David Harvey is a Marxist thinker and geographer whose extensive life work exposes the inner workings of capitalism with the aim of inspiring radical thought and politics. A British-born scholar, with a PhD in geography from Cambridge University, he is currently a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He served on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University and held the Halford Mackinder Chair in Geography at Oxford for several years, and he has been affiliated with several institutions around the world, including the London School of Economics, Tongji University in Shanghai, and Ecuador’s National Strategic Center for the Right to Territory (CENEDET). He has profoundly unsettled both the discipline of geography with Marxist social theory, and Marxist social theory with concepts of place, space and scale. And he is unrivalled as an authority on Karl Marx and the continued relevance of his thought for today’s world.
A proponent of “rights to the city”, Prof. Harvey has motivated generations of activists and scholars to envision alternatives to capitalist ways of living and organizing the world. He is the author of more than two dozen books and many more articles. Prof. Harvey does not limit his contributions to his many and immeasurably influential publications, nor to the academic institutions where he teaches. He reaches thousands around the world through podcasts and free online courses in Marxist thought, radical geography, and revolutionary possibilities. His countless engagements, including his courses and books on “Reading Marx’s Capital”, have, to borrow Naomi Klein’s words, “inspired a generation of radical intellectuals”. His recent public lectures on imperialism and neoliberalism explain in clear terms how global finance, together with fascist political currents, govern in the interest of the financial elite and not in the interest of everyday people. As he warns of the cruel synergy behind the fascist grip of capitalism’s planetary expansion, he dedicates himself to inspire youth around the world to raise a “new voice” of leftist politics and innovative radical thought.
To see Prof. Harvey in action, one must attend his public talks, where he inspires enormous crowds and across generations to think as a revolutionary. As those moments attest, his ideas resonate with teenagers and octogenarians, with professors and students, with household managers and with labour unions and undocumented workers in informal economies around the world. “We have a duty, those of us who are academics, to actually change our mode of thinking”, he regularly reminds. The “academic” for Prof. Harvey is a critical thinker – no credential is necessary, only the dedication and courage to think beyond the capitalist shackles on our imaginations. Revolution, for Prof. Harvey, beings with a way of thinking dedicated to social justice, no matter the cost. “Let’s get capitalism out of our heads!” as our first step, he explains, toward the revolutionary making of a world that values humanity and a thriving planet.
Melissa W. Wright, Pennsylvania State University, May 2020