David Harvey (geographer)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Harvey 2013 in Zagreb

David W. Harvey (born October 31, 1935 in Gillingham , Kent ) is an American - British human geographer and social theorist . In 1973 he became a leading proponent of neo-Marxist ideas in geography through his work Social Justice and the City . He has been the most cited geographer in the world since around the early / mid-1980s. Harvey criticizes neo-imperialist developments, which he describes as "accumulation through expropriation".

At the beginning of his work, Harvey's geographical research consisted of regional historical research. Soon after, he turned his interests towards the methodology and philosophy of geography. Since 1969 at the latest, the name Harveys has been associated with the geographical analysis of social justice and the nature of the capitalist system. During this time, Harvey's academic career took him from Cambridge via Bristol to Baltimore (USA). Despite numerous engagements in Oxford or at the London School of Economics and the City University of New York , Baltimore can be considered the scientist's new home. Again and again it is this east coast city, which was previously so characterized by the steel industry and metal processing, that Harvey cites in his numerous publications as an example to illustrate his theses on the development of urban spaces and economic structural change. Harvey himself sees the majority of his work as “devoted to the attempt to understand the process of how capital at a certain point in time forms a geographical landscape in its own image, only to have to later destroy it again in order to have in it its own dynamic of endless capital accumulation to accommodate strong technological change and fierce class struggles . "

Analysis according to Karl Marx 's methodology has always remained the decisive guide for Harvey in his investigations. The justification for this is not based on a superiority inherent in Marx's theory from the outset (even if the avowed Marxist Harvey repeatedly emphasizes his fundamental affection for their demand for change). Rather, the reason is that he cannot find any other way to achieve in his analysis what he has set out to do or to understand what needs to be understood.

Harvey is a member and part of the Provisional Committee of the International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS).


Social processes and spatial forms

The Harvey concept of space

At the beginning of his turn to the exploration of the nature of capitalism, Harvey noted that social processes and spatial forms had previously mostly been treated separately. His aim was to combine the investigation of both aspects. For him, the fundamental object of observation resulted from the fact that no philosophical answers to the question of the nature of spaces are possible. The answers would lie in human practice alone . When it comes to the question of the "social justice" that keeps cropping up in his work, Harvey does not burden himself with a philosophical definition of this term. Rather, he wants to show that concepts of social justice and morality relate to and arise from human practice, instead of referring to the eternal truths of these concepts. Because, according to Marx, every act of observation is already an act of evaluation and a separation of the two ways of looking at things is an artificial distinction that does not actually exist. The concept of space on which Harvey bases his investigations sees space composed of objects that only exist if they contain and represent relationships to other objects. Taken together, all these objects would result in a totality that goes beyond the sum of its individual parts and has an existence independent of these. The totality seeks to align all parts in such a way that they function for the maintenance of the existence and the structure of the whole. Capitalism, for example, seeks to shape all elements and relationships within itself in such a way that capitalism is preserved as an ongoing system.

The "geopolitics of capitalism"

Conditions of capital circulation

For Harvey, the most important prerequisite for the maintenance of the capitalist system is the maintenance of the circulation of capital through the uninterrupted production and marketing of goods with a view to profit . The constant concern in capitalism is therefore the creation of social and physical infrastructure that enable this circulation. According to Harvey, this results in a “geopolitics of capitalism”. Harvey postulates (after Marx) the 10 key points of the circulation of capital:

  1. Ideology of economic growth : The constant increase in the value of the goods produced is inherent in capitalism and takes place regardless of ecological, human or geopolitical consequences.
  2. Growth through the application of human labor in production: Human labor is the exclusive source of value creation .
  3. Profit : Profit grows from the exploitation of labor in production.
  4. Class relations: The separation into buyer and seller establishes class relations of all kinds.
  5. Class struggle: The existence of class relations requires resistance, opposition and conflict.
  6. Technological change: Due to intra-capitalist competition and for better control of labor, capitalism is necessarily technologically dynamic.
  7. Means: Ways must be found to produce and reproduce capital and labor in order to enable the technological dynamics necessary for the survival of capitalism.
  8. The circulation of capital is unstable: the system expands through the exploitation of labor, while technological dynamics drive labor, the true basis of growth, out of production. Growth and technical progress are therefore antagonists, although both are necessary for capitalism. This contradiction results in periodic crises up to the temporary interruption of the circulation of capital.
  9. Over-accumulation : The crises typically show up as a state in which the surpluses of capital and labor necessary for the system can no longer be absorbed.
  10. Devaluation: surpluses that cannot be absorbed into the circulation of capital are devalued or even destroyed.
Establishing an immobile infrastructure

