Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism
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58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
In this new book, Harvey explores 17 different contradictions - not in the sense of opposition, but contradiction where "two seemingly opposed forces are simultaneously present" (1), such as reality and appearance. These contradictions are both points of strengths and weaknesses for Harvey (and others in the Marxian tradition). He divides up the contradictions he identifies into Foundation, Moving, and Dangerous types, and explains how each of the 17 titular contradictions work in Capital's system.

Truth be told, I don't want to get analytical here. I was just chugging along, and finding Harvey's points of consonance until I got to the end. If you like Harvey, you will like this book. It wasn't as accessible as his earlier "Enigma of Capital," in my opinion. You may need a minute to get with his style, but he is very exact with his wordings.

My main take-away is that in the face of even 17 contradictions, capital is not going to fall in on itself. The grave-diggers still need to dig. That is bad news for me because I am normally so passive. Perhaps I should stop trying to understand the world and maybe go change it. Or Maybe tomorrow.

By this point, I have read enough David Harvey to know his house style. Loquacious in person, his prose can feel torturous at times. That's not a critique per se, but an acknowledgement of Harvey's desire to be exact in his language. It also brings about sentences of absolute beauty from time to time. You just have to be on the alert for them. I flagged a couple, but I won't drop them in here without context. I'll just point you to pages 91, 125, 130, and also the title of the review.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2014
David is an excellent scholar and has an in-depth understanding of economics in its broadest sense that matches the best that the world has to offer. His insightful views of many of the most glaring contradictions inherent in the capitalist system are explained in simple terms that gave me a fresh and simplified way to make better sense of the massive quantity of data swirling around us today. The book could easily be rated 5 stars, however I dropped it to 4 stars because the solutions offered at the end of the book seem to me to be a letdown after the insightful description of the problems and contradictions explained in the first 95% of the book. This often happens in extreme complex systems when there are no clear solutions from any source even after the problems are clearly defined. David makes a good try at answers, but unfortunately for us all, we are a work in progress with no clearly defined path to follow - this book lays out many of the areas that we all need to address and it is my fervent hope that with enough of us on task, we will find the way to our next level if civilization.. David has done/is doing his part.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2014
How Harvey keeps coming up with these incredibly insightful texts is beyond me. Do you want to really know what happened to the global economy in 2008? Don't read the insipid Piketty, a liberal apologist, read Harvey's Seventeen Contradictions. This is simply a wonderful, well argued text that clearly explains in easy to understand language why capitalism works against itself to create instability and, ultimately, its own demise. Each chapter is clear and concise, carefully explaining the contradictory nature of capitalism. Liberate your mind from our horrible educational system and our abysmal media. Read this book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2014
David Harvey is one of thr informed academic critics working in The United States today. The analysis is more than the ideologies originated with Karl Marx and the Twentieth Century "neo-Marxism" schools of thought. Dr. Harvey is a member of the anthropology and geography fields both as an academic teacher and researcher spanning the last half ot the Twenieth and beginning years of the Twentieth-First Centuries. It can be said That Dr. Harvey is a "secular humanist--for what ever pupose this might mean in Contemporary society. "Capital", the system, is the subject explored in the book or rather the underlying question is whether is it necessary for Americans to "live" the capitalist's localized free enterprise view.

Dr. Harvey views the reproduction of capitalism in the requirment that crisises and contradictions are essential. Capitalism in History is not static; it displays instabilities. The instabilities are the responses or the "antithesises" borrowed from the Hegalian, Marx-Engels, and Neo-Marxists model world views to the crisises described in the book. Dr. Harvey's view on cultural contradictions that are found to be essential are from the philosophical humanist vent and not of the Hegalian mechanical algorithm model of cyclical revolving pattern:"Thesis > Antithesis > Thesis [reccurrance historical change/transition (the Dialectic)]". The "Layman's" view is that David Harvey in the book is leaning torward the supremacy of citizens' consumers' rights over the power of the Capitalism social controls' methodologies. The final question is whether Capitalism with its crisises and contradictions will end in a "civilized" matter is dependent on the "secular humanist" global community's response. Dr. Harvey in this sense is a reformer as oppose to being from the "neo-Marxist" schools known for beliefs in mechanical historical progress.

This review annotation is written by an interested informed "arm chair" sitting student of modern economic-historical-cultural history at the age of sixty-five years. The reviewer acknowledges that his views lack the credentials that limits his authority to make value judgement on the subjects addressed by Dr.Harvey in his book, SEVENTEEN CONTRADICTIONS AND THE END OF CAPITALISM. Dr. Harvey is a "must read" by informed adults who have doubts of Capital's survival in American, British, and English speaking Canadian societies. It is important that America readers have some prior social science historical preconceptions nested in their minds before reading Dr. Harvey's arguments found in SEVENTEEN CONTRADICTIONS AND THE END OF CAPITALISM.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2014
'The Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism' has to be one of the most prophetic books since 'The Limits to Growth.' Employing a Marxist perspective, the author, Dr. David Harvey looks at capitalism systematically in an attempt to discover how crises such as the recession of 2008 originate. He goes on to expose the contradictions at the heart of capitalism. In doing so he has discovered that instead of facing its crises head on, capitalism moves them around.

