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Competition, Law, and the Power of (Imagined) Geography: Market Definition and the Emergence of Too-Big-to-Fail Banking in the United States


  • Brett Christophers


This article explores the role of antitrust (or competition) law in the recent historical evolution of the U.S. commercial banking sector. A core component of antitrust law is the calculative practice of market definition, which involves identifying not only the product or service attributes of a market but also, pointedly, its geographic extent. Geographic market definition—and the geographic knowledges it furnishes—is the focus of the article. It argues that these legal market maps (“the law's markets,” that is to say) materially shape on-the-ground market and competitive realities. The article develops this argument through a study of the recent history of U.S. antitrust theory and practice in regard to commercial banking. It claims that the particular nature of the geographic models created through this practice is pivotal to explaining the history of evolution of that sector in the final decades of the twentieth century—and most especially, large-scale industry consolidation at the national scale. In the process, the article aims to contribute not only to financial geography but also to three relatively-underdeveloped economic-geographic literatures: on the implication of geographic knowledges in political-economic change; on the geographies of markets; and on the role of the law in economic-geographic transformation.

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  • Brett Christophers, 2014. "Competition, Law, and the Power of (Imagined) Geography: Market Definition and the Emergence of Too-Big-to-Fail Banking in the United States," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 90(4), pages 429-450, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecgeog:v:90:y:2014:i:4:p:429-450

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    References listed on IDEAS

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