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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A saga of paradoxes, May 10, 2012
This review is from: The Enigma of Capital: and the Crises of Capitalism (Paperback)
David Harvey analyzes thoroughly capitalism, neoliberalism and the latest financial tsunami. But, his solutions to solve the capitalist irrationalities are partly very utopian.

Capital
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
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).

Solutions
The irrationality of capitalism is blatantly visible in the coexistence of surplus capital and surplus labor, in the eyes of billions of people living in abject conditions and in the environmental degradation. The author's solutions, however, are partly very utopian. In addition to respect for nature and true democracy (no concentration of the political, judicial, military and media powers in a few hands), his hopes rest on the individual: radical egalitarianism in social and labor relations, self-realization in service to others (Kropotkin revisited) and the giving-up of daily comforts and rights.

Errors
The author's appreciation of Mao's China is way of the mark. Mao's barefoot `doctors' had to learn medical practice on the spot (but not on him!) without any professional education (N. Cheng: Life and Death in Shanghai). Julia Lovell remarked very perspicaciously that Deng Xiaoping had clearly understood that the only chance for the Chinese CP to stay in power was to elevate drastically the living standard of the population and that by any means. The color of the cat was of no importance.
As nearly always with Marxist intellectuals, D. Harvey doesn't bother about the nature of the individual, the core of all societies, which are themselves only the sum of its members, nothing less, but also nothing more. Power (= survival) is an essential, dominating factor for any individual, because those who have it, live longer than those without it.

Before reading this book, I highly recommend a short introduction to capitalism and its dynamics by F. Braudel: 'Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and Capitalism'.
David Harvey is in no way a member of the group of intellectuals who sold their soul to the clique actually in power. His vision is genuine and to the point, but too optimistic concerning the nature of the individual.
This book is a must read for all those who are looking for serious solutions for the world's problems, even if today these solutions seem only dreams.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 16, 2012 12:21:13 PM PDT
Antonis says:
Can you name some bibliographical errors?

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2012 8:01:13 AM PDT
Luc REYNAERT says:
Dear Sir,
I give away nearly all the books I've read to Public Libraries. Fortunately, this book was not lent when I visited the one to which I gave it. So, I could check rapidly the text of the bibliographic notes and the index again:

Alfred Marshall, not Arthur Marshall
Infectious Greed, not Ubfectious Greed by Frank Partnoy
Typing errors: Guggenheim Museum, not Museu
Deutsche Bank, not Deutsches Bank
Revolutions of 1848, not rsouevolutions of 1848
Nordic crisis, not Nordic cris
Mexico's proximity, not Miexico
There may be other ones.

In any case, I changed my review, because my words `besides bibliographic errors' cast a minor shadow on this excellent book. In the future, I will not refer anymore to this kind of very minor details in a book. LR

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2013 4:19:01 PM PDT
capital:

its the "lifeblood" surging through the veins of society like an unbound freightrain into the night. Capital. Its the the mystical force sustaining the unending cycle of acquisition destruction and aquistition, that to a man with dreams, Is like the breath of the messiah. Capital. It is the invisible hand, giving the bold and somewhat more greedy than the rest of us a happy ending massage under the table of fortune. capital. wrung out the hides of the many and doled out to the few.the sacred few. Capital the divine wind under luc reynaerts soaring wings of destiny...
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