Between Space and Time: Reflections on the Geographical Imagination 1

  • Harvey D
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Abstract

-Marxist interpretation of the historical geography of space & time: -Social life: Durkheim first pointed out that space and time are social constructs; Harvey takes this in two directions: “First, the social definitions of space and time operate with the full force of objective facts to which all individuals and institutions necessarily respond.” i.e., clock time. Even if one is not adhering to it, one is aware of it. “Second, the definitions of objective space and time are deeply implicated in processes of social reproduction.” Space and time are “primary means of both individuation and social differentiation.” With Said’s Orientalism as a great example, acknowledge that naming a geographical entity implies a power over it and the way that places, their inhabitants and social functions are represented. If you challenge what that place “means,” either physically or socially, you are challenging a “fundamental social order.” Capitalism does this through imposing a universal concept of “time discipline” that entrenches capitalist social relations to aid industrial organization, territorial and land rights. Public definition of time and space reflect capitalist manipulation via “rigorous terms.” Capitalists tend to set a “time horizon” based on immediate needs and goals. Others, such as geologists/environmentalists, may see the need to emphasize obligations for future generations/long-term planning. This could potentially lead to “social conflict deriving entirely from the time horizon over which the effect of a decision is held to operate.” This struggle can be seen in any environmental decision and with examples such as improving downtown Baltimore in an effort to distract by “celebrating commodities rather than civic virtues” and competing landscapes of “hierarchy and pure money power with a social space constructed in the image of equality and justice.” Such “controlled spectacles” are produced to “conveniently double as means of capital accumulation and social control (reviving political interest...at a time of greater insecurity).” Harvey believes consumerism, capitalism and money trump all. This ties into the “fetishism of commodities” that allows markets to obscure the true cost and “conceal social (geographical) information and relations.” Harvey asks readers to consider the spacial range involved in procuring commodities (where did your grapes come from?) and cautions that any social conscience should involve this spatial consideration. Fetishism of commodities is then only possible by taking your individual experience as all there is. Time and space are manifested in material goods, and time is the unit of capitalism as labor time is “the measure of value.” Those who react against expansion and consumption are feeling the pressure of a term Harvey coins as “time-space compression.” For Harvey, space and time in modern (Western/industrial/capitalist) society have been heavily dictated by capitalism, from time’s arrangement to indicate labor and value to short-sighted versions of the origins of commodities (spatially and temporally, you cannot see the full story on the surface).

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Authors

  • David Harvey

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