According to Harvey, capitalism faces the problem of having to let its surpluses of capital and labor flow into the capital circulation in order to maintain it and to prevent the devaluation of the surpluses. One possible solution therefore consists in the opening up of new areas by capitalism in which the absorption of capital is not yet endangered by over-accumulation. Capitalism used its possibilities to dispose of space and to make profit from spatial differences. The aim is to achieve a reduction in the time and costs for mobility through technical and organizational progress and thus to achieve ever greater freedom from geographical restrictions for the use of capital. The prerequisite for this, however, is a mobility of capital, which can only be achieved by establishing an immobile infrastructure in the areas to be developed. As an example of such an infrastructure, Harvey cites facilities for (tele) communication, the transport and reproduction of labor as well as the existence of a credit system based on state, financial and legal institutions, a currency policy and security and the necessary services for all Art. In order to guarantee the mobility of capital, part of total capital and total labor is firmly anchored in space in the form of this infrastructure: "The ability [of capital] to overcome space is based on the production of space."

Creation of "regional spaces"

By setting up an immobile infrastructure, the geography of production is divided into different spatial conditions. This creates “ regional spaces ” in which production and consumption, supply and demand, class struggle and accumulation as well as culture and lifestyle are linked within the totality of production factors and social relationships as “ structured coherence ”. With “ revolutions in capitalist forms of organization ” these “ regional spaces ” can become bigger and bigger. By forming states and class alliances (including nationalism), these areas can also achieve a certain degree of stability. According to Harvey, however, a fundamental characteristic of the capitalist system is that the once newly built spaces are sooner or later destroyed and rebuilt by the constant search for new ways of absorbing capital and technological dynamics: “Capitalism is forever striving to be a social and to create a physical landscape according to his own image and to equip it at a certain point in time according to his needs, only to undermine this landscape just as surely at a later point in time, to take it apart or even to destroy it. ”“ The internal contradictions of capitalism are caused by the expressed restless formation and dissolution of geographical landscapes ”.

Potential for conflict

Harvey does not see these constant processes of change running smoothly. Rather, they are always shaped by crises and conflicts. In part, the destructive forces that are set free are the result of measures taken by the affected areas, to which an external solution to their problems could appear to be a way out to save their "structured coherence". In some cases, however, the crisis and destruction are also necessary stages in opening up new spaces and new ways of absorbing capital. Capitalism “buys time”. This is how Harvey interprets the opening up of new spaces for the capital cycle, which in the end, despite everything, must always end in one of the crises inherent in the system. Just like in the 1920s and 1930s, when, as a result of the continued crises of capital and class alliances in the various economic areas or "regional spaces", the global economy began to fragment, which only began in "Golden Age Growth" since the 1950s ended, which Harvey interprets as a phase with above-average successful capital circulation and the opening up of new spaces for capital. On the way there, however, neither the social policy of the New Deal in the USA, let alone the construction of highways in Germany, could prove itself as an aid measure. "It was really the Second World War that brought full employment and new investments."

As a result of this development, the new regions (above all Europe) would have achieved surpluses and therefore started looking for new areas with the possibility of absorbing their profits. Since the areas opened up in the process also developed into fully capitalized economies, it would be a matter of time before they would also be faced with the problem of introducing their surpluses into the capital circulation. Harvey therefore sees the resulting crises and the competition between the rooms inevitably end in another major crisis (such as a third world war) and the destruction of large parts of the created rooms.

