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Limits to Capital [Paperback]

David Harvey
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jan 2007 1844670953 978-1844670956 New and Fully Updated Ed
Widely praised as an exciting, insightful exposition and development of Marx's critique of political economy, Harvey updates his classic text with a discussion of the turmoil in world markets today. In his analyses of "fictitious capital" and "uneven geographical development," Harvey takes the reader step by step through layers of crisis formation, beginning with Marx's controversial argument concerning the falling rate of profit, moving through crises of credit and finance, and closing with a timely analysis of geo-political and geographical considerations. Recently referred to by Fredric Jameson in "New Left Review" as a "magisterial work," "The Limits to Capital" provides one of the best theoretical guides to the contradictory forms found in the historical and geographical dynamics of capitalist development.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 478 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books; New and Fully Updated Ed edition (1 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844670953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844670956
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.7 x 3.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A magisterial work..." - Fredric Jameson "A unique and insightful theory of capital." - Monthly Review "[One of] the most complete, readable, lucid and least partisan exegesis, critique and extension of Marx's mature political economy available." - Environment and Planning"

About the Author

David Harvey is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has written extensively on the political economy of globalization, urbanization, and cultural change. His books include A Brief History of Neoliberalism and The New Imperialism.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is a very good, comprehensive book - that aims to 'bring together' the main theories originally advanced by Marx, in "Capital" (vol. 1-3), and at the same time develop this critique of capitalist political economy by situating it in a more contemporary context.

It is today considered unfashionable by orthodox social scientists to engage in 'political economy' - rather, the field has divided into the 'political' and 'economic' sciences. This, however, means that broader social questions are left altogether unaddressed - ignored or treated as taken for granted. David Harvey counters this orthodoxy with this detailed and timely book.

He advances a Marxist critique of the political economy of capitalism - engaging with the subject in a manner that is reminiscent of Marx's work itself: examining commodities, value, production, distribution, consumption, surplus value, accumulation, money, and the dynamics resulting from the contradictions inherent in the relations of capital. The title refers, therefore, to the parameters of capital as a social relation - to the limits of this relation, resulting from these inherent contradictions.

Harvey skillfully makes use of the developments in knowledge since Marx's time - and thus aims to bring the Marxist critique up to date. For anyone interested in understanding the political economy of capitalism, this book is an excellent source. For someone just starting one, the text can at times be a little difficult to follow - but this is, unfortunately, one of the features of Marxist analysis. Nonetheless, perseverance pays off - and much can be learnt from this enjoyable book.

I recommend it, especially for students of economics and sociology.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
David Harvey is actually a geographer, but from reading this book, one would think him one of the great political economists. Based on this work alone, he should be in the popular range of Stiglitz, Schumpeter, Milton Friedman etc., but it is not likely that such 'honor' will ever befall a Marxist theorist. Nevertheless everyone interested in Marxist economics, for whatever reasons, simply must read this book.

Harvey's discussion of capitalism from a Marxist perspective is extraordinary clear, sharp and thorough. So much in fact that it is probably the most consistently in-depth exposition of capitalism from every aspect since "Capital" itself. This also makes it hard to review it, since one hardly knows where to begin.

Fortunately for political economy newbies (and this book is definitely the best kind of "introductory overview" you could give to an intellectual person), Harvey starts at the same point "Capital" starts, then works his way through. First he gives a clear exposition of the general framework of Marxist theory: the law of value, the differences between value, use value and exchange value, the mode of production etc. All this is done quite well, though there are of course many many such general descriptions available in print. Harvey does seem to skip over the "transformation problem" somewhat, which may annoy those who consider it a major hurdle. Harvey, in my view with good reason, does not.

The next two chapters discuss production, distribution, surplus value and its realization and the relation to supply and demand.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Limits to the Author's Understanding 12 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback
Personally I am always grateful when anyone attempts to stand up for the teachings of Karl Marx and hence I do not count Harvey as a political opponent. However Harvey is conveying 'his' views on the limits to Capital and not the ideas of Marx. I first read this book in 1982 and thought it was off beam then. My concerns have been reinforced by revisiting the content once more. This review could be as long as the book itself so I will just try to give a flavour of what, in my opinion, amounts to Harvey's distortion of Marx's analysis in 'Capital'.Of course later editions may have addressed the deficits in my 1982 edition so this review may be unjust.

The main limit or 'barrier' to capital in the view of Marx is capital itself. Marx develops his analysis in the content of the three Volumes of 'Capital' and in the third volume identifies the tendential fall in the rate of profit as capitalism's Achilies Heel. The law of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall or LTRPF is the culminating point of Marx's critique of capitalism and perhaps one his greatest intellectual achievements. Marx has three chapters and a section of suplamentary remarks on the law with some sixty pages devoted to it. We would expect Harvey to at least address this concept in 'Limits'?

