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David Harvey on Global Capitalism

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David Harvey on Global Capitalism

  1. 1. David Harvey on Global Capitalism URP 6930 Globalizaton and Urban Restructuring Dr. Asli Oner John-Mark Palacios
  2. 2. Palacios 2 Table of Contents Introduction.............................................................................................................................................................. 3 Biography................................................................................................................................................................... 3 Writings...................................................................................................................................................................... 4 Impacts of Globalization...................................................................................................................................... 9 Perspective on Globalization........................................................................................................................... 12 Thoughts on His Writings................................................................................................................................. 13 Conclusion............................................................................................................................................................... 14 Bibliography........................................................................................................................................................... 15
  3. 3. Palacios 3 Introducton This semester we have studied globalization from an urban planning perspective, but many scholars outside of the planning discipline study globalization. David Harvey, a professor of geography, has written on the subject of globalization; and we will endeavor to examine his stance on the issues. We have researched four books and two articles written by Harvey in order to see how he discusses globalization's impact, what perspective he takes on globalization, and which ideas seemed most interesting. Biography When geography studies cities, it naturally overlaps with some of the same areas studied by urban planners. Since geography examines the whole world, it also seems logical that a geographer might touch on the subject of more interconnectivity between cities around the world. David Harvey touches on the topic of globalization through his critiques of global capitalism. He is a student of Marx, and integrates Marx's ideas into his critiques of the problems with capitalism. Wikipedia labels him as “the world's most cited academic geographer,”1 and he is widely respected among many academic disciplines. Warf suggests he might be the world's most famous geographer, in part because he is read widely outside the discipline of geography.2 1 “David Harvey (social theorist and geographer),” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, July 23, 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Harvey_(social_theorist_and_geographer). 2 Barney Warf, “Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development, by David Harvey,” Journal of Regional Science 47, no. 2 (5, 2007): 395.
  4. 4. Palacios 4 Harvey shared in Spaces of Hope how he taught a course on Marx's Capital for so many years, even in the midst of the Cold War when communism was unpopular in the United States.3 Today communism is slightly more accepted, and other great thinkers such as Noam Chomsky do not hesitate to criticize capitalism and put forth socialist and communist alternatives. Harvey seems to shy away slightly from trying to put forth his comprehensive vision of utopia and focuses on the problems with the current system. Harvey received his bachelor's degree in 1957 as well as his doctoral degree in 1961, both from the University of Cambridge. He did some post-doctoral studies at University of Uppsala in Sweden, where he also received one of many honorary doctorates. He has taught at the University of Bristol, John Hopkins University, and University of Oxford. Since 2001 he has held the position of Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York (CUNY). Writngs Harvey has written many books, but we will focus on a sampling of his books and his articles. Table 1 lists all his books in chronological order. 3 David Harvey, Spaces of hope (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), 3-5.
  5. 5. Palacios 5 Table 1: Works of David Harvey. Compiled from listing on Wikipedia4 4 “David Harvey (social theorist and geographer).”
  6. 6. Palacios 6 The Urban Experience In 1985 Harvey published two books, Urbanization of Capital and Consciousness and the Urban Experience. He abridged and condensed these two into The Urban Experience in 1989. The Urban Experience basically gives a Marxist interpretation of the whole urban process. Harvey had begun this concept in his 1973 Social Justice and the City, a series of essays which outlined the urban problems in capitalist society and analyzed these problems through the glasses of Marxism.5 In the preface to The Urbanization of Capital, Harvey states his goal of providing “a more definitive Marxian interpretation” of the urban problems than he had presented in Social Justice.6 Abu-Lughod points out in her review of Urbanization of Capital and the Urban Experience that Harvey continued the interpretation in his 1982 Limits to Capital.7 Harvey says in his introduction to The Urban Experience that he wrote Limits to fill in some of the areas where the Marxian framework was lacking, in order to make it easier to interpret the urban experience through a more complete framework in later writings.8 Essentially, each successive book through this time period refined his ideas, and The Urban Experience was just another iteration of this refinement process. 5 Charles F. Levine, “Social Justice and the City,” International Journal of Comparative Sociology (Brill Academic Publishers) 17, no. 1/2 (March 1976): 119-120. 6 David Harvey, The urbanization of capital : studies in the history and theory of capitalist urbanization (Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press, 1985), x. 7 Janet L. Abu-Lughod, “The Urbanization of Capital/Consciousness and the Urban Experience (Book),” Economic Development & Cultural Change 36, no. 2 (January 1988): 411. 8 David Harvey, The urban experience (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), 4.