Harvey concludes his judgment on the geopolitics of capitalism not all wars are purely capitalist in nature . "But what our theory emphatically demands is that we see the replacement of the capitalist mode of production (...) as a necessary condition for the survival of humanity."

academic career


The honorary doctorate was Harvey by the Universidad de Buenos Aires (1997), the University of Roskilde (1997), the University of Uppsala (2000), the Ohio State University (2004), the University of Lund , the University of Kent (the 2008), the Goldsmiths, University of London , the University of Bristol ( both 2012), the London School of Economics and Political Science (2015) and Charokopio University (2019). He also received u. a. 1989 the Anders-Retzius-Medal in gold of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography and 1995 the Prix ​​Vautrin Lud and the Patron's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society . Harvey is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the British Academy , which awarded him their Leverhulme Medal in 2018 .


  • Explanation in Geography. 1969.
  • Social Justice and the City. 1973.
  • The limits to capital. 1982.
  • The Urbanization of Capital. 1985.
  • Consciousness and the Urban Experience. 1985.
  • The Condition of Postmodernity. 1989.
  • The Urban Experience. 1989.
  • Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference. 1996.
  • Megacities Lecture 4: Possible Urban Worlds. Twynstra Gudde Management Consultants, Amersfoort 2000. ( PDF; 826 kB )
  • Spaces of Hope. 2000.
  • Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001.
  • The New Imperialism. 2003.
  • Paris, Capital of Modernity. 2003.
  • A Brief History of Neoliberalism. 2005.
  • Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. Steiner, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-515-08746-X .
  • Organizing for the anti-capitalist transition . 2010.
  • A Companion to Marx's Capital. 2010.
  • The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism. Profile Books, 2011.
    • Decipher the riddle of capital. Overcoming capitalism and its crises. VSA, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-89965-442-4 .
  • Criticism of capitalism. A pamphlet. VSA, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-89965-527-8 .
  • The urban roots of financial crises. In: Socialist Register . Vol. 48, 2012
    • The urban roots of the financial crisis. Win back the city for the anti-capitalist struggle. VSA, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-89965-965-8 .
  • Rebel cities. From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. Verso, 2012.
    • Rebel cities. From the right to the city to the urban revolution. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-518-12657-8 .
  • A Companion To Marx's Capital, Volume 2. Verso, London 2013.
    • Read Marx's 2nd volume of Capital. A companion for understanding the cycles of capital. VSA, Hamburg 2018, ISBN 978-3-89965-716-6 .
  • Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism. Profile Books 2014.
  • The Ways of the World. Profile Books 2017.
  • Marx and Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason (2017)


  • Noel Castree, Derek Gregory (Eds.): David Harvey: A Critical Reader . Blackwell Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-631-23510-8 .
  • Haug, Wolfgang Fritz: David Harvey's "Companion to Marx's Capital". In: Haug, Wolfgang Fritz: Read the "capital". But how? Materials. The Argument, ISBN 978-3-88619-355-4, pp. 175-198.
  • John Paul Jones: David Harvey: Live Theory . Continuum International Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-8264-6353-3 .
  • Felix Wiegand: David Harvey's Urban Political Economy. Excavations of the future of Marxist urban research . 2nd, corrected edition. Westphalian steam boat, Münster 2016, ISBN 978-3-89691-922-9 .

See also

Web links

Commons : David Harvey  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Henry W. Yeung: Deciphering citations. In: Environment and Planning A. 34 (12), 2002, pp. 2093-2102. The information relates to the period 1981–2002. The Condition of Postmodernity alone . accounts for over half of the citations.
  2. Andrew R. Bodman: Weavers of Influence. The Structure of Contemporary Geographic Research Author (s). In: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 16 (1), 1991, pp. 21-37. In the period 1984–1988, Harvey overtook Brian Berry .
  3. ^ David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001.
  4. ^ A b c David Harvey: Social Justice and the City. 1973 (Introduction)
  5. ^ International Organization for a Participatory Society: Profile: David Harvey
  6. ^ David Harvey: Social Justice and the City. 1973, p. 288f.
  7. ^ David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001, pp. 313-316.
  8. ^ David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001, pp. 325-332.
  9. ^ A b David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001, p. 332.
  10. ^ David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001, p. 333.
  11. ^ David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001, p. 338.
  12. ^ David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001, p. 342.
  13. ^ David Harvey: Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography. 2001, p. 344.