on 25 November 2003
Any new book by David Harvey is most welcome in this geographers' house, but I feel this book is a letdown in comparison to the old masters' venerable collection of works. Having now returned to his focus on what 'uneven spatial development' means under advanced capitalism, Harvey suggests what the US is seeking to do in Iraq is achieve economic hegemony through its control over oil. Nothing too revelatory there. Choosing to wade through US foreign policy gives the current war context, but doesn't add to the debate. The chapter entitled 'capital bondage' is a wonderfully simplified runthrough of his understanding of the logics of capital and the state, and hugely helpful if you have never come across it before. The substance of his argument (and thus the book) arrives when he unveils his 'accumulation by dispossession' principle, which suggests that Iraq is simply the backdrop to capital's most basic instinct: imperialist adventure when capital surplus accumulates. As such he is not adding much to the traditional Leninist view. Indeed, the new imperialism, he suggests within, is much like the old imperialism. His depth of knowledge about geopolitical outcomes, though, does present us with potential avenues of thought. Towards the end he talks about the tensions surrounding style of civil society political resistance to imperialism, and what the potential results of Bush's adventure will be, providing useful food for thought. Overall the book doesn't sit very well, and you would be hard pressed to suggest that the content is value for money. But as an introduction to his work in relation to current events I can see this book being a helpful tool, and it does highlight the centrality of controlling spatial relations in economic and political actions.