Since 1993, Jeffrey J. Williams has conducted over 50 interviews with contemporary critics, philosophers and writers. The Conversant is pleased to republish a selection of these interviews. This interview with David Harvey took place September 20, 2007 and originally appeared in minnesota review Fall/Winter 2007 (69). Transcribed by Heather Steffen.
Jeffrey Williams: I want to cover the arc of your work and how you went from Explanation in Geography to A Brief History of Neoliberalism. But first, because the readers of minnesota review are largely a cultural studies audience and the book we probably know the best is The Condition of Postmodernity, I want to ask about that. It’s become a canonical theory book explaining the shift in production from Fordism to post-Fordism during the 1970s. How did you come to outline this change to post-Fordism?
David Harvey: I think there were a number of things going on around that time. I was getting irritated by the material coming out in the name of postmodernism, whatever that was. I was finding more and more people talking about it, and I think that, for people like myself who were coming out of a more straight Marxist tradition, you had to face up to either ignoring it or confronting it. At some point or other, I decided I’d confront it and try to reinterpret it. Since it seemed to me nobody really knew what postmodernism was, there was an opening there. But also it seemed to me I was fairly well-equipped because I had written this lengthy study on Second Empire Paris, where I had used people like Baudelaire and Zola and Balzac to help me interpret some of the shift into modernity during that period. So I felt that I had a good grasp on, if you like, the cultural transformations that occurred in Second Empire Paris alongside of the political economy, and I could redeploy it to the contemporary period.