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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 16 November 2011
OK, maybe it's just me, but I found this book very confusing and not very well laid out. The first bit, in which he outlines the current financial crisis is good and understandable. But when he starts explaining capital as a process then it all goes wrong. At one stage buried within a chapter he suddenly mentions the blocks to capital flow and announces that he will proceed to explain these blocks, but then as far as I can see he does it in a nebulous kind of way. Harvey should have made this the focal point of the book with chapters laid out etc etc. I had to reread all this bit to make sure I hadn't zoned out, but I hadn't. Again, I'm not stupid, so how come everyone else thinks this book is great? I'm not oppposed to Harvey per se, I think his other books are OK, I just don't think he can write very well.
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on 18 November 2015
It improves with re-reading, and throws light on the neo-liberal resurgence and financial sector push-back to introduction of post crisis regulation.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 December 2013
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 crises in capitalism which seem to be inherent, together with the attempted solutions, and suggested future actions. Harvey, a "Distinguished Professor in Anthropology" and originally a geographer, quotes selectively and cogently from Marx, and clearly favours radical alternatives to "conventional" casually accepted capitalism.

His basic premise is the current consensus amongst economists and the financial press that a healthy capitalist economy in which most capitalists make a reasonable profit needs to expand at about 3 per cent per annum. "Credit-fuelled capital accumulation at a compound rate is a condition of capitalism's survival. Capitalism must generate and internalise its own effective demand" backed by money to pay for goods in the market.

Succeeding chapters explore the potential barriers to the accumulation of capital- lack of money, labour, resources, technology, resistance or inefficiency in the labour process and lack of "effective" demand. Although most of the ideas are likely to have been encountered already, it is useful to have them combined in one place.

I welcomed the lack of abstruse economic theory with equations and graphs, which may reflect the author's expertise as a geographer. He asserts that an obsession with mathematical models blinded economists to the danger of the early C21 debacle that few foresaw. However, I would have liked a more precise explanation of the new financial products, credit default swaps and derivatives which caused so much trouble. I also found many of the explanations e.g. of the relationship between the availability of labour and wage costs, too condensed and hard to follow for someone with no prior knowledge of economic theory.

Although the topics and relationships covered are wide-ranging and fascinating, the book has a breathless quality, fed by long complex lists of diverse examples which undermine the line of argument. Harvey seems unable to resist the temptation to qualify points with brief asides, often in brackets, thus adding to the disjointed effect. Many passages seem written in a semi-digested hurry. For instance, I wanted a deeper exploration of the implications of the "Walmart phenomenon" by which cheap retail goods produced by relatively cheap labour are imported from an ironically still communist China for American consumers, some of whom will lost their jobs in the process.

The radical ideas put forward in the final chapter seem too vague and undeveloped to be called solutions. Asserting that "an ethical, non-exploitative... socially just capitalism that redounds to the benefit of all is impossible" and "contradicts the very nature of what capital is all about" he concludes: "The accumulation of capital will never cease. It will have to be stopped. The capitalist class will never willingly surrender its power. It will have to be dispossessed."

Is he calling for bloody revolution, likely to lead to world wars and prolonged greater suffering and chaos than exist even now? He says lightly that it is good in itself to be utopian, but as a distinguished academic, does he not have an obligation to present rather more cogent and well-conceived proposals than this? Necessity being the mother of invention, many educated young people in developing countries are beginning to devise alternative life styles. Rising anger over social inequality and growing evidence of the dangers of under-regulated capitalism, exhaustion of natural resources, pollution and overpopulation, may give governments the impetus to modify capitalism with the support of the people. This is the only future I can see, rather than what sounds at time like an unrealistic rant from an ivory tower.
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on 31 October 2012
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 of the current post 2008 world economic crisis, and situating this within a more general explanation of the intrinsically crisis ridden operating structure of capitalism. It is particularly good in explaining how Finance Capital is now so disproportionately powerful compared to the other sectors, (and also corrupting/dominating the nominally democratic political processes of individual states), that it has become an out of control almost structurally cancerous growth - plunging the entire world into greater and greater crisis.

The book's second half gets bogged down in a rather unnecessarily extensive description/analysis of urbanisation as a key driver of capitalist development. It is also very repetitive in many places, with key phrases from earlier in the book restated again and again, a bit like those irritating TV programmes in which there is an "updating" repeat of the key points after every advert break ! One suspects this is because the book is based on a series of lecture notes. Better editing needed.

There is also some astonishingly crass dismissals of the death and suffering of millions of people during WWII and the disastrous experiments of the Mao Stalinist dictatorship in China:

p.138."Conversely seemingly negative developments (such as Mao's Great leap Forward or the Second World War that set the stage for rapid economic growth after 1945) may turn out surprisingly well."

