Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Robert Q. Hanham.


The dual research goals of this dissertation are to first develop the geographic concept 'scalar imperialism' and use scalar imperialism to re-examine the expansion and continued superiority of Western capitalism in four systemic cycles of accumulation. Scalar imperialism is a concept that melds theories on the social production of scale with the dialectical relations between capitalism, imperialism, and the state. One significant aim of this research study is to bring imperialism back into the critical discussion on the social production of space, scale, and social relations under a globalized capitalist system. This research study adopts a long historical perspective and re-examines four hegemonic phases of capital accumulation, their broad scale changes and scalar relationality, and the concomitant scalar expansion of capitalism into a global system. The aim of this research is to better understand the production of spatial scale by hegemonic regimes that have expanded Western capitalism from its origins in fifteenth century Italian city-states to a world-wide system of economy under which geographical landscapes and social relations are persistently made and re-made to fit the needs of capitalism, capitalists, and capitalist states. Under the leadership of Italian merchant bankers to the Dutch, English and Americans, capitalism as a world system has expanded and dominated the social production of space, scale, and social relations. A vital characteristic in this expansion of capitalism is the use of imperialistic processes by both the hegemon and its subordinates to overcome barriers and contradictions in capital accumulation. While imperialism is internally related to the continued expansion and growth of capitalism, imperialistic activities also undermine the systemic health of capitalism by causing and deepening conflicts among states that disrupt the capitalist world-economy. Both contradiction and instability in the capitalist world-economy and its associated socio-political systems have historically driven the expansion of capitalism, but it has been an uneven process in which high finance and systemic chaos play prominent roles. For the purposes of this research, the examination of past hegemonic government-business complexes is relatively straight-forward, because the violence and turbulence in these periods are in the past. The case of the current hegemonic state --- the United States --- is an altogether different matter. The position taken in this study is that the U.S. has already undergone expansion, unsuccessfully battled contradiction, turned to financialization, and is tending towards systemic chaos. Material and discursive scale is the dynamic and malleable expression of social processes and relations. A scalar imperialism concept employs scale as the expression of the turbulent dialectical relations between capitalism, imperialism, and the state.