  7. 7. Palacios 7 “The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap” This article was published in Harvard Design Magazine in 1997, and later incorporated into William Saunder's Sprawl and Suburbia. In it, Harvey criticizes New Urbanism for only seeking to solve the problems of suburban sprawl within the same framework of capitalism. He implies that the solution lies not simply in a better designed city, but in a change in the political and social process from capitalism to something else. Spaces of Hope Harvey begins by presenting some of the issues with the city, including a concept he calls “uneven geographical development.”9 This is more often known as polarization. Instead of merely building on previous critiques, Harvey presents some of his ideas to fix things, a vision for what might be instead of capitalism.10 He briefly mentions a few thoughts on his vision for what might be in an interview on BBC HARDtalk in 2010. He advocates for socialism, decentralization and diversity, without delving too deeply into some of his ideas that would break drastically from the capitalist mold.11 “Globalizaton and the 'Spatal Fix'” This article published in 2001 touches on the concept of a “Spatial Fix” that was also presented in Spaces of Hope. He clarifies his meaning by the term “fix” as being similar to 9 Harvey, Spaces of hope. 10 Margaret Crawford, “Spaces of Hope (Book Review),” Architecture 89, no. 10 (October 2000): 80. 11 David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (2/3), vol. 2, 3 vols., BBC Hardtalk (BBC, 2010), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4amK0zFskAk#t=6m26s.
  8. 8. Palacios 8 the usage for a drug addict. Just as a drug addict needs his next “fix,” capitalism needs a “fix” using space. Each fix is only a temporary improvement and does nothing to provide a permanent solution. Harvey discusses the cycle of development and redevelopment that could be in the same space or shifting from one place to another, pointing out how it is a waste of resources.12 This cycle is something we see quite frequently here in South Florida, where the economy has been driven by development. The fact that we are currently in a recession with South Florida's real estate market seems to prove how the “fix” of development was only temporary. Harvey seems to say this as well in his lecture on Crises of Capitalism.13 The New Imperialism This text, written when the United States was beginning to go back to war with Iraq, postulates that we are again in an age of imperialism. Harvey suggests that many aspects of globalization are actually imperialism by the United States. The chief example he uses to prove his point is the war in Iraq and how the Bush administration manipulated us into going there for control of the oil. Spaces of Global Capitalism Harvey once again builds on the ideas presented in his other works relating capitalism and geography, especially the concept of the “spatial fix” that he brought up in his earlier article. He points out that capitalism creates the problems of polarization. The uneven 12 David Harvey, “Globalization and the "Spatial Fix",” geographische revue 3, no. 2 (2001): 23-30. 13 RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism (London: RSA, 2010), http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=qOP2V_np2c0#t=4m57s.
  9. 9. Palacios 9 development is created due to accumulation by dispossession. Gain in one place results in loss in another.14 Another concept that Harvey discusses in Global Capitalism is absolute, relative, and relational space. Absolute space is basically real, physical space. Any movement in absolute space is simply movement from one location to another. Relative space consists of things like communication and transactions.15 Relational space is a bit more abstract, dealing with relations between people or potential energy. These three spaces are reminiscent of some of the concepts discussed in this globalization class, such as Castell's three layers to his Spaces of Flows. Impacts of Globalizaton Harvey does not examine the built environment or metropolitan form so much as the social, political, and economic aspects of globalization. He doesn't focus as much on globalization as he does the larger concept of “global capitalism.” For him, globalization is merely a natural part of the capitalist ambition, so it gets analyzed and critiqued right alongside the whole system. Since capitalism is by its nature an economic system, Harvey naturally touches on the economic aspects of globalization. The economic system is also tied to government control, necessitating a political discussion as well. From the very title of his 14 Warf, “Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development, by David Harvey.” 15 Warf, “Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development, by David Harvey,” 396; David Harvey, Spaces of global capitalism : [towards a theory of uneven geographical development] (London ; New York, NY: Verso, 2006), 134-136.
