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The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism [Paperback]

David Harvey
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 April 2011

For three centuries the capitalist system has shaped western society, informed its rulers, and conditioned the lives of its people. Has the time come to move beyond it?

Using his unrivalled knowledge of the subject, Harvey lays bare the follies of the international financial system, looking at the nature of capitalism, how it works and why sometimes it doesn't. He examines the vast flows of money that surge round the world in daily volumes well in excess of the sum of all its economies. He looks at the cycles of boom and bust in the world's housing and stock markets and shows that periodic episodes of meltdown are not only inevitable in the capitalist system but essential to its survival. The Enigma of Capital is a timely call-to-arms for the end of the capitalism, and makes a compelling case for a new social order that would allow us to live within a system that could be responsible, just and humane


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (14 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846683092
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846683091
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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)

Book Description

Radical sociologist David Harvey explains how capitalism came to dominate the world, why it resulted in the current financial crisis - and why it's time for a change

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
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
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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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding .. .. as good as any thriller. 3 Jun 2010
Format:Hardcover
If you, like I, have found yourself pondering the banking crisis that befell the US and Europe at the close of 2008, agonised over the reasons and causes that led to the crisis, feel dispossession and indignation at the enormity and consequence of the bailouts, and wonder that the bailouts are indicative of counter-democratic tendencies, then David Harveys' 'Enigma of Capital' is a book for you; and if you have never contemplated any of the foregoing then David Harveys' 'Enigma of Capital' is also a book for you.
Prior to the events of 2008 and the succession of events that ensue within the Euro-zone I would never have considered reading such a title or such a topic, and I would have been scepitical that any one person could analyze the causes of a crisis, indeed a succession of crises, with such pragmatism and clarity. It is by chance and for unconnected reasons that in the new year of 2009 I began serious contemplation of other and more personal challenges and it was an entirely unexpected result that the direction I followed with regard to that would also yield unconventional insight in regard to economics, not from an aspect of a study of the flow of money, but from an aspect of evolutionary theory as applied to the long term functional evolution and expansion of economic activity. None of this makes me clever or knowledgeable but I do gain some satisfaction from having reasoned along one or two lines of thought and then subsequently finding similar assertions, and many, many more, put forward with aplomb and gravitas by Mr Harvey.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent!
Published 9 days ago by Tejendra Pherali
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book!
Very informative book!!! You really gain a clear insight into the problems arising from Capitalism. Harvey is quite eloquent and clear in his explanations! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Antonina Contocra
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent book from Harvey
David Harvey is one of the greatest living social scientists, and probably the most widely admired and quoted human geographer of all time. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Gary White
3.0 out of 5 stars Riding the devil you know
Reading this feels like galloping over rough terrain on a spirited thoroughbred out of control. The recent financial debacle of 2007-8 inspired Harvey`s analysis of the periodic... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Antenna
5.0 out of 5 stars This book should be read also by politicians.
Book gives us Very deep analyze of tendencies in economic development and have critical approach to naive understanding of free market forces. Read more
Published 11 months ago by David Guterbaum
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading
Anyone seeing the insanity of our banking system & thinks it will sort itself out should read this. We need to educate ourselves and pay less attention to those who think... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Jamesm
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking at the Economic Disaster through Marxist Eyes
So, it seems Marx predicted all of this before - Harvey shows us how according to Marxist theory capitalism experiences inevitable crises caused by capitalism's inherent nature,... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Matt
5.0 out of 5 stars I recommend this to anyone
David Harvey shines the light on some fundamental flaws that capitalism is facing. Perpetual growth is what capitalists see as the best way to grow the economy, create jobs, create... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Enterthusiast
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisis
If you want to know how the world finance collapsed this is a great start. After reading what banks actually do with your money, the mattress is starting to look quite attractive.
Published 17 months ago by Bruno Miguel Oliveira Cristóvão
2.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts
I was disappointed with this book. It a is very much a "Curates Egg of a book", ie, good in parts. The first half of the book is actually very good - explaining clearly the roots... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Viv
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