My first memory of David Harvey – How he shared his working draft with MSc students


David Harvey, 2000, Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development

I met David Harvey in person for the first time while auditing his course during my MSc study at the LSE in 1999/2000 academic year. I think the course was simply called “Historical Geographical Materialism” or something similar. It was one of the few courses that sounded anything like Marx at the LSE, and I was drawn towards it. After having had my several years in the private sector after my first degree, I was in thirst of input by progressive scholarship. I did not know David at the time, as I knew few geographers by then. It was a small seminar course, having only about 12-13 students, with discussions for two hours or so each week. Readings included his own work and the works of Gramsci, Lefebvre and more that I cannot remember. If my memory is correct, he used to occupy a small office where he held his office hours. Now that I think of it, it was too small a room for such a figure like David, equipped with fairly empty bookshelves, a desktop and a printer. It wasn’t filled with books, as I presume he was at the LSE at the time on a three-year stint and did not relocate completely. The office is what is numbered as S509 at present, and coincidentally, it happened to be my office during my first year or so as professor at LSE.

One day during the term, he came in with copies of handouts, and he told us it was a working draft of his new paper. I think he was inviting any comments from his students. The draft paper was entitled “Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development”. Another week or two later, he brought a thicker version of the same paper, revsied substantially but still a working version, and this time, its title read “Working Notes Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development”. While clearing an old ring binder from my MSc/PhD period, I came across with the paper copy again, and realised this draft actually was the basis for his 2006 Verso book Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Geographical Development”, first published as Spaces of Neo-liberalization by Franz Steiner Verlag in 2005. As the course took place in the spring of 2000, it must have taken another 4-5 years for the paper to be substantially revised, perhaps presented at several academic occasions, before it came out as a book. The memory of him sharing his paper is still vividly within me, and I appreciated a distinguished professor like David willing to share unpolished version of his drafts and inviting postgraduate students to comment on them.