Postmodern Space, Postcolonial Resistance, '99 -- Postmodernism -- Literary Criticism -- IACD
David Harvey
The Condition of Postmodernity

general views and definitions
postmodern city
The experience of 
space and time
Issues for discussion:
  • What are the possible meanings of spatialization and spatial practices on aesthetic level, political level, social level, as well the level of everyday life?  While being encyclopedic and inclusive, does Harvey ignore the personal spatial practices?
  • Is capital so powerful as Harvey analyzes that politics, the local and tradition cannot really resist it  (e.g. pp. 238-39; pp. 302-)?
  • To quote Harvey, "if, ... , we have lost the modernist faith in becoming. . . , is there any way out except via the reactionary politics of an aesthetized spatiality?  . . . Worse still, if aesthetic production has now been so thoroughly commodified and thereby become really subsumed within a political economy of cultural production, how can we possibly stop that circle closing onto a produced, and hence all too easily manipulated, aestheticization of a globally mediatized politics?" (305)  Doesn't he rule out the possibilities of spatial politics since space is dominated by capital, which collapses all boundaries?

  • Harvey's view of the transition from modernity to postmodernity  : from Fordist-Keynesian system to more flexible accumulation of capital.

      "I broadly accept the view that the long postwar boom, from 1945 to 1973, was built upon a certain set of labour control practices, technological mixes, consumption habits, and configuration of political-economic power, and that this configuration can reasonably be called Fordist-Keynesian.  The break up of this system since 1973 has inaugurated a period of rapid change, flux, and uncertainty.  Whether or not the new systems of production and marketing, characterized by the more flexible labour processes and markets, of geographical mobility and rapid shifts in consumption practices, warrant the title of a new regime of accumulation, and whether the revival of entrepreneurialism and neo-conservatism, coupled with the cultural turn to postmodernism, warrant the title of a new mode of regulation, is by no means clear." (124)

Fordism-- "Ford believe that the new kind of society could be built simply through the proper application of corporate power.  The purpose of the five-dollar, eight-hour day was only in part to secure worker compliance with the discipline required to work the highly productive assembly-line system.  It was coincidentally meant to provide workers with sufficient income and leisure time to consume the mass-produced products the corporations were about to turn out in ever vaster quantities" (126)

  • Flexible accumulation -- "marked by a direct confrontation with the rigidities of Fordism.  It rests on flexibility with respect to labour processes, labour markets, products, and patterns of consumption.  It is characterized by the emergence of entirely new sectors of production, new ways of providing financial services, new markets, and, above all, greatly intensified rates of commercial, technological, and organizational innovation.  It has entrained rapid shifts in the patterning of uneven development, both between sectors and between geographical regions, giving rise, for example, to a vast surge in so-called 'service-sector' employment as well as to entirely new industrial ensembles in hitherto underdeveloped regions . . .  Has also also entailed a new round of what I shall call 'time-space compression'. . . in the capitalist world -- the time horizons of both private and public decision-making have shrunk, while satellite communication and declining transport costs have made it increasingly possible to spread those decisions immediately over an ever wider and variegated space" (147).
    • strong features -- absorption of overaccumulation through temporal displacement: "[a]bsorption of surpluses through accelerations in turnover time" (183); through spatial displacement
  • See pp. 174-79 for the three charts showing the transition from 1) old to new capitalism,  and 2) from organized to disorganized capitalism.  3) Fordism and flexible accumulation
  • Compression of time and space--
    • "I use the word 'compression' because a strong case can be made that the history of capitalism has been characterized by speed-up in the pace of life, while so overcoming spatial barriers that the world sometimes seems to collapse inwards upon us" (240).
    • "The central value system . . . is dematerialized and shifting, time horizons are collapsing, and it is hard to tell exactly what space we are in when it comes to assessing causes and effects, meanings or values" (298).  [e.g. the market place, culinary habits, music, television, entertainment, and cinema]
    • "The interweaving of simulacra in daily life brings together different worlds (of commodities) in the smae space and time.  But it does so in such a way as to conceal almost perfectly any trace of origin, of the labour processes that produced them, or of the social relations implicated in their production" (300)


Part III
The experience of space and time
    I2. Introduction:
    • different senses of time;
    • the emphasis on time by social theory; on space by modern aesthetic theory
    • spatialization and representation p. 206  "Any system of representation, in fact, is a spatialization of sorts which automatically freezes the flow of experience and in so doing distorts what it strives to represent" (206).
    • aestheticization of politics: Heidegger as an example

    13. Individual spaces and times in social life--different spatial approaches to our social existence
    • Hagerstrand pp. 211-12
    • Foucault p. 213
    • De Certeau pp. 213-14 -- (Harvey) "Spaces can be more easily 'liberated' than Foucault imagines, precisely because social practices spatialize rather than becoming localized within some repressive grid of social control" (214)
    • "Symbolic orderings of time and space provide a framework for experience through which we learn who or what we are in society.  'The reason why submission to the collective rhythm is so rigorously demanded.' writes Bourdieu, 'is that the temporal forms or the spatial structures structure not only the group's representation of the world but the group itself, which orders itself in accordance with this representation.'  . . .  Modernization entails, after all, the perpetual disruption of temporal and spatial rhythms, and modernism takes as one of its missions the production of new meanings for space and time in a world of ephemerality and fragmentation."   (215-16)
    • Bachelard  --poetic space 217

