David Harvey Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

A Geographer's Perspective on the New  American Imperialism: Conversation with David Harvery, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, CUNY; March 2, 2004, by Harry Kreisler

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Scenarios for the Future

One final question. I'm curious how you would advise students to prepare for the future. In this conversation, it's been very interesting to see how geography and Marxism have come together in your work to address issues and frame them in different ways and so on. Clearly, Marxist analysis, with the end of the Cold War, may have gotten something of an unfair rap with regard to the tools it can bring. But comment a little as a geographer, and somebody who does Marxist analysis; how should students think about their own future and prepare for it?

There are a number of scenarios. The world could dissolve very fast, and these things can happen very quickly. It can dissolve into regional factions which are very antagonistic to each other. I've already mentioned China, Russia, India, and Brazil in an alliance with other countries against the United States and against Europe. You can also see East and Southeast Asia building their own regional configuration, which could potentially be very antagonistic to the United States and to Europe. So the world could dissolve into almost warring regional factions unless you watch out. One of the big issues is, how do we devise the politics that's going to stop that?

I also see the situation that if the U.S. is no longer as dominant in the world as it once was, maybe people in this country should accept that, and accept that now they're just one player amongst many, and ask themselves the question: "In what way can we play a benevolent, beneficial role -- a healing role in this whole global situation in relationship to global poverty, global environmental degradation?" Ask ourselves how we can do that in a constructive way, rather than simply saying, "The United States is number one, and we're going to do everything to maintain it as number one, and capital is sacrosanct and cannot be touched." I think we have another issue.

One of the ways to think about this is precisely to think about how politics and geography should go together. Our strategy has to be about thinking of the geographical issue: What is going on in India? What is going on in environmental degradation in Brazil? What is going on in China? And then to think about an alternative positionality of the U.S. body politic in global relations.

So this is what I would recommend that people think [about]. It doesn't mean you're necessarily going to be committed to Marxist politics at all; what it says is that there are issues are there, they're not going to go away, and you better pay attention to them, because if you carry on business as usual, I'm sorry, but business is not going to be as usual, it's going to be a very difficult next ten years no matter what way you think of it.

What the U.S. does is rather crucial, because it can engage in either catastrophic actions or constructive actions. There's a long history of thinking in Marxism about the notion of creative destruction, that in order to create something you have to destroy something. Well, the U.S. can be very good at destroying things. The big questions is what is it going to create, and how is it going to create it? And who is it going to create it with, because it can't just simply create the world in its own image anymore. That is gone.

David, on that note about the future, and the way to avoid the pitfalls of the future that we might create unintentionally, thank you very much for joining us today, and sharing with us this fascinating intellectual odyssey.

Thank you.

And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

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