Now if this was a cynical comment about some of the worst disasters in human history nevertheless turning out "surprisingly well" for capitalism as a system, one could accept this.. but this doesn't seem to be the tone of the comment, and others ! Harvey seems to have serious illusions (as yet another academic happy to be hostile to the undoubted cruelties of Bourgeois capitalism but prepared to ignore the cruelties of that perversion of the socialist ideal.. Stalinism) about the nature of the vicious State Capitalist tyranny running China in the name of "Communism" This even when it is well on the way to converting itself into a conventional self enriching Bourgeois class., from its bureaucratic collectivist class origins. Apart from anything else , Harvey, must be one of the few people nowadays who can see the utter disaster of the entire series of crazy policies undertaken by the Mao dictatorship, ie, Collectivisation, The Great Leap Forward, The Cultural Revolution, as anything but a disaster for China. The human cost is estimated as anything up to 30 million people dead. It is true though that these man made disasters can be argued to have so traumatised the Chinese population that from then on the entire Chinese people were completely malleable to every shift and turn of Comunist Party policy, Even the shift back to private enterprise capitalism and the emergeance of a new billionaire class - integrated with the upper echelons of the communist party elite !

The American terminology mindset of Harvey is again rather obvious by the completely incorrect way he defines "Socialism" (as opposed to "Communism") as analogous to the Social Democratic /Labour Party type management of a capitalist state, Sorry, Harvey, that simply aint "socialism" , its still just (slightly temporarily modified) capitalism - with a few of the nastier bits softened by some Welfare State additions. "Socialism" , as we Europeans are well aware, is what the Soviet Union should have been if the Stalinist Bureaucracy hadn't crushed the fledgling revolutionery Workers state after the international isolation of the post 1917 period.

Because the book was written in about 2009, with a superficial 2011 update, Harvey assumes the 2008 crisis is past its worst. Today (late 2012) it is quite obvious that state by state competitive "austerity" is driving the entire world economy deeper and deeper into the new Great Slump. Harvey has no coherent strategy for the 99% to take on the ever growing power and endless greed of the richest 1% - particularly as he essentially writes off the potential for the organised working class to get its act together to combat the desire of the world's ruling elite to make the rest of us pay for the crisis in ever greater impoverishment. Instead he just maunders endlessly on about the usual rainbow alliance of diverse anti capitalist forces. I suspect, as the growing forces of the Radical Left in places like Greece and Spain show , (matched by a similar explosion in the Fascist Right), the next period will be closer to the violent upheavals of the 1930's than Harvey can envisage.

I can't recommend really this book. There are better explanations of how capitalism works, and better explanations of the current crisis.
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on 9 May 2010
This book is excellent.
It explains everything about the world economy in a simple to understand way that even the most stupid of people should be able to understand
It explains how we got into the mess we are in now and how capital really is ripping us all off.
It explains how the world is run not by governments or people but by an elitist dogma called finacialism which has now gotten so far out of control that short of a world wide revolution know one knows quite how to stop it, or more to the point, capital won't allow us to stop it.
This book should be made compulsory reading for everyone, especially the politicians who are supposed to be running the show.
A really first rate book.
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on 16 July 2014
Excellent!
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on 3 August 2013
Book gives us Very deep analyze of tendencies in economic development and have critical approach to naive understanding of free market forces. Book opens our eyes and helps us to be more skeptical to cheap doctrinaire points of views.
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on 4 October 2010
This book, which benefits from the concept of following the flow of capital as it moves through the economy, is full of insights and is a much more measured analysis than the FT's review ("...a well-timed call for the overthrow of capitalism...") might suggest.

However, it does have a few weaknesses,

1. The first chapter reads very much like it was bolted on post-GFC.
2. David Harvey does nothing to destroy the idea that academics often confuse accessibility with dumbing-down. The ideas require arguably unnecessary effort, and plenty of strong coffee, for the reader to extract.
3. There is a glaring lack of any real numerical analysis, only that first anomalous chapter contains any charts. Perhaps that is to be expected from a professor of anthropology but many of these arguments would be better supported by a few numbers rather than quite so many words.
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on 22 August 2010
We seek clarity. From clarity flows ineluctably hope and from hope we can begin engaging with the world, giving shape to our dreams.

To make a pot we need work with clay. To change things we need to work with others. Human beings are the raw materials of all political movements. We should seek to nourish and cherish all who are seek a world which is based on people's need not individual greed.

We seek transformation. We give our time freely. The fate of all humanity falls on all our backs, not just the chosen few. We need to live our life with purpose and joy.

We reject all who claim to be gurus. The monopoly of truth resides in us all. We listen. We learn. We question. We do not believe something just because others do. Not even Professor Harvey.

We dare to imagine but at the same time we won't get fooled again. We do not worship states nor political parties. They are but the echo of the battle. All authority is to be questioned.

We seek change always from below. We reject the reducers and the traducers, the vulgarians and the charlattans. Launguage by it's very nature is imprecise. We think carefully about meaning and the purpose of language.

Leaders follow they do no lead.

We break things down. We seek simplicity and elegance in thought.
From Africa we emerged and humanity's journey has not yet ended. From whence we have come from and from whence we go we do not ken. We are all Jock Tamson Bains. We all humans inextricbaly to the land and all that lives on this blue planet of ours.

David's work for me is a clarion call for a new humanity Slange Georg
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on 5 March 2015
Must have if your studying Marx
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