  10. 10. Palacios 10 first book, Social Justice and the City, it is clear that Harvey analyzes and critiques the system out of a concern for the well being of society. One of the key topics that Harvey emphasizes is polarization. The income gap between the majority of the population and the few who control the majority of the capital troubles him. The uneven geographical developments do as well, as so many of his writings touch on the subject. Through his “spatial fix” concept, he points out how we have deindustrialization in some geographical areas at the same time as we have industrialization in others. A current example of this would be the trend to offshoring and outsourcing prevalent in the United States. We used to have a large manufacturing industry at home, but the manufacturing has shifted overseas to places like China. One of the reasons for this shift is that the wages are much lower in these other countries, saving manufacturing costs and increasing profits. Wages are higher in the West, of course, because of our labor laws and our desire for a higher standard of living. Developing nations have lower wages as well as lower standards of living and fewer labor laws. Lately, Chinese technology factories such as Foxconn have been pressured into raising wages for their assembly line workers. Laborers have gone on strike and expressed their discontentment in many ways, as they seek to improve their standards of living in the same way that Western nations did years ago. As these wage increases take effect, several companies have made decisions to move to other areas of China where labor costs are lower, or decided to move to other countries with even lower wages such as Vietnam or Mexico. Some US companies even relocated their factories back to the United States.16 16 Elaine Kurtenbach, “Cheap-labor era in China is disappearing,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 2010, http://www.philly.com/philly/business/homepage/20100710_Cheap-
  11. 11. Palacios 11 Having exploited all they could out of one space, capitalists will move to the next space to get their next “fix.” As a result, it would seem that the areas where current manufacturing costs are rising significantly may become less and less industrial, and new areas will be industrialized. Harvey also gives considerable attention to the crises to which capitalism leads. In his lecture on Crises of Capitalism, he discusses how the present-day recession came about through capitalization on things like the sub-prime real estate market and derivatives. He argues that crises like this one are an inevitable result of capitalism's tendencies to squeeze as much as it can out of a market. He says that these crises are not enough to shut down capitalism, as it merely recovers and then limps along until the next crisis. The crises force some sort of redistribution of capital investment, and this redistribution can be and often is a spatial redistribution. In this lecture and in the BBC Hardtalk interview, he even compares today's crisis with the 1973 crisis and the dot-com bubble crisis at the beginning of the millennium.17 The Great Depression would also seem to fit in the crisis cycle. These examples serve to prove his point that we are just going from one crisis to the next. What is interesting is that the latest two crises are so close together. It makes one wonder if the next crisis will come even sooner. labor_era_in_China_is_disappearing.html. 17 David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (2/3), vol. 2, 3 vols., BBC Hardtalk (BBC, 2010), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4amK0zFskAk; RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism (London: RSA, 2010), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOP2V_np2c0; David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (1/3), vol. 1, 3 vols., BBC Hardtalk (BBC, 2010), http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=YtyZY9sKv2w&feature=youtube_gdata; David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (3/3), vol. 3, 3 vols., BBC Hardtalk (BBC, 2010), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zARceZS50ps&feature=youtube_gdata.
  12. 12. Palacios 12 Harvey would, of course, prefer to see some sort of socialist or communist system take capitalism's place in order to avoid these cycles of up and down. He recognizes that where communism has been tried so far it has failed miserably and done significant damage to society, so he suggests development of a new form of communism that corrects both the shortcomings from the previous attempts and the shortcomings of capitalism. While he endeavored to present some suggestions towards that new system, he admits that we have not yet developed it. Perspectve on Globalizaton David Harvey takes a skeptic or a traditionalist view on globalization. He appears to agree with most of the points that were made in class describing how skeptics view globalization. While he doesn't deny that globalization exists, he considers globalization as a natural extension of a capitalist system which he dislikes. That falls basically inline with the thought that globalization exists “for ideological reasons of capitalist accumulation,” as well as being part of market liberalism. He would tend to agree that the world was globalized before. He suggests that globalization has been happening since 1492 or earlier.18 Because he ties it to capitalism, the assumption would be that globalization started about the same time as capitalism. Harvey seems pretty consistent with his traditionalist stance through all his writings. Since capitalism tends to discourage welfare systems and encourage privatization of anything from health care to education, Harvey implicitly agrees (by supporting socialism/communism and opposing capitalism) that globalization, or at least global 18 Harvey, “Globalization and the "Spatial Fix",” 25.
