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The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism
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The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  722 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Taking a long view of the current economic crisis, eminent academic David Harvey explains how capitalism came to dominate the world and why it resulted in the current financial crisis. For three centuries, the capitalist system has shaped western society, informed its rulers, and conditioned the lives of its people. Using his unrivalled knowledge of the subject, Harvey lay ...more
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published 2010 by Profile Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,296)
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Andrew Martin
Picked this up because Harvey was the only person I had run into who had a plausible explanation why $500K+ condo towers were suddenly being thrown up in downtrodden parts of Brooklyn, as summarized in n+1:
Harvey’s answer was that under capitalism land becomes “a pure financial asset”; land price is a claim on future revenue treated as a present-day asset. “Mortgages,” Marx said, “are mere titles on future rent.” And Harvey completes his thought: “Land price must be realized as future rental app
...more
0spinboson
Aug 17, 2010 0spinboson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to 0spinboson by: Andrew Gamble
Shelves: growth-crisis
In this book, David Harvey tries to explain the causes of the current economic crisis, which he argues is the last in a string of crises that started roughly in the early 1970s, but for which the ground-work was laid basically at the end of World War II.
Harvey argues that the boom/bust cycles we've seen in the past 20-30 years, and especially the current one, are the consequence of the fact that too much investment capital is chasing too few investment opportunities (a problem that is actually e
...more
Hadrian
The current financial crisis is one which has unusually lengthy and severe. As also seen in the Great Depression, there have been real questions of whether this is a deeply inherent structural reason behind depression, instead of this being a cyclical matter on a global scale.

David Harvey, noted critic of the current neoliberal system, goes after many of the current assumptions of the world system. Capital, he says, is the lifeblood of modern economies. It can contribute to levels of growth and
...more
Rurae
In between reading smut, I like to read serious shit. Shocking I know! And this book is the best *serious shit* book a person can read. I have read a lot of books on the financial crisis and woeful state of the Western economies and this is hands down the best.

Harvey paints a very accurate picture of everything wrong with late stage, neo liberal capital. And he does so in an easy to read and understand manner. He looks at the issue from a macro perspective and shows how the whole system is unsta
...more
Tyler
I wish this book had had more footnotes and less exclamation points. Harvey's strong points are on his analysis of urban living and how capital moves from country to country.

I suppose I agree with his analysis that there is something about capitalism in general that is doomed to fail (the constant quest for more of it), but I guess after having read this book I came away wondering if I would have been better off just reading "Das Kapital" by Karl Marx instead.
H Wesselius
AS much as I agreed with his views and thought his analysis to be dead on, I oculdn't get excited about reading this book. In order to dissuade people from the prevailing neo-liberal bs, leftist writers need to be far more readable.
D Warner
In The Enigma of Capital, David Harvey outlines an accessible critique of the current economic crisis, which he explains can be accounted for through the fact that excess capital has stopped flowing, and, as a result, compound growth has ceased,thus leading to a, mostly, worldwide crisis, which exposes the interconnectedness of the capitalist marketplace. While, the above is Harvey's thesis his critique goes well-beyond simply mulling over the moment that we are experiencing and offers a compreh ...more
Malcolm
Every now and then I read something that helps make sense of the really big picture; this is one of those books – and it is simply superb. For at least the last 25 years or so I have been involved in work with friends and comrades (I use the word broadly) on ways to make sense of the post-Really-Existing-Communist world of finance capital, and in doing so have tried to keep up with developments on the left and in the broad social movements. Our early, and unsuccessful, efforts centred on ideas o ...more
Jesse
Score: 4.5

"The Enigma of Capitalism": wherein David Harvey attempts to show the reader that capitalism is inherently self-contradicting.

