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The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,935 ratings  ·  70 reviews
A great deal has been written on what has variously been described as the postmodern condition and on postmodern culture, architecture, art and society. In this new book, David Harvey seeks to determine what is meant by the term in its different contexts and to identify how accurate and useful it is as a description of contemporary experience.

But the book is mu
Paperback, 378 pages
Published 1992 by Wiley-Blackwell (first published 1989)
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Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Deepest book you've ever read. I read Harvey's 'Enigma of Capital' and was astonished by the depth of knowledge he commands, so I knew this book couldn't be terrible, and wow, it was intense. So, onto the review.. having established that the man knows his Capital, he perhaps has more detail and logical/rational arguments to expound on the relation between economics and culture than his more literary counterparts-- like Jameson in 'Postmodernism, or the logic of late capitalism.' I've read some o ...more
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
In the past, I have tried to talk about capitalism – with friends, family members, acquaintances and all kinds of people who are more or less unfamiliar with comparative politics – as a totality, without explicitly saying that, “We must view capitalism as an all-encompassing system, and not merely a few trade policies, laws, and practices.” Any time one broaches the topic of capitalism (unintentionally invoking a sticky web of other words ending in –ism, like socialism, communism, sexism, racism ...more
Dec 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: leftwing-theory
Part of the subgenre wherein surly marxist subjects postmodernism to critique, as does Callinicos in Against Postmodernism or Habermas in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity or Jameson in Postmodernism, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.

Focus here however is on how transformations in the material base determine superstructures such as ‘postmodern’ practices and doctrines. The breakdown of fordist-keynesian relations of production is the key for Harvey, who finds a compression in time and space associated with the n
Chelsea Szendi
May 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
The question is: if Ernest Mandel defined "late capitalism" as the result of technological changes that occurred in 1945, and Fredric Jameson sees the "cultural logic of late capitalism" - postmodernity - emerging in the 1970s, what explains the lag? Harvey offers a discussion of the recession of 1973, the crisis of overaccumulation that faced Fordism, and the birth of a new regime of "flexible accumulation."

Good historical materialism that puts the economy first. For a political tak
Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A. Synopsis: The argument here is that there has been a sea change in cultural, political and economic practices since 1972. There is a relationship between the rise of (1) postmodernist cultural forms, (2) the emergence of flexible modes of capital accumulation, and (3) the new ways in which we experience space-time (Simultaneity and space-time compression). But these three changes, when set against the basic rules of capitalism appear more as shifts in surface appearance than signs of the emer ...more
Jared Colley
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I thought to add this book after briefly reviewing Peter Gay's book on Modernism.

The word 'Postmodernism' has become an empty signifier. It is a misused and abused term that more often serves the purposes of academic rhetoric than that of informative description of certain historical states of affairs. I mean how many times do we hear this word used to modify various things?

This book does a good job crystalizing the term and making clear what this word 'refers' to in history. Part of the reaso
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: studied
Brilliant book.
I've only read a few select chapters but this book is brilliant and an easily digestible academic text.
Harvey discusses the city in relation to postmodernity a lot and I think this will be very useful for one of my modules next semester so will be returning soon.
Billie Pritchett
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: david-harvey
David Harvey's The Condition of Postmodernity is a difficult book and by no means a perfect book. Still, for its ability to explain so much, it is a great book. Harvey explains what postmodernism means and why it makes sense to talk about the current epoch as the postmodern age.

Harvey takes up Fredric Jameson's definition of postmodernism as "the cultural logic of late capitalism" and spends the rest of the book explaining what that would mean. Late capitalism is the Marxist designation for the f
Vern Glaser
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
this is a very intriguing book that explores the nature of the changes in culture and society that we are currently experiencing from different perspectives - from art, architecture, economics, etc. His basic idea is that technological advances cause the world to become compressed in the dimensions of space and time, and that this compression fundamentally changes the nature of social relationships, power structures, etc.

