David Harvey, Marx, Haraway

Yesterday I found the greatest link to DavidHarvey.org. David Harvey is a professor of Geography at CUNY. He’s a Marxist, and a prolific writer (ten books), including one I read called The Condition of Postmodernity, and he’s wicked smart. Every year for the past…who knows how many years, he teaches a course that is a close reading of VOl. I of Capital. Last year, someone recorded his lectures on videos, and now you can see them on his website. I spent two hours today listening to the introduction to the class, which covered a close reading of the first six pages of the book. I took five typed pages of notes. Mostly what Harvey discussed was how to read Marx, using the first section of Chapter 1 as a model. He emphasized repeatedly the dynamism involved in reading Marx’s notion of the commodity as a dialectic of use-value and exchange-value.

Which, of course, got me to thinking about Haraway’s “encounter value” in When Species Meet. She introduces encounter value in chapter 2. After listening to Harvey, I’m wishing that Haraway had done a little more intellectual work with encounter value. I took it simply as the face-to-face (which she uses frequently, but which assumes mediation, I expect) relational value of interacting with other species, i.e., when commodities are lively, fleshy beings that interact back. So, encounter value isn’t a synthesis/third term as either a middle ground or a way to attempt a dialectic approach. And it’s not a deconstruction of the binary of use-value/exchange value. It’s just a casually dropped “value-added” dimension. I wish she’d do a little more explicit work teasing out what it implies for the use/exchange value dialectic when you throw in this third layer/term. I suppose in a way that is what the rest of the book is about — that when commodities are alive, you have to have an encounter value — but thus far she hasn’t really explored the particular point of what this term means to the commodity in the abstract sense. Maybe I will have more to say about this as I progress through both When Species Meets and Capital.

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