess, we suggest, is reach, not height. In doing so, we draw from Sassen (2006, Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages, Princeton University Press) a vocabulary capable of portraying the renegotiation of powers that has taken place between central government in the UK and one of its key city regions, the South East of England; one that highlights an assemblage of political actors, some public, some private, where negotiations take place between elements of central and local actors “lodged” within the region, not acting “above”, “below” or “alongside” it. The articulation of political demands in such a context has less to do with “jumping scale” or formalizing extensive network connections and more to do with the ability to reach directly into a “centralized” politics where proximity and reach play across one another in particular ways.