5 comments on “Harvey reminds us on the built environment…

  1. This is interesting, thanks; in my own doctoral research (Victorian history of telephony in the UK) I find myself thinking a lot about the geographies of communication, which often follow transport networks, especially railways. The history of much of the telephone network in the UK is to a large extent the history of the telegraph, which is in turn inextricably entwined with the history of the rail network.

    As a generally curious person as well, I often look around at the built environment and question the social origins of the structures that make up our world. I recently wrote an article about this on my own blog, which you can see here if you are interested: http://michaelakay.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/apply-the-why/. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks again, all the best!

    Michael.

  2. Yes, the railways and the telegraphs do expand together. For me it would be interesting to think the contextual processes driving the rail and telegraph to their geographical extent and their relationship to capitalist expansion of new markets at the turn of the last century. In his most recent book Harvey (Harvey 2012) has a brief statement on this when thinking of China and investments in the built environment when he says that “urban systems typically take a long time to produce and an even longer time to mature…the likelihood of overshooting, as regularly happened with the railways [and telegraphs?] in the nineteenth century and as is shown by the long history building cycles and crashes (including the debacle of 2007-09), is very high.”

    Of course, there are many more aspects to be interpreted and understood on this matter.

    :tg:

    Harvey, David. Rebel Cities: From the right to the city to the urban revolution. New York: Verso. 2012.

  3. Regarding the connections between communication networks and markets, I have found it is impossible to look at the development of the exchange networks in local areas in Britain without noticing the prominence of specific industries based in the region, for example the cotton, wool or corn industries. My thesis is very much focussed on answering the question of who did what where in terms of the growth of telephone use across Britain. I don’t quite understand the point about overshooting; is Harvey implying that development is too fast, and redundencies develop in the system? I’m not sure if this is true in the British case, although it may be more relevant to the situation in China.

    Thanks!

  4. Here is the full quote from Harvey:

    “Urban systems typically take a long time to produce and an even longer time to mature. It is always difficult to determine, therefore, when an over accumulation of capital has been or is about to be transformed into an over accumulation of investments in the built environment. The likelihood of overshooting, as regularly happened with the railways [and telegraphs?] in the nineteenth century and as is shown by the long history building cycles and crashes (including the debacle of 2007-09), is very high.”

    I think is is much better explained in the long quote. It would be interesting to think of this in the context of infrastructural development in its relationship to capitalist expansion of new markets. I would call the 19th century ‘the short nineteenth century’ in reference to Giovanni Arrighi’s ‘long twentieth century.’

    Time space compression (and distension in some places) was in full swing as it has been in the last forty years. In our current context the infrastructural can best be thought of in relation to information and telecommunications and the types of infrastructures developed by the leading capital to expand its activities. These relate to the expansion of information and communication infrastructures as opposed to transportation infrastructures.

    Then again, port capacity is in expansion in many places so the transport phase is not over although the planet is only so big.

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