David Harvey is rare among Left academics: his work is as much appreciated by anarchists and the Occupy movement as it is by Leninist party organisers. This is partly due to the sheer scope of his interests.
He began his career as a Marxist geographer, and moved quickly towards writing on urbanisation and social justice. He has explored the global history of neoliberalism and the very practical issues of organising revolutionary politics in cities, in Social Justice and the City in 1973 to A Brief History of Neoliberalism in 2005. Perhaps most famously, he has engaged with the endless project of shedding light on Marx’s Capital, via a recorded lecture series on his website (which has this year expanded to include a course on Volume Two), and through works including The Enigma of Capital and A Companion to Marx’s Capital in 2010. In all, he has published over twenty books and shows no signs of slowing.
His latest is Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (2012), a collection of pieces mostly published elsewhere between 2002 and 2010. Though the focus is broader than a conventional academic text, the thread that runs through it (as runs through all of Harvey’s work) is social justice and the city. He addresses the way in which capitalism historically depended on urbanisation to prevent crashes and proposes an idea of the right to the city as an organising principle for a range of campaigns for political power in common life. Examining cases like El Alto in Bolivia and Chongqing in China, he attempts to pin down what might serve as the basis for understanding the city as a place of political power in its own right. The newest writing for the book consists of two very short chapters on recent uprisings; the London riots and the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.
During a brief trip to the UK in May 2012 to discuss Rebel Cities, we met in Soho in the attic archive of Verso, his publisher.