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David Harvey

(b. 1935)

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British*Marxistgeographer. Born in Kent, Harvey completed both his BA and PhD at St Johns College, Cambridge. His first appointment was at the University of Bristol, where he remained for a decade. He then moved to Johns Hopkins University, where he worked for two decades, with a six-year interregnum at Oxford in the middle. In 2001 he took a position at CUNY (City University of New York). Harvey's work is characterized by its trenchant critique of the effects of capitalism. In Social Justice and the City (1973) he argued that geography could not and should not remain objective in the face of urban poverty and its causes and he showed that in many cases it is the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of capital. In The Limits of Capital (1982), his most theoretically sophisticated work, Harvey argues that real estate speculation is essential to capitalism's dynamic and its Achilles heel (the ‘credit crunch’ of 2007–9 clearly bears this out). His most widely known work, however, was his bestselling 1989 book, The Condition of Postmodernity, which offered a rich account of the social, cultural, and economic conditions of the era then widely known as postmodernism. In contrast to the accounts of postmodernity given by Jean-François Lyotard and Fredric Jameson, which are in many ways better known, Harvey's account of postmodernity is able to propose a cause for the changes it describes: he points the finger at what he calls ‘flexible accumulation’, by which he means the system-wide movement away from capital investment in fixed assets like factories towards more fluid investments like shares. Effectively what Harvey provides is a much more sophisticated version of the post-industrial society thesis of Daniel Bell and Alain Touraine. His most recent works, particularly The New Imperialism (2003) and A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) are powerful polemics against the geopolitics of the George W. Bush administration and its origins in Reaganism and Thatcherism.

Further Reading:

N. Castree and D. Gregory David Harvey: A Critical Reader (2006).

Subjects: Social sciences

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