Harvey's book tackles capitalism at a very high level. He never refers to behavior of individual people and rarely of individual corporations, but instead tackles broad trends: growth, surplus absorption, international finance controls. At this level, Harvey takes on the daunting task of explaining not that markets can fail, not that "greed" can cause crises, bu
...more
Michael H.
The Enigma of Capitalism and the Crises of Capitalism, by David Harvey analyzes the 2008 economic crisis and critiques the vast inadequacies and contradictions of capitalism. Harvey explains the occurrences in the world in terms of capitol flows, how colonialism, neocolonialism, culture hegemony, wars, financial crisis’s come about because of the inherent tensions caused by capitalism. An analysis of Harvey’s book, The Enigma of Capitalism and the Crises of Capitalism provides a clear understand ...more
Andrea
The newest book on the crisis, it certainly succeeds in Harvey's aim to make it as accessible and readable as possible. I love Harvey's incredible skill in combining decades of thought and experience around complicated economic analysis, with the ability to rethink, retheorize, expand our repertoire of how to understand today's world and economy as a foundation for building something better and something new. In it you can see the effects of his work with the grassroots justice groups forming Ne ...more
Alex
Enigma: solved. Crises happen when capital can't flow, grow, reproduce itself at 3%. Blockages are conceivable all over the place, at the level of the original accumulation, labor process, 'underconsumption,' natural scarcity, technological hurdles, monopolistic stagnation. But Capitalism always finds a way. (That's a line from Jurassic Park).

I wish Harvey were a better writer. These things always feel rushed, and I can't always hold onto the larger threads. But I guess that's one disadvantage t
...more
lyell bark
start calling your "local starbucks" a salon, and when you go there tell the housewives and 15 year old kids who are looking at reddit on their iphones "i'm a salon marxist." they look at you uncomprehendingly and you say again "i'm a salon marxist. i'm a salon marxist."
Kane Faucher
It is good for what it is. Harvey swings a mighty bat at neoliberal capitalism, but this book is more geared for a general audience than something more academically refined like the works of Peck and Tickell.
Peter Harrison
This is an effective critique of modern capitalism before, during, and after the current crisis. Harvey uses a framework that I first encountered in his "Companion to Marx's Capital". There he picks out 6 categories from a footnote in the original text to form the dialectic underpinning for practical analysis of capitalism: relation to nature, technology, modes of production, social relations, reproduction of daily life, and mental conceptions of the world.

The most compelling part of the book to
...more
Stephen
I managed to work my way through the book eventually. The first two chapters are quite racy and a good read. From that point, the book gets bogged down in Marxian theory, which can be a difficult read at times.

I liked many of the concepts in the first two chapters, some of which are worth re-visiting. In particular, I liked the capital switching model, from productive and non-productive capital. this is definitely worth considering further in the context of the Perez Model. It helps to explain w
...more
Subvert
Jun 26, 2011 Subvert rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone curious about what is going on this world
David Harvey explains the contemporary dauntingly complex political-economic structures under which we live with a Marxist perspective that takes issue with some of the most fundamental issues in our world. The word Marxist may scare people, but this is not an overly difficult book filled with scary difficult Marxist terminology, it is actually a highly readable book for people who have never read anything Marxist oriented literature. You can safely recommend this to friends that still have the ...more
Joshua
This was a very informative and interesting read about the capitalist system, Marxist political economy, and the global financial crisis.

The author, David Harvey, is a geographer as well as a political economist so he talks about the way geography and space tie in with the evolution of capitalism.

The book proposes a theory of capitalism that involves 'seven spheres' which are inter relating, interdependent, and co-evolving. These spheres are: mental conceptions, relation to nature, daily life a
...more
Joe
i thought i might give this book a review after much thought and consideration. After reflecting and considering the lack of this type of analysis in the mainstream media i think its a worthwhile endeavor.
This book seeks to explain the role of Capital and its pivotal role in supporting the global
economic structure as we know it. The abundance or lack of capital flow can have a huge impact on many countries and states. Also, countries tax this capital in order to support the citizenry and to ma
...more
Hind
The Enigma of Capital starts off really well. The first chapter "the disruption" is clear, to the point and very intriguing. It pulls you in instantly, and you feel assured as to which path subsequent chapters will take.

