HOST: David Harvey is a Marxist thinker about political economy and has been teaching Karl Marx’s Capital for over 40 years. He currently teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Prof. Harvey has written extensively on the significance of Marx’s Capital for understanding contemporary capitalism, and will be presenting this knowledge and more to his podcast audience.
(spoken in English, subtitled in Portuguese) Second in a series of short clips recorded on the occasion of the publication of the Brazilian edition of Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason by Boitempo.
(spoken in English, subtitled in Portuguese) First in a series of short clips recorded on the occasion of the publication of the Brazilian edition of Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason by Boitempo.
It is quite possible that if and when we collectively emerge from the torments being inflicted by COVID-19, we will find ourselves in a political landscape where the reform of capitalism is very much upon the agenda. Even before the virus struck, there were minor hints of such a transition. Major business leaders who were gathered at Davos, for example, heard that their obsession with profits and market value and neglect of social and environmental impacts was becoming counterproductive. They were advised to take shelter from rising public wrath in some form of “conscience” or “eco-capitalism.”
The lamentable state of society’s public-health defenses against the onslaught of the virus, after forty years of neoliberal politics in many parts of the world, has increased the degree of public agitation. Austerity on anything other than military expenditures or subsidies to supposedly needy — though often filthy rich — corporations left behind a bitter taste, increasingly so after the bank bailout of 2008. In contrast, the collective and state-led measures to address the pandemic that did seem to work have generated more favorable public attitudes towards government.
When trying to interpret,
understand and analyze the daily flow of news, I tend to locate what is
happening against the background of two distinctive but intersecting models of
how capitalism works. The first level is
a mapping of the internal contradictions of the circulation and accumulation of
capital as money value flows in search of profit through the different
“moments” (as Marx calls them) of production, realization (consumption),
distribution, and reinvestment. This is a model of the capitalist economy as
a spiral of endless expansion and growth. It gets pretty complicated as it gets
elaborated through, for example, the lenses of geopolitical rivalries, uneven
geographical developments, financial institutions, state policies, technological
reconfigurations and the ever-changing web of divisions of labour and of social
relations. I envision this model as embedded, however, in a broader context of
social reproduction (in households and communities), in an on-going and
ever-evolving metabolic relation to nature (including the “second nature” of
urbanization and the built environment) and all manner of cultural, scientific
(knowledge-based), religious and contingent social formations that human
populations typically create across space and time. These latter “moments” incorporate the active
expression of human wants, needs and desires, the lust for knowledge and meaning
and the evolving quest for fulfillment against a background of changing institutional
arrangements, political contestations, ideological confrontations, losses, defeats,
frustrations and alienations, all worked out in a world of marked geographical,
cultural, social and political diversity.
This second model constitutes, as it were, my working understanding of global
capitalism as a distinctive social formation, whereas the first is about the contradictions
within the economic engine that powers this social formation along certain pathways
of its historical and geographical evolution.
A new course featuring David Harvey teaching Karl Marx’s Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft).
Written during the winter of 1857-8, the Grundrisse was considered by Marx to be the first scientific elaboration of communist theory.
Recorded live in 2020 first at The People’s Forum and then in quarantine, these 12 accessible lectures both guide the reader through the major themes of Marx’s seminal text, as well as feature contemporary commentary relating the text to the pandemic and economic crisis.
The text for this course is Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft) by Karl Marx. The page numbers Professor Harvey refers to are from the Penguin Classics edition, translated by Martin Nicolaus, ISBN: 978-0140445756. The text of the Grundrisse can also be found for free on the Marxists Internet Archive.
In this lecture, David Harvey offers a close reading of Volume III of Karl Marx’s Capital to distinguish the rate of growth versus the mass of growth. Most economists, policy makers, politicians, and the financial press are very concerned about the rate of growth. The rate of growth is in turn critical to the formulation of policy. Yet the mass of growth is actually more significant, and deserves careful analysis. This lecture will devote special attention to the mass of growth. It will ask: What is the mass of growth? Who controls the mass of wealth? What are we going to do with the mass that is produced?