Category: articles (page 1 of 2)

“Listen, Anarchist!” by David Harvey

“Listen, Anarchist!” A personal response to Simon Springer’s “Why a radical geography must be anarchist”

David Harvey
City University of New York, USA

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Simon Springer (2014) has written a lively and polemical piece in which he argues that a radical geography must be freshly anarchist and not tired-old Marxist. As with any polemic of this sort, his paper has its quota of misrepresentations, exaggerations and ad hominem criticisms, but Springer does raise key issues that are worthy of discussion.

Let me first make clear my own position. I sympathize (but don’t entirely agree) with Murray Bookchin, who in his late writings (after he had severed his long- standing connection to anarchism), felt that “the future of the Left, in the last analysis, depends upon its ability to accept what is valid in both Marxism and anarchism for the present time and for the future coming into view” (Bookchin, 2014: 194). We need to define “what approach can incorporate the best of the revolutionary tradition – Marxism and anarchism – in ways and forms that speak to the kinds of problems that face the present” (2014: 164).

Springer, judging from his piece, would want no part in such a project. He seems mainly bent on polarizing the relation between anarchism and Marxism as if they are mutually exclusive if not hostile. There is, in my view, no point in that. From my Marxist perspective, the autonomist and anarchist tactics and sentiments that have animated a great deal of political activism over the last few years (in movements like “Occupy”) have to be appreciated, analyzed and supported when appropriate. If I think that “Occupy” or what happened in Gezi Park and on the streets of Brazilian cities were progressive movements, and if they were animated in whole or in part by anarchist and autonomista thought and action, then why on earth would I not engage positively with them? To the degree that anarchists of one sort or another have raised important issues that are all too frequently ignored or dismissed as irrelevant in mainstream Marxism, so too I think dialogue – let us call it mutual aid – rather than confrontation between the two traditions is a far more fruitful way to go. Conversely, Marxism, for all its past faults, has a great deal that is crucial to offer to the anti-capitalist struggle in which many anarchists are also engaged.

Geographers have a very special and perhaps privileged niche from which to explore the possibility of collaborations and mutual aid. As Springer points out, some of the major figures in the nineteenth century anarchist tradition – most notably Kropotkin, Metchnikoff and Reclus – were geographers. Through the work of Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford and later on Murray Bookchin, anarchist sentiments have also been influential in urban planning, while many utopian schemas (such as that of Edward Bellamy) as well as practical plans (such as those of Ebenezer Howard) reflect anarchist influences. I would, incidentally, put my own utopian sketch (“Edilia”) from Spaces of Hope (2000) in that tradition. Continue reading

Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities

essay-big

Exhibition: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NYC, Nov 22, 2014 – May 10, 2015

Film: Uneven Growth NYC (scroll down to view)

Essay: The Crisis of Planetary Urbanization by David Harvey

Book: Published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Edited with text by Pedro Gadanho. Text by Richard Burdett, Teddy Cruz, David Harvey, Saskia Sassen, Nader Tehrani.

The Micawber Solution

The Micawber Solution
David Harvey
August 6, 2014

“Something,” the endearing but eternally indebted Mr Micawber in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield was fond of saying, “is bound to turn up!” “Welcome poverty! Welcome misery, welcome houselessness, welcome hunger, rags, tempest, and beggary!” said he, “Mutual confidence will sustain us to the end!” It sounds like an opening chorus for a Broadway musical called “Austerity Politics,” featuring Paul Ryan and George Osborne dialoguing across the Atlantic backed by a chorus of Republican governors of the United States and IMF officials, with a walk on role for Angela Merkel dressed as Medea poised to sacrifice the children of Europe rather than surrender to the fire-breathing paper dragon of inflation. The collective austerity budgets designed to cure all economic ills would provide a wonderful décor for a cacophonous second act. But in the final act Mr Micawber will stride upon the stage to save the day, with an ingenious solution to the problem of universal indebtedness.

