David Harvey's symptomatic silence



Publication Details

Castree, N. (2006). David Harvey's symptomatic silence. Historical Materialism: research in critical Marxist theory, 14 (4), 35-57.


After three decades of relentless erudition, one might expect David Harvey's writings to peter out inexiguous fragments and glosses. Yet The New Imperialism possesses the almost athletic rational energy of his best books (like The Limits to Capital). Written with characteristic self-assurance, its five chapters confirm the massive intellectual consistency of a figure who first turned to Marxism with great elan in the early 1970s. Though a conjunctural analysis, the book is grounded in Harvey's long-standing anatomisation of 'the molecular processes of capital accumulation in time and space'.2 When wedded to a theory of how national states seek to secure their various interests on a world stage, this understanding of capitalism's inveterate tensions defines the field of possibility and constraint within which contingent decisions have created our current geo-economic and geopolitical realities. Since this field is inescapable - short of capitalism's dissolution - then, for Harvey, it is also the necessary reference-point for figuring out how to go forward from here to create a saner, more just future. Quite how clairvoyant Harvey's prognostications are remains to be seen. But his diagnostic judgements about why our global political economy has taken an 'imperial (re)turn' will likely remain of interest even after events have moved on. For it is precisely their grounding in a conception of those necessary processes that undergird non-necessary happenings that will, perhaps, prevent The New Imperialism from dating in a way other books on the same topic undoubtedly will.

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