Is worth reading, although if you don't have a business/economics backgrou
Sep 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: critical-theory
there is a certain kind of rigid tedium to harvey's argument, reflected in the tripartite structure (modernity to postmodernity in contemporary culture, political economy, experience of space and time), though plenty of interesting material within each part.

second-edition addendum to one chapter saying 'postmodern feminists' didnt get it - okay then?

i dont want to say 'ay yo dre, stick to producing' but i like it better when he just talks about capital!
Brandon Held
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Although Harvey's cultural depictions of "Postmodern" (and I am always skeptical of classifying anything as "post" something) art and cinema seem a bit dated now in 2014, Harvey's temporal/spatial understandings in a globalized hyper-capitalist society ring true. One of great neo-Marxists of the 20th/21st century.
Parenthetical Grin
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a go-to book for anyone wanting to understand the political and economic shifts circa 1973-74: the shift away from Fordism (Keynesianism) and the rise of neoliberalism (or, in Harvey's terms, the shift toward the regime of flexible accumulation).
Oct 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing

Seriously great.
Shibin Joseph
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
David Harvey’s theme in this work is a critique of postmodernisms inability to go beyond the Metanarratives. Postmodernism failed to give an alternate way of life as it relied on superficial elements of experience originating from modernism. Modernity with its totalizing themes and Metanarratives destroyed and constructed cultural artifacts.
Harvey gives a detailed review of the postmodern aesthetics which is rooted in the currents of capitalism. Harvey concludes that postmodernism is just an ex
Onur özcan
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
It is like a documentary of the history of capitalism and Marxism based on various points of views throughout the years. His originality stems from his understanding of the concepts of space and time as not something static, but dynamically changing by means of materially shifted conditions. This is, I think, a brilliant idea that can be addressed and studied. However, a typical accusation towards postmodernism, which may be kind of inefficient generalization, may lead us to disregard various pr ...more
E. C. Koch
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Harvey is definitively on the materialist side of the aestheticist/materialist divide within the postmodern conversation. So materialist is he that his treatment of postmodernism required lengthy piano-tuning in the form of a detailed history of modernization of Western society and economies, Fordism, and market practices circa the late-eighties, all of which is academically valuable and none of which interests me. On the occasions when he treated of aesthetic concerns Harvey focused mostly on a ...more
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
A difficult reading of postmodernity from a conservative post-Marxist theoretician. Great anyway. It has nothing to do with literary works though, just pure postmodernism
Scott Hebenstreit
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was hard work getting through this book, but in many ways it was worth it. I've really appreciated Harvey's work so far.
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: u-s-a, europe
An important argument made in this book. A little dated at this point. I like his history of neoliberalism better.
May 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The book was gifted to me on the day of my graduation by my professor after Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism was central to my senior thesis. Its probably an appropriate stepping stone from my studies as an undergraduate and my possible future as a graduate student. The finishing of the book is the culmination of a year and a half of inconsistent reading and a broadened perspective.

It is my academic introduction to historical materialism, which I've only seen previously from afar. Its ce
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing

The first quarter presents an objective historical and theoretical context packed with concise references. From the emergence of the Market we see an ending of Realism as Modernism emerges: industrial functionality replaces the agricultural dependency upon the whims of nature. Intellectual rationalisation replaces superstition whilst a collective secular mythology brings hope and engenders meaning within the new modern world. But through the capitalistic nature of accumulation and over-accumulat
Oct 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Ok, so I just read the chapters relevant to my interests (there's a lot of stuff about architecture and econimics that I skipped), but I basically picked up this book because darn it, I'm sick of only having the vaguest ideas of what "modernism" and "postmodernism" mean in terms of literature. I went back to my college Norton's anthologies the other day, looking for explanations for these movements, and discovered that I never took a class, at least with Norton, that went past, oh, 1915! So I gu ...more
Perez Malone
Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
David Harvey holds your hand as you explore the complexities of Postmodernism, a term that is getting used more and more frequently. While this book is too old to explore the postmodern qualities of Hanna Montana (a subject I overheard being discussed at a party once), it does seem remarkably fresh. I especially enjoyed how Harvey seems to predict the future when he discusses the financial collapse of 1987 and relatively small impact it had: "re-scheduling the crisi-tendencies of capitalism into ...more
Feb 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
David Harvey holds your hand as you explore the complexities of Postmodernism, a term that is getting used more and more frequently. While this book is too old to explore the postmodern qualities of Hanna Montana (a subject I overheard being discussed at a party once), it does seem remarkably fresh. I especially enjoyed how Harvey seems to predict the future when he discusses the financial collapse of 1987 and relatively small impact it had: "re-scheduling the crisi-tendencies of capitalism into ...more
Alexander Craghead

