GE3201 The Service Economy

[Last updated: 22 January 2019] 

Aims & Objectives 
This module aims to provide a geographical perspective on the emergence and development of the service economy. The shift to the service economy – that is an economy dominated by service activities in terms of both employment and output – is one of the most important and profound changes in the global economy in recent decades. While economic geography has traditionally focused more on primary and particularly secondary (manufacturing) industries, this module will examine the broad and varied range of service activities that are now a crucial part of the global economy.

The first part of the module covers conceptual understandings of services and economic transformation as the result of growing service sector activities. Key themes include defining and classifying service activities, different theories concerning the growth and role of services in modern economies, and the globalisation of service industries. The thematic approach continues with examining the role of knowledge networks and social and cultural implications of the shift in service employment in transforming service workers, firms, and industry practices.

The second part of the module covers sectoral studies of the service economy, particularly knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS) or advanced business services. Case studies will be drawn from a variety of KIBS such as banking, accountancy, and management consultancy. Cultural industries such as advertising and video games will also be discussed in terms of how they are changing urban and regional development and forms of work. Finally, the retail sector and the informal economy will also be analysed in terms of their different roles in production and consumption circuits. The module concludes with critical reflections on the polarised nature of service work and its impact on the economy and society.

60% Continual Assessment; 40% final examination (open book)

Continual Assessment consists of:
– Tutorial participation (10%)
– Group field report (10%)
– Group project (30%)
– Individual short reflection essay (10%)

No set prerequisites. GE2202 Economy and Space is advisable but not compulsory. However, students who have not taken GE2202 may find the learning curve a little steep in grasping some basic economic geography concepts. You may wish to ‘catch up’ on some of those concepts and themes by refer to the GE2202 textbook (Coe, N., Kelly, P. and Yeung, H (2013) Economic Geography: A contemporary introduction, 2nd edition, Wiley-Blackwell: New Jersey).

Lectures: Mondays 4pm to 6pm (AS1 02-01); starting 14 January 2019
Tutorials: Odd Weeks
DO1 Wednesday 14.00-16.00
DO2 Thursday 10.00-12.00

Final examination:  Tuesday, 30 April 2019 (AM)         

Lecture Topics

Part I  Thematics 
1. Introduction: beyond geographies of production
2. Technological change and the ‘second global shift’
3. Knowledge, learning and innovation
4. ‘Performing’ services
5. Gendered work

Part II Across Service Sectors 
6. Money makes the world go round: Geographies of financial services
7. Finance and society: Money cultures and financialisation
8. Moving between production and consumption: The global logistics industry
9. Selling things: geographies of retail
10. Creative services: Film and video games
11. Selling culture: the rise of cultural industries

Part III Critical Reflections 
12. The gig economy and informal economic sectors
13. Critical reflections: Labour and society in the service economy

Texts & Readings
There is no set textbook for this module. The reading list consists of selected journal articles and book chapters. These will be placed in RBR collection in Central Library or E-Reserves, or can be downloaded via NUS LINC (e-books or e-journals). Readings marked with an asterisk (*) are essential for this module. I have allocated TWO essential readings per topic; you are encouraged to consult other suggested readings for various topics to deepen your understanding of specific topics.

Useful reference texts for this module:

  • Bryson, John R. and Daniels, Peter W. (eds.) (2007) The Handbook of Service Industries, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar
  • McDowell, Linda (2009) Working Bodies: Interactive Service Employment and Workplace Identities, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Leyshon, Andrew, Lee, Roger, McDowell, Linda and Sunley Peter (eds.) (2011), The SAGE Handbook of Economic Geography, London: Sage
  • Coe, Neil M., Kelly, Phillip F. and Yeung, Henry (2013) Economic Geography: A Contemporary Introduction (2nd ed.), New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Dicken, Peter (2015), Global Shift: Mapping the Changing Contours of the World Economy, 7th Edition, New York: Guilford Press.

Please consult the GE3201 module listing on IVLE [requires NUS login] for the full reading list and details on the module.


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