He announces his solution “with much solemnity,” says Dickens, but only after consuming “two glasses of punch in grave succession.” Seeking to clean up his affairs as he readies himself to migrate from London to Australia, here is what Micawber proposes: Continue reading

Afterthoughts on Piketty’s Capital

David Harvey

Thomas Piketty has written a book called Capital that has caused quite a stir. He advocates progressive taxation and a global wealth tax as the only way to counter the trend towards the creation of a “patrimonial” form of capitalism marked by what he dubs “terrifying” inequalities of wealth and income. He also documents in excruciating and hard to rebut detail how social inequality of both wealth and income has evolved over the last two centuries, with particular emphasis on the role of wealth. He demolishes the widely-held view that free market capitalism spreads the wealth around and that it is the great bulwark for the defense of individual liberties and freedoms. Free-market capitalism, in the absence of any major redistributive interventions on the part of the state, Piketty shows, produces anti-democratic oligarchies. This demonstration has given sustenance to liberal outrage as it drives the Wall Street Journal apoplectic.

The book has often been presented as a twenty-first century substitute for Karl Marx’s nineteenth century work of the same title. Piketty actually denies this was his intention, which is just as well since his is not a book about capital at all. It does not tell us why the crash of 2008 occurred and why it is taking so long for so many people to get out from under the dual burdens of prolonged unemployment and millions of houses lost to foreclosure. It does not help us understand why growth is currently so sluggish in the US as opposed to China and why Europe is locked down in a politics of austerity and an economy of stagnation. What Piketty does show statistically (and we should be indebted to him and his colleagues for this) is that capital has tended throughout its history to produce ever-greater levels of inequality. This is, for many of us, hardly news. It was, moreover, exactly Marx’s theoretical conclusion in Volume One of his version of Capital. Piketty fails to note this, which is not surprising since he has since claimed, in the face of accusations in the right wing press that he is a Marxist in disguise, not to have read Marx’s Capital.
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Rebels on the Street: The Party of Wall Street Meets its Nemesis

Rebels on the Street: The Party of Wall Street Meets its Nemesis
David Harvey
Verso Books Blog
October 28, 2011

The Party of Wall Street has ruled unchallenged in the United States for far too long. It has totally (as opposed to partially) dominated the policies of Presidents over at least four decades (if not longer), no matter whether individual Presidents have been its willing agents or not. It has legally corrupted Congress via the craven dependency of politicians in both political parties upon its raw money power and upon access to the mainstream media that it controls. Thanks to the appointments made and approved by Presidents and Congress, the Party of Wall Street dominates much of the state apparatus as well as the judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, whose partisan judgments increasingly favor venal money interests, in spheres as diverse as electoral, labor, environmental and contract law.

The Party of Wall Street has one universal principle of rule: that there shall be no serious challenge to the absolute power of money to rule absolutely. And that power is to be exercised with one objective. Those possessed of money power shall not only be privileged to accumulate wealth endlessly at will, but they shall have the right to inherit the earth, taking either direct or indirect dominion not only of the land and all the resources and productive capacities that reside therein, but also assume absolute command, directly or indirectly, over the labor and creative potentialities of all those others it needs. The rest of humanity shall be deemed disposable.
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Article: The Urban Roots of Financial Crises: reclaiming the city for anti-capitalist struggle

Socialist Register 2012New article in the Socialist Register 2012: The Crisis and the Left. Available now for subscribers and through many universities here.  Otherwise, look for it in your local bookstore in December, or pre-order on Amazon.

Abstract:

In an article in the New York Times on 5 February 2011, entitled ‘Housing Bubbles Are Few and Far Between’, Robert Shiller, the economist who many consider the great housing expert given his role in the construction of the Case-Shiller index of housing prices in the United States, reassured everyone that the recent housing bubble was a ‘rare event, not to be repeated for many decades’. The ‘enormous housing bubble’ of the early 2000s ‘isn’t comparable to any national or international housing cycle in history. Previous bubbles have been smaller and more regional’. The only reasonable parallels, he asserted, were the land bubbles that occurred in the United States way back in the late 1830s and the 1850s. This is, as I shall show, an astonishingly inaccurate reading of capitalist history. The fact that it passed so unremarked testifies to a serious blind spot in contemporary economic thinking. Unfortunately, it also turns out to be an equally blind spot in Marxist political economy.