However try and find it in the book? Go to the Subject Index at the end and look for the 'rate of profit'? No seprate entry there under R for 'rate' so let's try unde P for 'profit'? Ok here it is in brackets (see falling rate of profit;surplus value). Follow the reference to the page numbers and I can't find anything substantive on the LTRPF. This is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. So where to now? Let's try under 'acummulation'? Here it is.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
132 of 132 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most thorough exposition of Marxist political economy in print 23 July 2006
By M. A. Krul - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
David Harvey is actually a geographer, but from reading this book, one would think him one of the great political economists. Based on this work alone, he should be in the popular range of Stiglitz, Schumpeter, Milton Friedman etc., but it is not likely that such 'honor' will ever befall a Marxist theorist. Nevertheless everyone interested in Marxist economics, for whatever reasons, simply must read this book.

Harvey's discussion of capitalism from a Marxist perspective is extraordinary clear, sharp and thorough. So much in fact that it is probably the most consistently in-depth exposition of capitalism from every aspect since "Capital" itself. This also makes it hard to review it, since one hardly knows where to begin.

Fortunately for political economy newbies (and this book is definitely the best kind of "introductory overview" you could give to an intellectual person), Harvey starts at the same point "Capital" starts, then works his way through. First he gives a clear exposition of the general framework of Marxist theory: the law of value, the differences between value, use value and exchange value, the mode of production etc. All this is done quite well, though there are of course many many such general descriptions available in print. Harvey does seem to skip over the "transformation problem" somewhat, which may annoy those who consider it a major hurdle. Harvey, in my view with good reason, does not.

The next two chapters discuss production, distribution, surplus value and its realization and the relation to supply and demand. Particularly useful here are his explanations of the importance of the concept of value composition of capital, and the reduction of skilled to simple labour, where he addresses one of Von Böhm-Bawerk's better critiques of Marxism.

The next part of the book is perhaps the core of the book. Here, Harvey delves into the organization of capital, the various forms which it can take and how these interrelate, and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. He shows how the various manifestations of capital can interfere with each other's functioning and how this creates the tendency towards crises. He then posits the problem of overaccumulation (rather than underdevelopment) as the first 'layer' or 'cut' of crisis theory.

After the reader has grasped all this, the second crucial part of the book follows in a rapid manner, introducing first the problematic of fixed capital and its relation to the law of value, and then the role of credit in capitalism. The first is not very satisfactorily resolved and is in my view probably the weakest part of his theory. Alan Freeman has since given a quite different solution to the same issue, but that does not seem to really solve the problem either. Perhaps this is one of the things Marxist political economy has yet to fully solve.

Harvey's demonstration of the role of credit is however masterful and extremely enlightening for the many who are confused by the vast array of forms in which credit appears in modern society. His emphasis on the importance of understanding the so-called "fictitious capital", that is advanced capital not yet backed by actual value through production, allows him to show the second major appearance of crises in capitalism as well as explaining the theory of rent in Marxism, which forms the subject of the chapter thereafter. He corrects Marx' somewhat excessively anti-distributive theory of rent and explains the role of agricultural technology. Harvey is in many parts of this chapter rather confusing in his terminology, but a careful reader can certainly grasp the issue.

At the end of the book Harvey can finally follow up on his own area of expertise. By explaining the role of spatial and temporal relations in the flow of capital and the necessity of 'exporting' the internal contradictions of capitalist social relations, he is able to form a theory of imperialism that is largely in accordance with that of Lenin, but without the theory of underdevelopment. It also puts a good perspective on Marx & Engels' many journalistic articles about India and colonialism. Finally he combines this with the earlier two aspects to form the third 'cut' of capitalist crisis theory, which takes every aspect of capitalism in its modern appearance into account.

On the whole, Harvey has done an unparallelled and magisterial work in creating an exposition of capitalism that is at once as in-depth as "Capital" and much clearer (and shorter!) than that, although of course without Marx no such thing could ever have been made.
There are a few things nevertheless not covered (fully) in the book. Harvey pays surprisingly little attention to urban geography and (sub)urbanization as a factor in capitalism. Furthermore his theory of the state is a hodgepodge of different roles, which he never unites into one whole. Finally, people experienced in handling Marxist theory might have problems with Harvey's generally structuralist approach, which leaves relatively very little room for the autonomous significance of class struggle. Harvey mostly relegates that to the fields of production processes and labour mobility. Because of this, Lebowitz' "Beyond Capital" should probably be read alongside it as a complementary contribution, analyzing the same from the side of wage-labour.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Synthesis of Capital Volumes 1, 2, 3 and beyond 16 Jan 2009
By a reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I picked up this book after reading Volume 1 of Capital and following along with David Harvey's fantastic online lectures at:

[...]

