Although well into it, I have not yet finished my study of this wonderful exposition of and commentary on vol. 1 of Marx's CAPITAL, which have indeed motivated me to restudy the three volumes of Marx's great masterpiece. Among the many good things in Harvey's book are his various discussions of dialectic, especially in his chapter 7, "What Technology Reveals". In this chapter Harvey unpacks Marx's footnote 4 in chapter 15 of Cap., v. 1. I can do no better than quote Harvey. Harvey sees the second part of this footnote as constituting an important statement that requires elaboration--and here you will see how helpful Harvey can be in helping us to approach and gain the work of Marx. He cites Marx's statement: "Technology reveals the active relation of man to nature, the direct process of the production of his life, and thereby it also lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life, and of the mental conceptions that flow from those relations." (It seems that one cannot gloss over anything in Marx: one must pay close attention to everything.) Here is part of Harvey's commentary on this quotation.
"Marx here links in one sentence six identifiable conceptual elements. There is, first of all, technology. There is the relation to nature. There is the actual process of production and then, in rather shadowy form, the production and reproduction of daily life. There are social relations and mental conceptions. These elements are plainly not static but in motion, linked through 'processes of production' that guide human evolution. The only element he doesn't explicitly describe in production terms is the relation to nature. Obviously, the relation to nature has been evolving over time. The idea that nature is also something continuously in the course of being produced in part through human action has also been long-standing; in its Marxist version (outlined in chapter 7), it is best represented in my colleague Neil Smith's book UNEVEN DEVELOPMENT, where capitalist processes of production of nature and of space are explicitly theorized.
"How, then, are we to construe the relationships between these six conceptual elements? Though his language is suggestive, Marx leaves the question open, which is unfortunate since it leaves lots of space for all manner of interpretations. Marx is often depicted, by both friends and foes alike, as a technological determinist, who thinks changes in the productive forces dictate the course of human history, including the evolution of social relations, mental conceptions, the relation to nature and the like....
"I do not share this interpretation. I find it inconsistent with Marx's dialectical method (dismissed by analytic philosophers such as Cohen as rubbish). Marx generally eschews causal language (I defy you to find much of it in CAPITAL). In this footnote, he does not say technology 'causes' or 'determines," but that technology 'reveals' or, in another translation, 'discloses' the relation to nature. To be sure, Marx pays a lot of attention to the study of technologies (including organizational forms), but this does not warrant treating them as leading agents in human evolution. What Marx is saying (and plenty of people will disagree with me on this) is that technologies and organizational forms INTERNALIZE a certain relation to nature as well as to mental conceptions and social relations, daily life and labor processes. By virtue of this internalization, the study of technologies and organizational forms is bound to 'reveal' or 'disclose' a great deal about all the other elements. Conversely, all these other elements internalize something of what technology is about. A detailed study of daily life under capitalism will, for example, 'reveal' a great deal about our relation to nature, technologies, social relations, mental conceptions and the labor processes of production. Similarly. the study of our contemporary relation to nature cannot go very far without examining the nature of our social relations, our production systems, our mental conceptions of the world, the technologies deployed and how daily life is conducted. All these elements constitute a totality, and we have to understand how the mutual interactions between them work."
Thus, Harvey. This is a rich book.