Property market booms and busts are inextricably intertwined with speculative financial flows and these booms and busts have serious consequences for the macro-economy in general as well as all manner of externality effects upon resource depletion and environmental degradation. Property booms and capitalist crises also refocus politics on the city as a terrain of anti-capitalist struggle. The history of urban struggles, from the Paris Commune through the Shanghai Commune, the Seattle General Strike, The Tucuman uprising and the Prague Spring to the more general urban-based movements of 1968 (which we now see faintly echoed in Cairo and Madison) is stunning. But it is a history that is also troubled by political and tactical complications that have led many on the left to underestimate and misunderstand the potential and the potency of urban-based movements, to often see them as separate from class struggle and therefore devoid of revolutionary potential. And when such events do take on iconic status, as in the case of the Paris Commune, they are typically claimed as one of ‘the greatest proletarian uprisings’ in world history, even as they were as much about reclaiming the right to the city as they were about revolutionizing class relations in production.

Karl Marx by Lionel Youst

This article originally appeared in The Advocate: The Progressive Voice of Coos County, Oregon, July 2011.

Karl Marx
by Lionel Youst

My life as an autodidact began when I dropped out of North Bend High School following my Freshman year. Since then I’ve tried to learn something new every day but it’s kind of hit and miss. Gaps and lacuna show up all the time. For example, I’m 77 years old and just now getting into Marx. I don’t know why it took so long, but it was worth the wait. The guy is a truly outstanding writer, when he wants to be, and he loves footnotes as much as I do. If you follow them along you find that he is sometimes witty and often sarcastic, stunningly well read, and really smart. Continue reading

Feral Capitalism Hits the Streets

(Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

Feral Capitalism Hits the Streets
by David Harvey
11 August 2011

“Nihilistic and feral teenagers” the Daily Mail called them: the crazy youths from all walks of life who raced around the streets mindlessly and desperately hurling bricks, stones and bottles at the cops while looting here and setting bonfires there, leading the authorities on a merry chase of catch-as-catch-can as they tweeted their way from one strategic target to another.

The word “feral” pulled me up short. It reminded me of how the communards in Paris in 1871 were depicted as wild animals, as hyenas, that deserved to be (and often were) summarily executed in the name of the sanctity of private property, morality, religion, and the family. But then the word conjured up another association: Tony Blair attacking the “feral media,” having for so long been comfortably lodged in the left pocket of Rupert Murdoch only later to be substituted as Murdoch reached into his right pocket to pluck out David Cameron.
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The Vote to End Capitalism

How does capitalism get reproduced over time? This question has puzzled political economists from the seventeenth century onwards. Many simple models have been devised to answer this very complex question. While none of them are fully satisfactory, many insights are to be had from studying them and in these times of deep and frustrating troubles it is very important that we do just that.

One such model can be extracted from the works of Karl Marx and however abhorrent his political views might be to many, we ignore his insights at our peril. So here is a Marx parable that has interesting relevance to our present circumstance.
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Nice day for a revolution: Why May Day should be a date to stand up and change the system

May Day is the occasion we celebrate the grand achievements of the workers of the world in making our world a far, far better place to live in. There is, unfortunately, not too much to celebrate these days. The past 30 years are littered with battles and skirmishes that have resulted in defeat after defeat for organised labour.

A capitalist class gone rampant has now consolidated its power to command or corrupt almost all the major institutions that regulate the body politic – the political parties (of both left and right), the media, the universities, the law, to say nothing of the repressive state apparatus and international institutions. The democracy of money power now rules. A global plutocracy exerts its will almost everywhere unchallenged.

So what is there to celebrate? We would not, of course, have what we still have now (from pensions to the remnants of reasonable health care and public education) had it not been for the labour movement. But waxing nostalgic over the undoubted achievements and heroism of the past will get us nowhere.

May Day should therefore be about relaunching a revolutionary movement to change the world. The very thought of doing that – even just saying it and writing it down – is as exhilarating as it is astonishing.

Read the full article at The Independent

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