If you have read Volume One, you feel like you've really accomplished something, only to realize that though it is a masterpiece, this volume essentially just concerns itself with production. And these days, production I feel is more and more hidden away from neoliberal metropolises--What we keep hearing about concerning the crisis of 2008 is that it concerns (or at least the first symptoms were in) mortgages (real estate) and finance capital. There is nothing about this in Volume One, nothing about credit, banks, interest, landlords, etc... Not that crises, in the final analysis, aren't fundamentally about production, which is where the whole mystery of capitalism is unlocked, but there is more to the picture. Wanting to know more about this areas, but not willing to slog through Volumes 2 and 3 (yet) I picked up this book. I was not disappointed.

Harvey brilliantly lays out a near "totality" of a capitalist economy (or at least opens up several "windows" as he puts it) to gain a clearer view of what exactly is going on in our world. The first 7 chapters essentially go over the issues Marx writes about in Volume 1, but as the chapters move on from here, the view widens: Fixed Capital; Money, Credit and Finance; Finance Capital and its Contradictions; The Theory of Rent; The Production of Spatial Configurations...; Crises in the Space Economy of Capitalism. Yes! This is exactly what I wanted to read and I think it will make my eventual reading of Volumes 2 and 3 that much easier.

Harvey is a geographer and his sensitivity to the built environment, the geographical subtleties of capitalism is his strong suit. But in addition to this, his careful, slow-going approach on all aspects like finance capital and the interest rate help the reader with comprehension. He covers all the bases, relevant literature and controversies.

That said, I agree it's a tough read. I don't know how one could read this before reading Volume 1, but that's up to you. Also, Harvey's style here is a tad dry, thus the 4 stars. But any additional "sexiness" in the narrative would have taken away from the necessary brick laying here that provides a solid foundation to grasping Harvey's later works on Imperialism, Post-Modernism, Cities, etc...
47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book to get started on understanding Marx's Captial 23 Aug 2000
By JUSTIN HOLT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was attracted to this work becaues i'm interested in Marx and have read another of Harvey's books "The Condition of Postmodernity." Harvey is an erudite scholar who's formal education is in georgraphy, but his research has produced accessable and powerful studies beyond his origins. "Limits to Captial" is a complete and balanced account of Marx's economic work centering upon his major text "Das Kaptial." Harvey has does a intense study of Marx and Marxist scholarship (Lenin, Rose Luxingberg, and others) to produce a systematic and dialetical account of Marx's critique of Captialism. Even though harevy pays attention to the importance of Hegelian dialetics this book is accessable to to readers who do not have strong philosophic of economic backgrounds. If your are interested in Marx and/or captialism this is an excelent inroad to begin your studies. A detaled biblography of cited sources is a gem for continuted research. His book on postmodernity is also excelent.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars classic book 8 Jun 2007
By M. Ozturk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In my opinion, Limits to Capital is the best path to Marx's political economy, and in a sense it's an update of Capital. Harvey explains Marx, and introduces some new concepts such as 'spatial fix', 'socially necessary turnover time of capital' etc. Together with Mandel's Late Capitalism, Limits to Capital is the most significant contribution to Marx by a contemporary writer. (The radical geography journal Antipode had a special issue for the 20th year of Limits to Capital.)

However, Harvey revisioned some of his thought later, with 'The New Imperialism'. He introduced the notion of 'accumulation by dispossession', I don't know why, limiting the 'reproduction on an enlarged scale', and thereby limiting the validity of class conflict. This imperialism issue blurs all the contemporary accounts of capital accumulation. He is now an Arendtian. Good luck with that, but we miss the Harvey of Limits to Capital.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather hard read, but essential 2 Nov 2008
By J. Johanning - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tough read but essential, November 2, 2008
By J. Johanning "bussho" - See all my reviews

I'd give it 5 stars if it were a somewhat easier read (afraid that a lot of people who would benefit it will give up following the argument), but it may be the best commentary on Marx's economic theory available. It's a difficult book only because Marx's theory is itself complex, and it is complex because reality is.

In these times of crisis in our economy, worse than anything for almost a century, it is essential for us to understand why events are happening as they are, and while Marxian economic theory is obviously not perfect, I think it is far closer to true than most of what you can see in print today. Harvey not only gives us an accurate interpretation of Marx, but goes beyond him and amends him in many respects. Read and learn.
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