This overview of Modernism and Post-Modernism was a useful overarching view of what these movements stood for in an ideological perspective. The chapters on architecture and later on space were useful in thinking about built form and style, however, this book focuses largely on economics and large-scale political and ideological movements.

Overall, I wonder if it is biased too much to a Eurocentric viewpoint. It rests much of Modernism on the European revolutions of the late 1840s, a period wi
An amazing study of the post-modernist cultural turn in terms of Marxist historical materialism, that is to say in relation to the evolution of the capitalist mode of accumulation that occurred in the 1970s.

David Harvey shows very clearly that post-modernism isn't a radical and progressive turn due a reaction to the imperfection modernism, but the cultural form induced by capitalist flexible accumulation.

While progressive in a few ways, post-modernist views are just the l
I don't know.
I had a difficult time deciding between three stars and four stars. I hate economics, and David Harvey is all about postmodern economics in this book. Still, there is some good stuff in it, like time-space compression, which is not near as Star Trekkie as it sounds.
What bumped the rating down to three stars for me was chapter 18: "Time and Space in the Postmodern Cinema." The chapter just seemed stuck on to the end of Part III. Plus, Benjamin Walter does such a better job wit
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was tempted to rate this book higher, but finally I had to go with 3.5. The first portion is a really excellent summary of Modernism and Postmodernism as basic philosophic, aesthetic, literary, and cultural principles, but then the next two sections (the majority of the book) focus on the economic and spatio-temporal shifts that have defined Modernity, and less so on the shifts that have defined Postmodernity. He does talk about the latter stage, but one of his unresolved questions in the book ...more
Matěj Bregant
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: you
Harvey's book is a tough nut - it takes into account art, architecture, economy, and even literature here and there. It is a enthralling book and save for a large part of Part III, which deals with the concepts of time and space and gets rather heavy handed with all the philosophy, it is a great ride. It is unapologetically marxist and Harvey's constant fanboying over Capital is somethimes tiring but he makes some great points. His chapters on the Reagan administration and his economic programme ...more
Tohru Iokibe
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the biggest breakthroughs in my life. The concept of "heterotopia" (as opposed to "utopia" which implies there is only one "Truth")was something I was looking for. Deconstructionism, post-structralism, whatever you want to call it is well covered in this book. These concepts help me control my thought process and allows me to have an objective view of the situation. I am able to "map" the facts so that I can objectify the subject(s) in front of me. I miss those days back in Grad ...more
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David Harvey (born 1935) is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A leading social theorist of international standing, he graduated from University of Cambridge with a PhD in Geography in 1961. He is the world's most cited academic geographer (according to Andrew Bodman, see Transactions of the IBG, 1991,1992), and the author ...more
“The common-sense notion that 'There is a time and place for everything' gets carried into a set of prescriptions which replicate the social order by assigning social meanings to spaces and times.” 8 likes
“The reduction of experience to 'a series of pure and unrelated presents' further implies that the 'experience of the present becomes powerfully, overwhelmingly vivid and "material": the world comes before the schizophrenic with heightened intensity, bearing the mysterious and oppressive charge of affect, glowing with hallucinatory energy' (Jameson, 1984b, 120). The image, the appearance, the spectacle can all be experienced with an intensity (joy or terror) made possible only by their appreciation as pure and unrelated presents in time. So what does it matter 'if the world thereby momentarily loses its depth and threatens to become a glossy skin, a stereoscopic illusion, a rush of filmic images without destiny?' (Jameson, 1984b). The immediacy of events, the sensationalism of the spectacle (political, scientific, military, as well as those of entertainment), become the stuff of which consciousness is forged.” 1 likes
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