Spaces of Hope – HARVEY

HARVEY, David. Spaces of Hope. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. 293p. Resenha de: DARLING, Linda Farr. Canadian Social Studies, v.36, n.1, 2002.

Spaces of Hope is by no means the first book in which Geography Professor David Harvey has thoughtfully and dynamically discussed the themes of economic equality, social justice, and urban experience. (Beginning with Social Justice and the City in 1973 through to Justice, Nature and the Geography of Difference in 1996, these have been powerful themes in Harvey’s many books). Nor is it the first time he has brought Marx to the foreground of his analysis of the human condition. As Harvey explains in the first chapter of Spaces of Hope, he has been teaching Capital for thirty years, and Marxist theory may well have more relevance now, in the Age of Globalization, than it ever did, despite its present unpopularity. Spaces of Hope is not simply about revisiting places Harvey has gone before; it is an invitation for all of us to participate in the architecture of a wholly new way of life. To do this we need more than understanding of where we are now with regard to political, social, and economic failures that define our cities and towns, and in fact, our entire earthly environment. We need social vision and political will.

The first five chapters provide a stunning explanatory backdrop of the human condition, the units of analysis being as micro as the individual self and as macro as the globe. Harvey’s range is wide; from the application of Marxist theory to problems of postmodernity, to a conceptual analysis of globalization, to a discussion of the dilemmas we have faced since articulating universal human rights in 1946. In the sixth and seventh chapters (Part Two) he turns to the recent resurrection of ancient interest in the body as the irreducible locus for the determination of all values, meanings and significations (p. 97). Yet even crossing such a range, Harvey rarely leaves the reader breathless; his pace is measured and his approach to the journey is companionable and largely conversational. I did find several points of disagreement along the way. For example, I question Harvey’s willingness to view as much as he does through the Marxist lens; there are important reasons many academics stopped enthusiastically embracing this perspective, reasons into which Harvey does not delve.

The eighth chapter begins the section of the book Harvey calls, The Utopian Moment. Baltimore, an awful mess (p. 133) of a city, is the case study that brings into sharp relief the analyses he walks us through in Parts One and Two. Accompanied by a few well-chosen photographs, Harvey’s descriptions of Baltimore are both arresting and insightful. (They provide, in fact, a useful template for teaching about case studies of place.) By the time he opens our eyes to the array of utopian visions that have been created through history, we are well-aware of the great (unbridgeable?) divide between ideals of public space and the crumbling, gritty realism of urban life. Yet Harvey does not abandon us in the decay and the ruins, or even in the soulless suburbs of Baltimore that are eating into the countryside. Part Four is all about possible versions of the future and even, though it’s wrapped in a cautionary tale of risk and uncertainty, hope for change. Once again he leads us back to Marx:

What Marx called the ‘real movement’ that will abolish the ‘existing state of things’ is always there for the making and for the taking. That is what gaining the courage of our minds is all about (p. 255).

The courage of our minds is found in collective deliberation, participation in the construction of spaces of hope using (among other resources) every dialogical tool we have at our disposal. Harvey does not provide a blueprint, but an invitation to participate in the construction. What makes his invitation persuasive is that he has brought us to a place where alternatives to this work seem decidedly bleak. And the appendix (which can be read on its own as allegory) will spark many a conversation about just what spaces might be created, hopeful or otherwise.

Linda Farr Darling – University of British Columbia.

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