    •  Lefebvre pp. 218-
      • Here Harvey uses Bourdieu's habitus to explain the dialectical relationships of the three dimensions of space (of the lived, perceived and imagined).  "The mediating link is provided by the concept of 'habitus' -- a durably installed generative principle of regulated improvisations' which 'produces practices' which in turn tend to reproduce the objective conditions which produced the generative principle of habitus in the first place.  The circular (or cumulative) causation is obvious.
      • Harvey's grid of spatial practices p. 220-21

    • Gurvitch (1964) the meaning of time in social life  "His primary thesis is that particular social formation . . . associate with a specific sense of time.  Out of that study comes an eightfold classification of the types of social time that have existed historically.

    14  Time and space as sources of social power  - money, space and time as interlocking sources of social power.
        the paradox against all social movements:
      "For not only does the community of money, coupled with a rationalized space and time, define them in an oppositional sense, but the movements have to confront the question of value and its expression as well as the necessary organization of space and time appropriate to their own reproduction.   In so doing, they necessarily open themselves to the dissolving power of money as well as the shifting definitions of space and time arrived at through the dynamics of capital circulation.   Capital, in short, continues to dominate, and it does so in part through superior command over space and time, even when opposition movements gain control over a particular place for a time" (238-39).
    15. The time and space of the Enlightenment project  --history of mapping
    • medieval -- emphasize the sensuous;
    • Renaissance -- objective, practical and functional
    • Enlightenment --concerns for both the rational mapping of space and its rational division for purposes of administration

    16 Time-space compression and the rise of modernism as a cultural force  -- [the financial conditions of 1847-8  in Europe as an example of how financial crisis, which lead to the internationalism of money power, is related to crisis of representation in arts (e.g. Manet, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Zola, etc.) ]

    examples of the causes of time-space compression in modern times: transportation (railroad construction), photography, newspaper. "the telephone, wireless-telegraph, X-ray, cinema, bicycle, automobile, aireplane" (264-65)

    e.g. Fordism -- accelerating the turnover time;
    and the first radio signal from Eiffel Tower--collapsing space into a simultaneity of an instant.

    e.g. Art world and cultural constructions --

    • between internationalism and construction of place--> the use of ruins to construct the identity of place (272); aestheticization of local, regional and national politics.
    • between spatial fragmentation and construction of a highly ordered and rationalized world. (e.g. Kandinsky 280)


    17. Time-space compression and the postmodern condition

    • accelerating turnover time in production, exchange and consumption--

    "Speed-up was achieved in production by organizational shifts towards vertical disintegration--sub-contracting, outsourcing, etc.--that reversed the Fordist tendency towards vertical integration and produced an increasing roundaboutness in production even in the face of increasing financial centralization. (Another example--'just-in-time' delivery')

    • changes in consumption p. 285 -- e.g. 1) fashion; 2) services

    * Consequences of the acceleration

    1) volatility and ephemerality of fashions, products, production techniques, ....(285-
    2) the 'throwaway' society (286) --transience and sensory overload
    3) short-term planning --> schizophrenic mentality, addiction to work, etc.
    4) manipulation of taste and opinion: "Advertising increasingly geared to manipulating desires and tastes through images that may or may not have anything to do with the product to be sold."

    • image culture 288; (e.g. brand image, personal image)
      • "Given the pressures to accelerate turnover time (and to overcome spatial barriers), the commodification of images of the most ephemeral sort would seem to be a godsend from the standpoint of capital accumulation, particularly when other paths to relieve over-accumulation seems blocked.  Ephemerality and instantaneious communicability over space then become virtues to be explored and appropriated by capitalists for their own purposes."
    • the rapid increase of artists, and "transmitters" of culture
    • novelists (e.g. Calvino) --have to deal with the accelerating turnover time and the rapid write-off of traditional and historically acquired values. (291)


    * simulacra of memory -- home becomes a private museum to guard against the ravages of time-space compression.

    Spacial collapse of boundaries -- e.g. TV images

    Consequences: 1) destruction of the power of uninon; 2) new industrial ensembles (294); 3) the reaffirmation and realignment of hierarchy in global urban system;4) the emphasis on place and tradition 295

    • reaction against internationalism (time-space compression)
      1. place-bound identity

      2. "In clinging, often of necessity, to a place-bound identity, however, such oppositional movements become a part of the very fragmentation which a mobile capitalism and flexible accumulation can feed upon.  'Regional resistances,' the struggle for local autonomy, place-bound organization, may be excellent bases for political action, but they cannot bear the burden of radical historical change alone" (303).  [another force: commodification of tradition] --Cf. 鹿港 的「歷史之心」事件
      3. the search to construct place and its meanings qualitatively.

      4. "Capitalist hegemony over space puts the aesthetics of place very much back on the agenda. . . The construction of such places, the fashioning of some localized aesthetic image, allows the construction of some limited and limiting sense of identity in the midst of a collapse of imploding spatialities" (303).
        [Do we then give up constructing the local?]