Kean Fan Lim, author of On shifting Foundations reflects on why he chose to publish in the RGS-IBG book series early in his career, and how the process has helped him to develop as an academic.
Kean Fan Lim, Newcastle University
Author of On Shifting Foundations: State Rescaling, Policy Experimentation and Economic Restructuring in Post-1949 China
When I decided to write a book-length account of state rescaling, policy experimentation and economic restructuring in China, the series was a very attractive option primarily because I was not short of role models! Indeed, right from the moment I started my doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia to my first faculty appointment at the University of Nottingham and then later at Newcastle University, I met advisors and colleagues who published works in the series that made impressive conceptual advancements from a distinctly geographical perspective. I was therefore delighted when Dr. Dave Featherstone, then the editor of the series, saw potential in my book project, On Shifting Foundations.
The rigorous but highly constructive review process that followed not only further affirmed the quality of the series, but also enhanced my confidence as an early career researcher. Indeed, the most challenging aspect of this process was to respond to the reviews (on both the proposal and completed manuscript) in a positive and convincing manner. I was very glad I could do so and, in turn, develop a new conceptual framework by bringing in critical cases from beyond the Anglo-American context.
That the series is increasingly publishing works focusing on a wide range of contexts worldwide can only enhance its intellectual standing because these contexts offer new opportunities to both refine existing concepts as well as develop new theoretical possibilities. For instance, economic restructuring strategies in China offered a new angle to examine the driving forces of state rescaling in On Shifting Foundations. While there were similarities with western economies in terms of geographical patterns (i.e. states shifting from prioritising the national scale of capital accumulation to urban-focused accumulation strategies), the historical rationale, approach and outcomes are different and hence require context-specific explanations.
In the Chinese context, state rescaling was not about jettisoning the national scale of accumulation but more about the reconfiguration of national state power through an experimental approach to urban-oriented development. In other words, rather than exemplifying a uni-directional shift of regulatory power from the national to the urban, the emphasis on the urban was a means to enhance the national. This empirical finding led to subsequent refinements of the state rescaling literature and stimulated dynamic conversations in two book symposiums (involving eight scholars) in Political Geography and Urban Studies.
I was also very encouraged by reviews published in leading interdisciplinary journals (Regional Studies, The China Quarterly and The China Journal): they demonstrate the potential of geographically-oriented studies to ‘travel’ beyond geography and engage with broader debates in the social sciences and the humanities.
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