Monday, April 8, 2013

112: David Harvey's From Space to Place

In "From Space to Place and Back Again," David Harvey theorizes the relationship between space and place as they relate to capital and globalization since 1970.  Coming out of the Marxist tradition, Harvey argues that capitalism since 1970 has become global, and places are both nodes in the network of capital flows that are set up to catch and keep capital for as long as possible AND potential sites of resistance.  These dual purposes of places are reflected in their material forms, representations of them, and symbolic landscapes within them, because places are constructed via struggle between residents and capital.  Places thus exist somewhere between the universal and the particular in a global network of historical-geographical difference.  Space, on the other hand, is abstract and wholly constructed by capital.

Harvey jumps through a lot of theoretical hoops to make this argument.  The one that I least expected from him is also the most interesting: that Heidegger and Marx can be reconciled into a definition of place within global capitalism.  Here, Marx's argument that repression, misconception, and exploitation are the result of a "purely place-based politics in a spatially dynamic capitalist world," combined with Heidegger's emphasis on place-based dwelling as an escape from modern capitalism, creates a definition of place as the site of both global capitalist exploitation AND place-based resistance, a site mutually constituted by the struggle between the global and the local.

My only question in all of this has to do with the nature of space.  If place is the point of struggle between local dwelling and global capital flows, what is space?  Where in the world is there no resistance to outside domination?  I imagine even Monsanto cornfields in Kansas and the office buildings on Wall Street contain seeds of dissent somewhere.

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