Summarizing, Dr. Harvey breaks the 17 contradictions down into 3 categories which include seven foundation contradictions, seven moving contradictions, and three dangerous contradictions. Even though he categorizes the contradictions in order to analyze them better, he cautions us readers to view the contradictions as interlinked with each other, illustrating how an analysis of capitalism needs to employ a systematic perspective.

Beginning with an analysis of the ingredients that led to the recession, Dr. Harvey discourses on use value, exchange value, their impact on housing, and how speculation in the exchange value of housing led to a crises that almost rocked capitalism at its foundations. Continuing with an analysis of the other foundation contradictions he discusses capital and labor, private property, and production.

His category of 'moving contradictions' include social trends, cycles, and geographic moves. For example, if a company moves its factory to Mexico in order to capitalize on cheaper labor this is considered a moving contradiction. Technological changes, automation and its displacement of labor, changes in wealth disparity, and uneven geographic development were also considered to be 'moving contradictions.'

The three dangerous contradictions included endless compound growth, the commodification of nature, and the alienation of labor. Compound growth could be the most fatal for capitalism. Compound growth was illustrated by analogy with an ancient tale from India. In the tale a king asks the inventor of chess what he would like as a prize. The inventor answered that he merely wanted one grain of rice to be doubled on each square of the chessboard. The king agreed to grant the inventor his wish until he found out that by the 41st square all the rice in the world would not be enough. Mr. Harvey continues by stating, “Without expansion there can be no capital. A zero-growth capitalist economy is a logical and exclusionary contradiction. It simply cannot exist.” Yet in a world of finite resources capital cannot continue to grow at its current rate.

Dr. Harvey leaves his readers with a sense of dis-ease because he makes a strong case for the possibility of capital imploding upon itself. Capital works most effectively when money and resources circulate. When wealth becomes concentrated as trends show it is now doing, the demand for goods fall. Even though productivity may continue or increase, without demand the goods that are produced end up not being sold. Capitalism has so far been able to circumvent this potential problem by finding new markets or extending credit.

Dr. Harvey's solutions are radical and include the restoration of the commons. He doesn't go so far as to prophesize the end of capitalism. Yet, if capitalism is to survive the future the dystopian society that he predicts would result is truly horrific to the imagination. I found this quote particularly pertinent in conjunction with this theme, 'the issue is not, therefore, that capitalism cannot survive its contradictions but that the cost of doing so becomes unnacceptable to the mass of the population,' delineating two clear choices, a future like that of the movie 'Elysium' or an alternate 'post capitalist' future that has the interests of the mass of humanity at heart.

Even though I am not an economist, I found Mr. Harvey's analysis revealing and insightful. There were points in my reading where I felt he lost his objectivity in his need for eloquence. However, I felt he made a very compelling case. If his argument is valid, the implications are both disturbing and disillusioning; disturbing because he paints a picture of a future in which the mass of humanity is alienated from themselves and nature if we continue taking the direction we are headed. Disillusioning because we may be unwilling to make the changes necessary for an alternative future. Anyone concerned with where society is headed needs to read this book. It makes a compelling case for change and re-assessing the journey that we are on.
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27 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2014
If you know Harvey's work, rush to get this one on your reading list! If you haven't read Harvey and happen to be interested in understanding the volatile dynamics and not always so apparent contradictions of the global economic system wrecking chaos throughout the world, this is the perfect book to begin the process of opening a deeper understanding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2015
It is a very informative and interesting book. If you wish to know the problems facing the world today, it is an excellent choice. However, it is a little lacking in recommendations and the title suggesting the end of capitalism in general may be exagerated. It does, however, point out a relatively recent development in economics and politics called "the claiming of the commons". Other books such as "The end of money and the future of civilization" by Thomas H. Greco, Jr. can provide further enlightement on the latter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2014
A well presented, reasonable critique of capitalism. Whatever your dogma regarding western economics, David Harvey knocks that kool-aid right out of your hands! The first section is a must-read for anyone seeking an honest evaluation of capitalism - which is built on a series of dualities. Harvey calls them contradictions, and in a strict sense that is true, but he really refers to the positive and negative aspects of things like money. His explanation of the difference between use value and market value is especially good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2014
The book reads like a lecture on Marx's Capital but I like it anyway because it gives current world problems examples. Pretty nice little book! Although I do not know how would it be for someone who has not read Capital.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2014
This text should be read by anyone who believes that what the status quo offers us currently Benifits only the top .01% , and that capitalism has to end in order for us to fully maximize our human potential.
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