"Since the moment the deeply unsettling financial disaster erupted in September 2008, a crisis of confidence has gripped the economic mind. Experts of all stripes, from Alan Greenspan on down, were at a loss to explain what had happened. David Harvey saw this moment coming. A legendary scholar and critic of capitalism, he has been warning of problems for decades. Now, in The Enigma of Capital, Harvey provides a sweeping and brilliantly clear explanation of how the disaster happened, and how we can avoid another like it. Unlike other commentators, Harvey does not focus on subprime loans or mortgage securitization as the root cause of the calamity. Instead, he looks at something that reaches far deeper into the heart of capitalism--the flow of money through society. He shows how falling profit margins in the 1970s generated a deep transformation. With government assistance, capital was freed to flow across borders, and production moved to cheaper labor markets, depressing workers' incomes in the West. But as more and more money moved out of the laboring classes and into the pockets of the wealthy, a problem arose--how could the workers afford to buy the products which fueled the now-global economy? To solve this problem, a new kind of finance capitalism arose, pouring rivers of credit to increasingly strapped consumers. Moreover, these financial institutions loaned money to both real-estate developers as well as home buyers--in effect, controlling both the supply and demand for housing. But when the real-estate market collapsed, so did this financial edifice, an edifice that dominated our economy. We cannot afford to simply shore up this financial system, Harvey writes; we need to undertake a radical overhaul. With this landmark account, he offers a richly informed discussion of how we can turn our economy in a new direction--fairer, healthier, more just, and truly sustainable"--Publisher's description.
So you learn a tonne, and get a tonne of context, and are reminded of Henri Lefebvre's thing about the Right to the City, which is apparently a whole nascent movement and of which Harvey is a major exponent (and which I always have been too--that's what we were doing with rooftop Capture the Flag, man--and now it has a name). You get the crises of capitalism represented as "creative destruction", a commonplace thought to be sure but now I think I understand why. Harvey really succeeds in his goal to speak to real peeps, and if I can't follow some of the $$$ stuff I suspect it's my issue not his. You get a "co-evolutionary theory" of social change, which proceeds or doesn't at related but variable rates in seven spheres: mental conceptions; the relation to nature; daily life and reproductive practices; social relations; technologies and organizational forms; labour processes; the capture of institutions and their revolutionary transformation. And of course, it is easy to see the unsuccess of past revolutionary movements (excepting only the permanent revolution of capital itself) as stemming from their failure to move ahead on all seven of these fronts.
You get the idea of an alliance between "the discontented and the dispossessed", which globally is where this change has to come from--an end to atomization, where peasant groups, NGOs, militias, political parties, academics, unions, protest groups, people of the Left in general, focus on one of the seven spheres, and too often one issue in one geographical area. A splitting-the-difference on the tired and simplistic binary of taking direct action or getting the assholes on board; a coming-together, stirringly represented in the last chapter, "What is to be done? And who is going to do it?" which in some ways teaches you the least and on other ways is the jewel of the book. We need our motivation and our determination and our optimism back.
"The capitalist class will never willingly surrender its power. It will have to be dispossessed. To do what has to be done will take tenacity and determination, patience and cunning, along with fierce political commitments born out of moral outrage at what exploitative compound growth is doing to all facets of life, human and otherwise, on planet earth. Political mobilisations sufficient to such a task have occurred in the past. They can and will surely come again. We are, I think, past due." You have nothing to lose but your chains, and a bunch of other shit that it'll turn out you didn't need anyway.
My words do no justice to a well argued text that is rooted in sound economic and geographical analysis as geography 'places' economic growth with
David Harvey, noted
From 1945 to the mid 1970s, there was a period of rising wages and rising productivity. However, real wages began to decline from this period onwards, and continuing increases in supply outstripped demand. So this led to the new trend of financialization, of credit and loan, and that fell apart in 2006. Leverage ratios went too far, people borrowed too much on credit, and boom.
Political entities become subsumed to the all-powerful desire to recieve and control capital. Free trade restrictions, minimizing regulations, efficiency of production, etc.
So what is to be done? Harvey recognizes the benefits of capital, and recognizes the flaws of various alternatives. He recognizes several fields and areas which must be challenged - an astonishingly broad attack list which staggers the mind.
Although if one disagrees with Marxist economics, one might learn something from Harvey's trenchant analysis of what's wrong with the economic system. Capital and Greed endure.