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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Harvey shows how human practices define urban space and gives shape to architecture

Sophisticated analysis of geographical development, October 28, 2006 By Malvin (Frederick, MD USA) - See all my reviews
"Spaces of Global Capitalism" by David Harvey consists of two presentations delivered at the eighth Hettner-Lecture at the University of Heidelberg in 2004 and a third related essay. These challening works are the product of a thinker who has spent a lifetime of cross-disciplinary study on the issues of capitalism, politics, geography and related topics. Intended principally for an academic audience, Mr. Harvey's research succeeds in providing guidance for others who may want to further explore these issues in the future.
The first lecture, "Neo-liberalism and the restoration of class power" is by far the most accessible in the book. In essence a 62-page synopsis of Mr. Harvey's exceptional book, "A Brief History of Neoliberalism", the author convincingly reveals neoliberalism to be an ideology whose primary goal is to enshrine and protect elite power. Mr. Harvey's brilliant analysis connects growing income disparities with a concomitant rise in militarism and fundamentalism which he contends must be addressed with a revived popular struggle for democracy. The author's thoughts on this timely and important topic is quite simply essential reading.
The second lecture is entitled, "Notes towards a theory of uneven geographical development". Mr. Harvey explores how developed capitalist nations of the north tend to exploit the periphery, creating a chronic state of underdevelopment for much of the global south. The author discusses the concept of accumulation by dispossession and how it is subject to changing conditions, including: market exchange, spatial competition, geographical division of labor, monopolistic competition, annihilation of space through time, physical infrastructures, production of regionality, production of scale, territorial systems of political administration, and geopolitics. The analysis opens pathways for other scholars who may be interested in applying Mr. Harvey's principles to specific case studies.
The third essay included in the book is "Space as a key word." This seemed to be the most theoretical of the three and will probably be of greatest interests to specialists in the field of geographical development. Mr. Harvey shows how human practices define urban space and gives shape to architecture; for example, collective memory and political struggle are critical to defining culturally significant landmarks such as the rebuilding of ground zero in New York City. The author suggests that space must be understood from multiple perspectives and provides methodologies for others to consider.
I recommend this demanding book for academics or persons who have a sophisticated understanding of geographical development. On the other hand, those who are interested in uneven development as it pertains to neoliberalism are encouraged to pick up Mr. Harvey's highly-readable "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" in order to fully appreciate the author's thoughts on this particularly important topic. Comment Permalink

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