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The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,309 ratings  ·  92 reviews
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 t
Hardcover, 296 pages
Published 2010 by Profile Books
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Jeshua Amalesh No, not really. He references Marx quite a bit. Sometimes Harvey agrees with him, other times he doesn't

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Maru Kun
I first read this book in 2013, two years after it was written, and found it an eye-opening critique of events leading up to the global financial crisis.

I came across a review of the work in the London Review of Books and this encouraged we to revisit some of the passages I had highlighted when I first read through it. After all, it's five years since the book was written - a long time in economics as well as politics these days.

Well, quite a few passages have passed the test of time. To start o
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
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Foppe 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
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
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
Jun 10, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Tara Brabazon
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
David Harvey is a remarkable scholar. His work on postmodernity transformed my thinking on the subject. The Enigma of Capital is similarly revelatory. This is the finest analysis I have read of the financial crisis. Most impressively, he explores why capitalism is "irrational" and probes the problematic gap between the reality and representation of capitalism. This book is outstanding.
Holly Wood
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
So concise and yet could be made still more concise. Just slightly too obtuse (but only slightly) to be accessible to the lay reader as an introduction to the 2008 collapse. Very recommended, however, to anyone who wants all the disparate puzzle pieces of neoliberalism brought together into one chronological argument.
H Wesselius
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was ok
Meandering, few references, little statistical analysis. Topped off with a round of social movement dungeon master. What's not to like?
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
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
Robert C
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Frankly, if he had a point, I never saw it bring made. It was an interesting look at economic history and philosophy; However, it was unreadable dull. As stated, I never did get to the part where he makes a meaningful point, it just meanders about.
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Michael H.
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics, history
I came to this book on a recommendation that it offered insight into MMT, Modern Monetary Theory, a school of economics that deals with the world as it really is as opposed to the traditional teaching of economics which is buried in ideas and mathematical formulas which, though allowing the construction of wonderfully concise graphs with neatly intersecting lines, don't accord with what we see happening around us. The recommendation led me astray.

David Harvey is obviously fond of the works of Ka
Rjurik Davidson
Nov 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent introduction to the question, "Why is capitalism so crisis prone?" Harvey begins with the events of the 2008 financial crisis and then moves to more abstract considerations such as the widely accepted need for 3 percent growth, the various barriers to this, including geography, labour relations, the environment, technology and so on. In all this, Harvey gives a fairly comprehensible account of his own brand of Marxism. Perhaps the most obvious omission is any sustained attem ...more
D Warner
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
David Anderson
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rather than review this myself, I'm going to recommend you check out this excellent review by Ed Rooksby at Marx and Philosophy:

I will make a couple of remarks, however: One nice thing about Harvey is the way he makes the complex concepts employed accessible to the average reader; he avoids obtuse jargon and cant. You won't have to struggle through this as you would with some dense tomes of philosophy and theory.

I also must remark that, not only was his
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
Andrew Marr
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-issues
Not the easiest read but not hopelessly difficult if one has some patience. Harvey's analysis of the dynamics of capitalism & how it generates crises that hurt a lot of people is compelling. The basic principle seems to be that the economy must perpetually expand at 3% or the economy jams. Unfortunately, the expansion always has serious ecological & human costs. In some ways the expansion of capitalism is self-defeating when accompanied by wage suppression which hampers the buying power of peopl ...more
Paul W
Harvey bring a neo-Marxist critique of capitalism questioning the environmental and societal costs of capitalism's quest for perpetual 3% growth. He argues that "compound growth forever is not possible" (p227) and that "questioning the future of capitalism itself ought to be in the forefront of current debate." (p217)
The core premise of Harvey's critique of the capitalist system is that 'crises necessary to the evolution of capitalism as money, labour power and capital'. (p117)
He includ
Anthony Garcia
I find it difficult to believe this is David Harvey's best.

I think he has some great insights into the fact that money flows around the world, but this book doesn't get very detailed in shedding light on the actors or the specific ways in which investment money moves from place to place in search of interest/profit.

The chapters give the feel of shorter essays that do flow, but not as well as they could.

I will try Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism next. Some of the videos in whi
Kane Faucher
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 10, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting so far. I have much more to read.
May 26, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Didn't enjoy it, but it is better than two stars, its just this is slightly out of date (thanks to a somewhat fragile economic recovery in the UK and US).

Not bad, but not great either.
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
I don't buy most of his arguments. He's using a lot of negative qualifiers without actually making it clear why what he is talking about should be so bad
Ralphe Wiggins
I've been searching for understanding why
Nick Jones
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it
In his last two years at school my younger son had a very good economics teacher who inspired him to study economics at university. He lasted little more than a term. There were many reasons for this, but one was that he found himself doing a mathematically based course that had little interest in anything other than its own certainties. Keynes, for instance, hardly got a look in, let alone Marx. And he was surrounded by people who were after a degree in economics so they could get a well paid j ...more
Ajay Palekar
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Written in scrawled pencil beneath the front page cover are the words "Read this book !!"

While my predecessor in the lineage of reading this book was brisk and to the point in his conclusion. I hope to expand my recommendation with greater detail, depth, and logical analysis. Still the end conclusion is the same -- Read this book !!

From an opening preamble introducing us to the form and content of this story involving a question posed by the Queen of England to her most talented and prestigiou
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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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