The Enigma of Capital: and the Crises of Capitalism
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For over forty years, David Harvey has been one of the world's most trenchant and critical analysts of capitalist development. In The Enigma of Capital, he delivers an impassioned account of how unchecked neoliberalism produced the system-wide crisis that now engulfs the world.
Beginning in the 1970s, profitability pressures led the capitalist class in advanced countries to shift away from investment in industrial production at home toward the higher returns that financial products promised. Accompanying this was a shift towards privatization, an absolute decline in the bargaining power of labor, and the dispersion of production throughout the developing world. The decades-long and ongoing decline in wages that accompanied this turn produced a dilemma: how can goods--especially real estate--sell at the same rate as before if workers are making less in relative terms? The answer was a huge expansion of credit that fueled the explosive growth of both the financial industry and the real estate market. When one key market collapsed--real estate--the other one did as well, and social devastation resulted.
Harvey places today's crisis in the broadest possible context: the historical development of global capitalism itself from the industrial era onward. Moving deftly between this history and the unfolding of the current crisis, he concentrates on how such crises both devastate workers and create openings for challenging the system's legitimacy. The battle now will be between the still-powerful forces that want to reconstitute the system of yesterday and those that want to replace it with one that prizes social justice and economic equality. The new afterword focuses on the continuing impact of the crisis and the response to it in 2010.
down circulation. Throughout the history of capitalism much effort has therefore been put into reducing the friction of distance and barriers to movement. Innovations in transport and communications have been crucial. Increasing the openness of state borders to commerce and finance, signing free trade agreements and securing proper legal frameworks for international trade are also seen as essential in the long term. Imagine if the customs barriers in Europe had never been abolished. To take
earth’s surface generate instabilities that give us earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and other events, while instabiliÂ�ties in atmospheric and oceanic circulations give us hurricanes, tornadoes, snow storms, droughts and heat waves that have all manner of human consequences, albeit unevenly distributed both geographically and socially. Furthermore, trading upon and profiting from human disasters induced by natural events is far too frequent a feature of capitalism to be taken lightly.
collective norm, upheld by homeownership associations, even in the midst of plenty of isolated individualism. The houses are all laden with different kinds of electronics and of course everyone has iPods and cell phones which are in perpetual use. In this world, relations between the seven spheres of activity are roughly harmonised in ways that most people accept as secure and reassuring, even though a bit dull. Conflicts are minor (for the most part of the ‘not in my back yard’ sort) and even
rationality. The psychology of it all plainly matters. The fetish belief in the human capacity to transcend the chains that keep us tied down on planet earth long ago emerged as a central motif in bourgeois utopian desire. ‘Ye Gods! annihilate but space and time/ And make two lovers happy’ went the couplet from the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope. The grand rationalist philosopher René Descartes had his engineer survey the world from on high in the belief that nature could be dominated by
powers backed by the state push for forcible slum clearance, in some cases violently taking possession of a terrain occupied for a whole generation by the slum dwellers. Capital accumulation on the land through real estate activity booms as land is acquired at almost no cost. Do the people who have been forced out receive compensation? 178â•‡ The Geography of It All The lucky ones receive a bit. But while the Indian constitution specifies that the state has an obligation to protect the lives