The condition of postmodernity : an enquiry into the origins of cultural change /

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Main Author: Harvey, David, 1935-
Format: Book
Published:Oxford [England] ; Cambridge, Mass., USA : Blackwell, 1990.
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Review by Choice Review

Harvey's work is a "historical materialist" (i.e., neo-Marxist) critique of "cultural production" whose conclusion is that "ethics is indeed submerged by aesthetics" in "crises of overaccumulation" like today's. Cultural life is made arbitrary and trivial by being brought into the "cash nexus" and turned into "electronic reproduction" and "image banks." Postmodernism, whether in literature, or film, or architecture, or politics, tends toward something akin to the deconstructionist "dissolution of all narratives and meta-theories into a diffuse universe of language games" thus "reducing knowledge and meaning to a rubble of signifiers." Yet postmodernist criticism has reinvigorated orthodox Marxism by forcing recognition of the difference that time, place, and circumstance can make, and by thus requiring the elevation of culture to a place of importance in historical materialism. The "otherness" of women, ethnics, and symbolic realities has found its way into Marxism and has updated the old ideology for the struggle with a late capitalism propped up by electronic images. One does not have to be convinced by Harvey's theory that the "time-space compression" of rapid change drives history in order to appreciate his erudition. He clearly deserves credit for guiding readers through the Marxist-postmodernist dialogue that dominates so much of Western European and North American intellectual life at the moment. Moreover, Harvey has (perhaps inadvertently) provided the clearest explanation of what is at stake in bringing together those who oppose ugliness and those who oppose inhumanity: both materialisms, Marxist and capitalist, would become sensitive to what made people interestng to each other in the first place. Indeed, "a counter-attack of narrative against the image, of ethics against aesthetics" would, he believes, not only bring human meaning back into history but restore ecological meaning to the overly mechanized sciences. Colleges, university, and public libraries. T. J. Knight Colorado State University

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