Introduction: Turbulent Circulation: Building a Critical Engagement with Logistics

Since the mid-20th century, logistics has evolved into a wide-ranging science of circulation involved in planning and managing flows of innumerable kinds. In this introductory essay, we take stock of the ascendancy and proliferation of logistics, proposing a critical engagement with the field. We argue that logistics is not limited to the management of supply chains, military or corporate. Rather, it is better understood as a calculative logic and spatial practice of circulation that is at the fore of the reorganization of capitalism and war. Viewed from this perspective, the rise of logistics has transformed not only the physical movement of materials but also the very rationality by which space is organized. It has remade economic and military space according to a universalizing logic of abstract flow, exacerbating existing patterns of uneven geographical development. Drawing on the articles that make up this themed issue, we propose that a critical approach to logistics is characterized by three core commitments: (1) a rejection of the field’s self-depiction as an apolitical science of management, along with a commitment to highlighting the relations of power and acts of violence that underpin it; (2) an interest in exposing the flaws, irrationalities, and vulnerabilities of logistical regimes; and (3) an orientation toward contestation and struggle within logistical networks.

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Volume 36 Issue 4

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