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The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism Hardcover – 15 Apr 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; 1st edition (15 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683084
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683084
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 356,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A lucid and penetrating account of how the power of capital shapes our world (Andrew Gamble Independent - Book of the Week)

A well-timed call for the overthrow of capitalism ... elegant ... entertainingly swashbuckling (John Gapper Financial Times)

Very eloquent ... with the sort of literary verve and sense of assurance that recall Marx at his very best (Laurie Taylor New Humanist)

Book Description

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

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on 20 Nov. 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Harvey is probably both the best known and most prolific author on popular topics in Marxist economics today, and this is one of his best books so far. Working always from his perspective as an economic geographer, in "The Enigma of Capital" he uses the occasion of the current financial crisis to provide a lengthy and highly accessible popular overview of the theory of capital. He analyzes what capital is, where it came from, how it accumulates, how it relates to markets, what the role is of ground rent and localization in its movement (both metaphorical and real), and finally combines all this into a highly compelling political economic narrative. What is especially virtuous about this book, even compared with some of Harvey's excellent earlier works, is his ability to explain the general thrust of Marxist political economy in a manner that is easily understood by the wider newspaper-reading public and without using virtually any of the specific technical terminology of Marxism, as well as avoiding any of the explicit political content that is specific to Marxism (other than a very skeptical attitude towards capitalism as such). This is no mean feat given the complicated nature of capital and the different levels of analysis it seems to require to be fully understood. Harvey of course adds to the fairly traditional Marxist picture so narrated his own particular emphasis on place and space as essential mediating elements in capital's circulation, both economically and politically. I think this is a useful and important addition, in particular with an eye to the local impact of political economy becoming 'real' in this way - one need but look at Newcastle or Detroit and see what this means.Read more ›
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Germinal TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Harvey has produced an excellent study of capitalism, the current economic crisis and the way the Left could respond to it.

Harvey deals with the current economic crisis in chapter one and gives a clear, concise account of what went wrong and why.

As for the current crisis, that is pretty much it in this book. What Harvey is concerned with is the fact that the current crisis is just the latest of many and Harvey is most concerned with demonstrating that crises are innate and necessary to capitalism.

Harvey presents his re-working and re-theorising of Marx's analysis of 'Capital' to show how capitalism uses crises to reform, renew and revitalise itself. This Harvey accomplishes brilliantly. Harvey explains complex ideas in an easy to understand way.

Harvey theorises that capitalism may have reached a point where it cannot get over crisis and get back to a compound growth rate of 3% PA as the amount of capital that needs to be invested is simply too huge. Hence the growth of the financial sector and financial crises.

This leads to the final section on what the Left should do to tackle the crisis. For capitalism can solve it's problems as long as it makes people pay the price of it's crises: lost jobs, lost pensions, destroyed environment, wrecked public services and vast amounts of capital destroyed in wars.

Harvey argues for a uniting of the Left across a broad range of struggles and across the globe. A necessary yet difficult task. Harvey's focus seems to be to look beyond the traditional labour movements which seems to contradict many of his arguments about how capitalism works - Harvey doesn't seem to see the working class as central to a socialist challenge to capitalism. That may prove contentious. Harvey's book deserves to be widely read and a focus for debates on the Left as to how to respond to the current crisis.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Harvey analyzes thoroughly capitalism, neoliberalism and the latest financial tsunami. But, his solutions to solve the capitalist irrationalities are partly very utopian.

Capital is the lifeblood that flows through the body politic of all capitalist societies. Capital is a limitless process in which money is perpetually sent in search of more money via commerce, rent, property rights, royalties, financial trading etc.

Capitalism is founded on the individual freedom to engage in speculative money-making activities.
In order to explain the capital flows the author uses seven activity spheres and sees six potential barriers. They concern social relations (ex. labor), the environment (ex. natural limits), consumption (ex. lack of demand), money (ex. initial capital), technologies (ex. innovation), mentalities (ex. religion) and demography (ex. population explosion).

Crises, neoliberalism
Crises are an essential part of the history of capitalism. The latest one was a financial tsunami propelled by neoliberal policies (a complete deregulation of all financial markets and institutions).
The author defines rightly neoliberalism as a successful class project legitimizing draconian policies designed to restore capitalist class power. The capitalists knew that they could bet the whole shop, because they had a guarantee that the government (controlled by them) would bail them out with tax-payer's money if the speculations went wrong (socialize the risks). A monstrous bail-out was needed, but it resulted in a further consolidation of capitalist class power (only 5 major US banks survived).
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