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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made this postmodernist a Marxist, 11 Feb. 2003
This review is from: The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Paperback)
This is a truly excellent critique of postmodernism and more particularly of the socio-economic reshaping of our contemporary culture that shaped it. Harvey does not delve into the more involved subdivisions within postmodernism, do not expect to discover the differences between post structuralism, deconstructionism or any of the other myriad postmodern schools, nor does he mean to. It is indicative that he titles his book as dealing with postmodernity rather postmodernism as such, the one simply being the philosophy of the other. It is with postmodernity, that is the current contemporary formation of capitalism, that Harvey is concerned and it is with that most modernist of theoretical tools, Marxism, that he explores it.
I had always suspected that Marxian analysis still retained more strength than the collapse of Soviet Communism suggested and now I am sure of it. The deliberate employment of a meta-narrative to investigate a movement so opposed to such formations is instructive and Harvey demonstrates how often postmodernists have to fall back on universals in the end. Harvey's main strength is in detailing how the change in the economic practice of capitalism has changed since 1973 and how that has affected social and in turn cultural currents.
While Professor Harvey runs the full gamut of cultural experiences here; art, philosophy, cinema etc he pays especial attention to architecture. He also pays especial attention to the investigation of the experiences of space and time and how these are affected by economics and how they shape cultural feeling. The latter half of this book is in many ways the most difficult as his models operate in a fairly high level of abstraction. However after the initial difficulties of thinking in these terms are overcome this proves to be a very rewarding approach to the issue. I'm not going to pretend that I understood everything here but I understood enough.
This is a book that provides the essential analytic tools and models for operating in a postmodern world even to those for whom the works of Derrida and Foucault hold no appeal at all. Harvey's concerns about the new aesthetic in public life, the dangers of charismatic politics and the resurgence of a narrow geopolitical outlook are equally as pressing now as they were in 1990. In order to see beyond the incestuous breeding of imagery to the realities beyond, increased inequality and big power chauvinism, this is precisely the sort of thing that you need to read. And now I'm off to read Das Kapital.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Postmodernity seen through the lens of political economy, 9 May 2012
By 
M. A. Krul (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Paperback)
David Harvey's 1990 book "The Condition of Postmodernity" has by now likely reached the status of a classic. Little of it is dated for a book now 22 years old, and it remains to be seen whether the current crisis will sound the tocsin for postmodernism as the dominant cultural form of expression of developed capitalism. With that in mind, it is a book much worth reading. Although David Harvey is a geographer, he is often surprisingly adept at art history and cultural interpretation, and this book is a stellar example of this. In the process of understanding the postmodern condition, Harvey leads us from the origins and nature of modernist thought through an excursus on political economic change to an assessment of the flaws of postmodernism as a style of thought. While the argument is rich and many-sided, it essentially has the following flow. Where modernism was the offshoot of the Enlightenment in the period of developed capitalism, seeking to reconcile the individuality of the bourgeoisie with the sense of progress of Enlightenment thought, representing the universal from the particular and the objective from the subjective, the becoming of transformation from the being of space, postmodernism is its opposite: it represents the particular from the universal, the subjective from the objective, and the local, partial, fleeting, and irreducibly particular from the general, the meta, and the universal. This seems a very powerful and valuable way to think about the opposition of the two, although Harvey rightly notes that the two are in their own way attempts to respond to the sense of time-space compression and historical fragmentation resulting from the intensification of competition and accumulation by the ever more full development of capitalism.