Sadly, that is not the case. The next 6 chapters are muddied up. The writing style is not the best, and the paragraphs tend to be jumpy. You feel the urge to go back a few pages to try to remember what Harvey's point was. The last chapter doesn't de a great job at tying everythin
...more
Gabriela Melo
Professor da City University of New York, David Harvey, em seu mais recente livro analisa a crise de 2008, que abalou o mundo, espalhando – se dos Estados Unidos e alcançando os demais países. E esta crise mostra as falhas do sistema capitalista e a economia de livre – mercado.
A crise espalhou – se rapidamente por todo mundo, atingindo, em diferentes níveis, diversos países. A busca constante por matéria – prima, mão – de – obra, crédito e mercado faz parte do sistema capitalista desde o período
...more
Ed
David Harvey isn't more Marxist than Marx but he does a good job of making one think that is the case. His masterful explication of Capital, Volume One (available on YouTube) shows that he knows the critiques of capitalism extremely well. One point he returns to often is the resiliency of this system of production and social organization--in order to survive capitalism must reinvent itself in response to crisis something that it has been able to do for a couple of centuries. While the fabric is ...more
Víctor
Acabo de terminar de leer el libro "The enigma of capital and the crisis of
capitalism" [1] de David Harvey [2].

Buena parte del libro está resumida en esta charla con animaciones de RSA:

http://youtu.be/qOP2V_np2c0

Pero, claro, el libro abarca mucho más. En especial el problema de que todo
país debe crecer al 3% anual para considerarse una economía "sana". Cito:

"""
Compound growth for ever is not possible and the troubles that have beset the
world these last thirty years signal that a limit is loomin
...more
Doug
This is the best book I've read on the financial crisis. Harvey argues that capital, historically, needs a three percent profit, or surplus, in order to grow at a pace that will allow it to sustain itself. He then demonstrates that a continuous three percent surplus has become, and will continue to be, more and more difficult to reinvest as markets get closer to exhausting themselves. Put another way, capitalism is having an increasingly difficult time finding outlets to reinvest its surplus so ...more
Frank

A mixture of sharp insights, sentimental romantic prejudices and in depth discourses on the blatantly obvious. Either DH is very stubborn, or his editor was asleep on the job.

.. The Marxist claim to provide a Theory of Everything is certainly impressive, even while qualifying as comically overreaching. The attempt at conceiving and conveying such a vast project without recourse to a single equal sign: hopelessly, pathetically naive; the outcome: just as expected.

Marx is quite frightening. He ma
...more
Luke Echo
Its a quick and easy read and summarises Harvey's take on the issues of Capitalism today. Having already watched his lecture series on Marx's Capital Vol 1 and Vol 3 it was quite familiar ground.
Veronica
This is a great book for anyone still trying to figure out what the hell happened to our economy, why the banks failed and why the government bails out banks with taxpayer money but let's those same taxpayers lose their homes.
Trish Morgan
This book is a great help in understanding the processes and flows of capital. The arguments are well-written, scholarly and logically presented.
Richard
Excellent analysis of the current economic crisis and a critique of the vast inadequacies and contradictions of capitalism. Harvey is a socialist and isn't afraid to show it. That said, his critique is very well reasoned and is powerful without being too strident. Unlike most books that end with a prescription for "What is to be done" Harvey's ideas don't fall flat. While he concedes that they are indeed utopian, at least he is trying to change something, instead of the usual variants of a commo ...more
David
Mixed feelings. Lots of info. But a lot of it in an almost flow-of-consciousness form. Perhaps, it seemed more flow-of-consciousness to me because I listened to it - maybe visual formatting of the paper book would have reduced that. Lots of specifics I didn't know, not as much new general concepts. It's nice to have a "what to do" section in an economics book, but it was rather limited by it's precision academic perspective and focus on what intellectuals should do. Those aren't per se bad thing ...more
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David Harvey (born 1935) is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A leading social theorist of international standing, he graduated from University of Cambridge with a PhD in Geography in 1961. He is the world's most cited academic geographer (according to Andrew Bodman, see Transactions of the IBG, 1991,1992), and the author ...more
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“Since the 1970S, financial innova­tions such as the securitisation of mortgage debt and the spreading of investment risks through the creation of derivative markets, all tacitly (and now, as we see, actually) backed by state power, have permitted a huge flow of excess liquidity into all facets of urbanisa­tion and built environment construction worldwide.” 3 likes
“Barriers to accumulation are perpetually dissolving and re-forming around the issue of so-called natural scarcities and on occasion, as Marx might put it, these barriers can be transformed into absolute contradictions and crises.” 2 likes
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