Discussing Harvey

This week our group discussed Harvey and spent a majority of the time breaking down his argument to better understand his perspectives.  This blog is to highlight some of the points we covered in our discussion.

-Harvey provides good accounts of the major sources of modern ideas and the key structural features of modernity. Harvey’s basic approach to postmodernism is sound. Rather than rejecting postmodern developments as superficial and merely transitory, he believes they represent a new paradigm of thought and cultural practice that requires serious attention. At the same time, he avoids exaggerating the novelty of postmodern developments and sees both continuities and discontinuities with modern practices. Postmodernism represents not a complete rupture from modernism, but a new “cultural dominant” where elements that could be found in modernism appear in postmodernism with added emphasis and intensity. (Brought up by Kevin)

-Harvey is neither overly uncritical nor celebratory toward postmodernism. He criticizes postmodernism for being too nihilistic and for embracing aesthetics over ethics. Postmodernism avoids the realities of political economy and global capitalism and precludes the possibility of a positive politics informed by normative principles. Moreover, Harvey finds that postmodernists provide a caricatured account of modern cultural and theoretical practices. Harvey claims modernists found ways to contain explosive and anarchic forms of capitalist development. (Brought up by Annie)

-An interesting point was made in the discussion of Harvey’s “Fordist Modernity” (180). Fordism emerged with the attempts by Henry Ford to provide workers with sufficient income and leisure time to consume the products they produce. “Fordism” refers to a process of coordinating production with consumption in order to attain a more complete assimilation of the working class to capitalism, relying on psychological management techniques. As Harvey sees it, Fordism, and the Keynesian economics it was bound up with, was too rigid as a mode of organization and accumulation. Governing the post-war boom years, this regime crumbled with the 1973 recession and gave way to a far more complex and supple economic structure with respect to such things as the labor process, the labor market, products, and consumption patterns. One of the key aspects of this regime is that it greatly increases rates of commercial, technological, and organizational innovation. For Harvey, the speed-up of capital turnover and the pace of life itself has direct implications at the level of cultural practices. (Brought up by Colin)

Where we found that Harvey fell short in explanation was in the context of the environment and the effects of modernism on ecological processes that have been prevalent in our Global Studies courses since 100 and 101. Granted, this excerpt was only one chapter out of a book so maybe Harvey discusses it in other chapters, but we felt that his argument was lacking in the ecological context and would be interested to see what he would say given that analysis.



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