Christian Berndt

Christian Berndt, Prof. Dr.


Economic Geography

Tel.: 044 63 55180

Room number: Y25 L 48



From the beginning of my academic career I have been interested in approaches that offer alternatives to mainstream economics and traditional economic geography. In this sense, I identify with the transdisciplinary heterodox economic project, a heterogeneous body of work encompassing political economy, socioeconomics and what has been termed cultural economy (e.g. performativity approach). My current work is perhaps best described as straddling the boundaries between political economic and cultural economic approaches to the geographies of economic processes. This translates into four partly overlapping research foci that involve both conceptual and empirical work:

Geographies of Marketization. In recent years I have been working on the practical realization of economic thinking, above all with regard to processes of marketization. In collaborative work with Marc Boeckler, Frankfurt, we spell out our perspective on marketization and economization under the label “geographies of marketization”. Connecting practices of social differentiation with selective practices of boundary drawing and dismantling, the focus is on the complicated relationship between the Market as the ideal site of rational decision-making and on attempts to align our socio-spatial realities with this utopian idea.

Labor Geographies. This is a longstanding focus of my research. Still neglected in the German context, I regard an understanding of labor relations and labor markets as indispensable, if one intends to get a better grip at the transition from a world consisting of a mosaic of bounded territorial economies towards a still developing global network economy. My take on this transition is to conceptually contrast relatively stable constellations (welfare state, territorial capitalisms, national labor institutions) with constellations characterized by movement and fluidity (i.e. labor migration in different segments of the labor market). In this context, my focus has so far been on two areas, low-wage service activities (e.g. commercial cleaning, private care) on the one hand and labor relations in the so-called creative economy on the other. I am currently starting to engage with labor relations in the context of digitalization (e.g. work in the "sharing economy").

Transnational markets and commodity chains. My interests in north-south issues received new impetus with my Habilitation project on the Mexican-US-border, a region regarded as a laboratory for the study of the tensions which surface when “south” and “north” meet in a global economy. My work on the Mexican maquiladora industry and the northern Mexican border city Ciudad Juárez engages with corporate offshoring, production networks and labor migration and the place of cities such as Juárez in uneven global divisions of labor. More recent research engages with agricultural commodities and commodity chains, with particular focus on global soy production and trade. The regional starting point of this research is Argentina and the intention is to follow the various connections that make soy a global commodity (e.g. commodity futures market in Chicago, commodity traders in Geneva, Argentinian producers, non GM soy production in Eastern Europe).

Economic behaviorism, experiments and evidence-based policy. Standard economic thinking about what constitutes economy and economics has been increasingly called into question by approaches such as behavioural and experimental economics. These approaches have made an impressive career during the last decades, at first moving from a marginal position at the crossroads of psychology and economics into the economic mainstream and more recently transforming into a powerful policy script. It is this role of the combined forces of behaviorism and experimentalism as a powerful body of knowledge informing a wide array of policy fields that has caught my attention and motivated me to start research on two different examples: Development policy in the Global South ("markets in development") and social policy delivery in the Global North. The latter trend is particularly visible in the UK and the US and after generating paradigmatic policy forms (e.g. Social Impact Bonds, evidence-based policy) has started to appear in countries such as Switzerland and Germany.