Spaces of Hope

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David Harvey. Spaces of Hope (2000) original book cover.
David Harvey. Spaces of Hope (2000) original book cover.

Harvey, David. (2000). Spaces of Hope. Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

[title alludes to Raymond Williams. Resources of Hope].

Republished by Stanford University Press.

Optimism of the intellect

Chapter 1: The difference a generation makes

"One of the several strange and unanticipated results of this [cultural studies] movement has been the transformation of Gramsci's remark on 'pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will' into a virtual law of human nature...a powerful inhibitor to action was [/is] the inability to come up with an alternative to the Thatcherite doctrine that 'there is no alternative'... The inability to find an 'optimism of the intellect' with which to work through alternatives has now become one of the most serious barriers to progressive politics." (p.17).

The insurgent architect at work

Ch.12: "The insurgent architect at work"

"Imagine ourselves as architects, all armed with a wide range of capacities and powers, embedded in a physical and social world full of manifest constraints and limitations. Imagine also that we are striving to change that world. As crafty architects bent on insurgency we have to think strategically and tactically about what to change and where, about how to change what and with what tools. But we also have somehow to continue to live in this world. This is the fundamental dilemma that faces everyone interested in progressive change.

    "But what kind of world are we embedded in? We know that it is a world full of contradictions, of multiple positionalities, of necessary flights of the imagination translated into diverse fields of action, of uneven geographical developments, and of highly contested meanings and aspirations. The sheer enormity of that world and its incredible complexity provide abundant opportunities for the exercise of critical judgement and of limited freedom of the individual and collective will. But the enormity of apparent choice and the divergent terrains upon which struggles can be conducted is perpetually in danger of generating a disempowering confusion (of the sort that globalization, for example, has strongly promoted). Furthermore, it appears impossible to avoid unintended consequences of our actions, however well thought out. How are we to cut through these confusions and build a different sense of possibilities while acknowledging the power of the constraints with which we are surrounded?"

The right to the production of space.

"My own preferred short-list of universal rights worthy of attention runs as follows: [...]

9. The right to the production of space

The ability of individuals and collectivities to 'vote with their feet' and perpetually seek the fulfillments of their needs and desires elsewhere is probably the most radical of all proposals. Yet without it there is nothing to stop the relative incarceration of captive populations within particular territories. If, for example, labor had the same right of mobility as capital, if political persecution could be resisted (as the. a~u~n.t and privileged have proven) by geographical movement, and if individuals and collectivities had the right to change their locations at will, then the kind of world we live in would change dramatically (this principle is stated in Article 14 ofthe UN Declaration). But the production of space means more than merely the ability to circulate within a pre-ordained spatially structured world. It also means the right to reconstruct. spatial relations (territorial forms, communicative capacities, and rules) in ways that turn space from an absolute framework of action into a more malleable relative and relational aspect of social life."

Appendix: Edilia, or 'Make of it what you will'

"It will doubtless surprise you to know that by 2020 the revolution was over. In just seven years society underwent such a radical restructuring that it became unrecognizable....

   "The basic unit of habitation is called a hearth. It is comprised of anywhere between twenty and thirty adults and whatever children are attached to parenting collectives called pradashas (on which more anon) within it. Each hearth forms a collective living arrangement organized as a common economy for mutual self-support.

"The members of the hearth eat and work together, arriving at collective decisions as to how to organize themselves internally and how to 'make a living' through exchanges with other hearths. A neighborhood comprises some ten or so hearths and a larger organizational unit, called an edilia, loosely coordinates activities across two hundred or more hearths (roughly sixty thousand people). The largest continuous political unit is a regiona comprising anywhere from twenty to fifty edilias (at most three million people). The aim is for this to form a bioregion of human habitation that strives to be as self-sufficient as practicable, paying close attention to environmental problems and sustainabilities.

   "Beyond this there is the nationa, which is a loosely organized federation of regionas collected together for purposes of mutual barter and trade. It typically comprises at least a couple of regionas in each of the tropical, subtropical, temperate, and sub-arctic parts of the world respectively with a similar diversification between continental and maritime, arid and wellwatered regionas. The statutes of federation are periodically renegotiated and regionas sometimes shift from one nationa to another as they see fit. Furthermore, new nationas can form at will while others dissolve so there is no fixed scale of population nor even any fixed political organization beyond the statutes of federation...."

"Whole city blocks have been converted. Entrances have been punched through dividing walls among the row houses or, in the case of detached housing and sprawling suburbs, walkways and infill rooms have been constructed between the already existing structures to link them into a continuous unit of high-density habitation (liberating some formerly sprawling suburban tracts for intensive cultivation). Larger spaces have been carved out as the common kitchens and eating halls but everyone has their own private room equipped with some basic equipment and within which they are free to use their space as they wish.

  "Several hearths are linked together around a neighborhood center that houses both general educational and health care functions. In some nstances we have adapted older town and even city centers to these tasks (though our virulent opposition to any structure higher than four or at most seven storeys meant major transformations in urban design from what used to be called the West). Elsewhere, particular traditional forms and ways of life have been adapted as need be to the new circumstances. Neighborhoods are also points of intense social interaction and entertamment (the edilia's centralized store of videos and recordings can here be tapped into at will).

  "The sheltered areas within the reorganized city blocks are mostly converted into walled gardens - with a few appropriate play-spaces for children and restful arbors for adults - in which all manner of intensive cultivation occurs (producing fruits and vegetables galore) supplemented by glass houses and hydroponic cultivation systems that guarantee a yearround supply of everything from salad vegetables to excellent h1gh quahty marijuana (the main recreational drug of choice).

   "Urban agriculture and gardening is a prominent feature (some derehct land in New York City was used this way in your day). This has both a social as well as an economic significance since many people evidently take pleasure in such activities. On pleasant days the gardens become a venue for a lot of socializing and 'spirit talk.'

  "Composting of organic wastes is combined with an adaptation of an ancient Chinese system of night-soil circulation (a triumph of bio-chemical engineering) so that nutrients are re-cycled on both a neighborhood and edilia basis. You doubtless remember Victor Hugo's comment that 'the history of civilization lies in its sewers' - well; we present our system as evidence of a society well on the way to forming a radically different kind of civilization!

   "The roofs of the habitations are adorned with solar panels and small wind sails...Powerful batteries store energy in basement areas supplemented by an elaborate system of fuel cells...A variety of other local sources of energy are likewise mobilized."

  "Hearths also acquire fame and reputation according to the generosity and sophistication of the hospitality they offer. The reciprocal exchanges that take place between them in this way have become a vital aspect of social and political life. Competition with respect to generosity towards others is an important value."

"Some production activities are orchestrated via the nationa. We speak here of things like electronics, silicon chips, metal working, engineering, transportation, communications systems, and textile fiber production. Such sectors are highly automated and require little labor. They are usually organized to combine economies of scale with economies of scope and are able to switch gears quickly from one category of product to another (e.g. silicon chips for different purposes or electronic equipment of different sorts).

"There is, therefore, a strong element of what you once condemned as 'undemocratic centralized planning' (dismissed as 'socialistic' or 'communistic'). Much of this planning is to be found at the regiona level and it plays a key role in mixing the need for order in production with the desire for localized disorder as a seedbed for cultural renewal."