- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change Paperback – 14 Oct 1991
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
The Condition of Postmodernity is David Harvey's seminal history of this, our most equivocal of eras. What does postmodernism mean? Where did it come from? Harvey, a Professor of Geography, and a key mover behind extending the scope and influence of the discipline of geography itself, does a thorough job here delineating the passage through to postmodernity and the economic, social and political changes that underscored and accompanied it. As he clearly states, the rise in postmodernist cultural forms is related to a new intensity in what Harvey terms "time-space compression" but this new intensity is a qualitive and not a quantitive change in social organisation and does not point to a era beyond capitalism as "the basic rules of capitalistic accumulation" remain unchanged. Unlike Fredric Jameson (whose equally rewarding Postmodernism stands as the twin pillar to Harvey's critique), who explicitly relies on Ernest Mandel's periodisation of Late Capitalism, Harvey eschews a narrowly economic focus, the limits and contradictions of production that have led to the rise in the service sector, and takes a more multidisciplinary approach to his history: as comfortable discussing Manet as he is labour markets. Harvey is an excellent writer and The Condition of Postmodernity is an exceptionally informative and enjoyable read. Mark Thwaite
"Devastating. The most brilliant study of post–modernity to date. David Harvey cuts beneath the theoretical debates about postmodernist culture to reveal the social and economic basis of this apparently free–floating phenomenon. After reading this book, those who fashionably scorn the idea of a ′total′ critique had better think again." Terry Eagleton
"Few people have penetrated the heartland of contemporary cultural theory and critique as explosively or insightfully as David Harvey." Edward Soja
"David Harvey′s book is probably the best yet written on the link between ... economic and cultural transformations." Financial Times
"David Harvey′s engrossing book is probably the most readable, ambitious, and intelligent work on postmodernism yet published." Voice Literary Supplement
"In Harvey′s skilful hands various strands of contemporary life, normally held far apart by specialized scholarly interests, come together again and are shown to fit with each other ... a marvellous, enjoyable and mind–opening book." Times Literary SupplementSee all Product description
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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.
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.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?