  13. 13. Palacios 13 capitalism, is a way of dismantling those systems. His solution to global capitalism is to support revolutionary change, so he would support resistance movements like most other skeptics. One area that Harvey may differ slightly from some skeptics is in whether local and national cultures will remain unaffected. He suggests that capitalism has created diversity, but he does not focus extensively on the cultural aspects of globalization. If The New Imperialism is viewed as an effect on culture, then it would appear that he suggests that local and national culture is being influenced by the United States. Imperialism in the past has had significant influence on the local cultures, so the assumption would be that his label of imperialism includes a strong affect on local cultures around the world. This is only an assumption, though, and really nothing more than speculation. Because Harvey has not discussed culture extensively, it would be unfair to put words in his mouth on the subject. Thoughts on His Writngs Since we have been educated thoroughly in the capitalist system, it is rather refreshing to hear a voice such as Harvey's that critiques the system from a different perspective. While at first the tendency for a good capitalist might be to dismiss his ideas as too off the wall and too similar to Lenin's or Mao's applications of communism, they are worth a second look. His application of Marxian methods provided some good insight into why we suffer some of the issues and crises that we do. Since he looks at it from outside the capitalist box, he provides a much “bigger picture” view than we can get looking at the pieces. Since we are struggling through an economic recession right now, it is hard to disagree with Harvey's
  14. 14. Palacios 14 point about capitalism going from crisis to crisis. The reality of the current crisis bears his point home effectively. While it is tempting to follow Harvey's suggestion that we need to create a better system and set off to create a utopia, the reality of this world does not lend itself to that. This is a naturally corrupt and base world that tends to disorder and chaos when left to its natural course. The capitalist system operates largely on greed, which most people agree is not a virtue. It endeavors to provide some good by leveraging these human flaws, but at the same time those human flaws hurt some people. Communism seems more idealistic and fair. In practice, has suffered extensively from corruption from leaders abusing their power as well as low production due to laziness. So both systems are fraught with human vice. Any attempt to create a new system will inevitably run into these or some other human imperfections. Therefore, while I agree with Harvey's criticisms of capitalism, I cannot agree with his call to come up a magical utopian economic system. Conclusion Harvey is a well-written scholar who has spent years polishing and perfecting his ideas. It is not surprising that he is so widely respected in academia, given the thoroughness of his critiques and the depth of his arguments. Through his general critiques of global capitalism, he discusses the social, economic, and political aspects of globalization. Some of his key themes include polarization and the economic crises caused by capitalism. His stance on globalization is generally that of a traditionalist. Harvey's arguments are quite convincing,
  15. 15. Palacios 15 but his desire for some kind of utopian economic system fails to account for the imperfect reality of this world.
  16. 16. Palacios 16 Bibliography Abu-Lughod, Janet L. “The Urbanization of Capital/Consciousness and the Urban Experience (Book).” Economic Development & Cultural Change 36, no. 2 (January 1988): 411. Crawford, Margaret. “Spaces of Hope (Book Review).” Architecture 89, no. 10 (October 2000): 80. “David Harvey (social theorist and geographer).” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, July 23, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Harvey_(social_theorist_and_geographer). David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (1/3). Vol. 1. 3 vols. BBC Hardtalk. BBC, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtyZY9sKv2w&feature=youtube_gdata. David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (2/3). Vol. 2. 3 vols. BBC Hardtalk. BBC, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4amK0zFskAk#t=6m26s. David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (2/3). Vol. 2. 3 vols. BBC Hardtalk. BBC, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4amK0zFskAk. David Harvey BBC HARDtalk interview, 2010 (3/3). Vol. 3. 3 vols. BBC Hardtalk. BBC, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zARceZS50ps&feature=youtube_gdata. Harvey, David. Consciousness and the urban experience : studies in the history and theory of capitalist urbanization. Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press, 1985.
  17. 17. Palacios 17 ———. “Globalization and the 'Spatial Fix'.” geographische revue 3, no. 2 (2001): 23-30. ———. Spaces of global capitalism : [towards a theory of uneven geographical development]. London ; New York, NY: Verso, 2006. ———. Spaces of hope. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000. ———. The new imperialism. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. ———. “The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap.” In Sprawl and Suburbia : A Harvard Design Magazine Reader, edited by William Saunders. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. ———. The urban experience. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. ———. The urbanization of capital : studies in the history and theory of capitalist urbanization. Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press, 1985. Kurtenbach, Elaine. “Cheap-labor era in China is disappearing.” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 2010. http://www.philly.com/philly/business/homepage/20100710_Cheap- labor_era_in_China_is_disappearing.html. Levine, Charles F. “Social Justice and the City.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology (Brill Academic Publishers) 17, no. 1/2 (March 1976): 119-120. RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism. London: RSA, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=qOP2V_np2c0#t=4m57s.
  18. 18. Palacios 18 RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism. London: RSA, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=qOP2V_np2c0. Warf, Barney. “Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development, by David Harvey.” Journal of Regional Science 47, no. 2 (5, 2007): 394- 396.

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