David Harvey: Time and space compression
David Harvey discussed the issues of "time-space compression" by explaining the possible meanings of spatialization and spatial practices on aesthetic level, political level, social level, as well the level of everyday life during the transformation during the transformative period from ”Fordist system” to “ flexible accumulation of capital” of capitalism In this essay, I will outline his theory and write critical account by giving examples.
Within this framework drawn from Marxism, he entailed a new round of what he call 'time-space compression in the capitalist world that “the time horizons of both private and public decision-making have shrunk, while satellite communication and declining transport costs have made it increasingly possible to spread those decisions immediately over an ever wider and variegated space" (Harvey,1990 , p.147). Harvey further explained Compression of time and space that "I use the word 'compression' because a strong case can be made that the history of capitalism has been characterized by speed-up in the pace of life, while so overcoming spatial barriers that the world sometimes seems to collapse inwards upon us" (Harvey,1990 , p.240).
There is an episode when Stephen Chau was giving a lecture to his fast food restaurant’s employees about the ideal operation by saying that “ Put the tables as near as possible, chair as narrow as possible, make the French Fries as hot as possible so that they will be thirsty and buy a drink; therefore, make the cup of drinks as small as possible, make the ice as big as possible, make the tube as wide as possible so that people will finish their drink really fast and buy a new one” In his saying, the compression of time and space has been concisely represented.
“Put the tables as near as possible, chair as narrow as possible” implies what the spatial setting should be in a fast food restaurant. Without a doubt, fast food restaurant is the product of capitalism to satisfy people’s speedy lifestyle. In a fast food shop, spatial setting must be, according to Stephan Chau’s movie, as stuffed as possible because “fully utilize” the space is one of the keys to generate space to be capital. Given the fact that the number of visitors is equal to the possible income of a business, therefore, stuffing people together with tight spatial setting can make the space “fully-utilized” so that the total income will be rise along with this logic. In addition, this saying also implies the compression of time. In that episode, Stephan Chau didn’t only smartly adjusted the spatial setting of a fast food shop, he also had the market-sensed of what the food should be represented. To apply the compression of time and space, restaurant operation should not let the visitors staying too long, the more they stay, the slower movement of visitors become and the fewer money transaction on beverage becomes and it will finally cause the lose of income.
Harvey said “Time and space as sources of social power” (Harvey,1990 , p.238), for those who have the social power to manipulate the perception of time and space, they, in a Marxist sense, gain the most power, which means the economic one, in a capitalist mode of society. Money, in this sense, is interlocked with space and time as sources of social power. However,
I am not going to discuss part of aesthetics illustrated by Harvey in this essay, but what I am trying to say is that Harvey brought up a new perspective which is different from classic Marxism that capitalism itself is a self-reflexive system, it means the system would adjust their own momentum of production by managing their time-line and schedule to avoid Marx’s prophecy of “Business crisis”. Moreover, Marx also wouldn’t pay attention to how the transformation of capitalism would influence cultural representation as his two class views have distinguished culture from the economic basis. However, Harvey noticed that “time-space compression and the rise of modernism as a cultural force” which affect the changes the arts representation from time to time.
ReferenceHarvey David, (1990) The Condition of Postmodernity : an enquiry into the origins of cultural change,