Because of this, the middle section of the book leads us into Harvey's analysis of the corresponding change in political economy. He presents us here with the by now familiar story of the Fordist regime of accumulation, with its class compromise, its mass production and economies of scale, and its unionization, to the 'flexible regime of accumulation', with its geographical displacement, its fragmentation of the labor force, and its instantaneous production. As a very general analysis of changes in technology within a capitalist framework, there is a good argument here, but I think much of this traditional story is either wrong or problematic by erroneous emphasis and serious omissions. Harvey is always at his weakest when doing applied political economy (as opposed to economic theory proper), and this shows here. The same story, where I to write it, would focus considerably more on the missing global history dimension, the historical development of the labour aristocracy as the dominant class in the West, the transformation from national to transnational capital within the continuity, rather than rupture, of the forms of production intrinsic to capitalism, and the significance of the global shift of production from the post-imperialist countries to the post-imperialized countries. My view would be much more skeptical than Harvey's about the significance for capitalist accumulation of the changes in technology of communication and production; not because those have not dramatically developed since the 1970s, but because the so-called 'Fordist' regime was always more exception than the rule from a global viewpoint, and was within the West more caused - by historical political developments relating to the rise of the labour aristocracy - than cause. My view would also be much less rosy about the social-democracy that underpinned this 'Fordist' system. This is also not to overdo the super-macro-level effects of the technological changes to capitalism as a mode of production: as Doug Henwood and many others have rightly argued, there is not and will never be such a thing as an 'information economy', a 'knowledge economy', and so forth.

That said, the third part of the book returns to the cultural-political sphere, and is as excellent as the first. Through surprisingly deft and easily intelligible readings of (mainly French) thinkers on ideology and space, Harvey emphasizes the political-ideological consequences of the further compression of space-time resulting from the capitalist technological changes. This in turn, he suggests, produces a further individualization and fragmentation, a massive speeding up of life and a further destabilizing of fixed capital and fixed historical sense of place, so that truly "all that is solid melts into air". Postmodernism then appears as the ideology of individualism and subjectivism turned in on itself, a burrowing into the ground by the middle class now fully individualized and thrown into complete competitive uncertainty. Ironically, Harvey suggests this means the deconstructionist, localist, subjectivist, and counter-narrative projects of postmodernism all really disclose a deep longing for some manner of meaning and stability that can give a sense of place and part to the intellectuals of the Western middle classes. This is not a sneer, because it is a natural enough response, and modernism was also such an attempt in response to the rise of a fully capitalist system in the second half of the 19th century. Whenever competition and loss of symbolic and political power operate, people will seek to find a new ideological ground on which to understand their place in society. The pressures of capitalist individualization will then force these into the local, the subjective, the immediately experienced, and the construction of individual senses of meaning (identities) from the same. It is perhaps the age of the book that leads Harvey to ignore the salient question of the relationship between identity and politics here, when he ends on the high note of wishing to reclaim the modernist project in the name of Marxism (or the Marxist in the name of modernism), but that wish is itself one well worth sharing.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best materialist analysis of postmodernism, 16 Dec. 2000
By 
Martin Holborn (Preston, Lancs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Paperback)
This is the only book which provides a convincing materialist analysis of postmodernism. Only Harvey has convincingly uncovered the economic underpinnings of the fragmented cultures and identities of advanced capitalist societies. This is a truly great book, one of the best contributions to understanding the late twentieth century. It deserves to be recognised as a sociological classic.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A foundational text on the analysis of postmodernity, 15 Mar. 2000
By 
pop95mlt@sheffield.ac.uk (University of Sheffield, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Paperback)
Harvey's book is one of two of the most original analyses of postmodernism (the other being Jameson's Postmodernism). Drawing particularly on the notion of flexible specialisation and a utilisation of the Regulationist approach, Harvey's book contributes to an understanding of the socio-economic foudations of the postmodern condition.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Reading, 12 Jan. 2012
This review is from: The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Paperback)
Any student or scholar who is interested in the reasons of emergence of Postmodernism must read this book by David Harvey. The book is excellent for its discussion of the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism and a detailed debate on the relationship between the two. Excellent book.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing to read, 28 Jun. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Paperback)
prof. harvey`s account on the "conditions of postmodernity" is among the best I've ever read about this buzz word of the 80ies/90ies. In comparison with other works on this topic Harvey's book is comparatively accessible even to non-specialists in philosophy and sociology. The dialectical approach and the discussion of a broad array of topics (arts, architecture, urban planning, economics etc.) is especially amazing. If you once read this book, you will turn to it again and again. Very recommended.
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