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Karl Marx's Capital is one of the most important texts written in the modern era. Since 1867, when the first of its three volumes was published, it has had a profound effect on politics and economics in theory and practice throughout the world. But Marx wrote in the context of capitalism in the second half of the nineteenth century: his assumptions and analysis need to be Karl Marx's Capital is one of the most important texts written in the modern era. Since 1867, when the first of its three volumes was published, it has had a profound effect on politics and economics in theory and practice throughout the world. But Marx wrote in the context of capitalism in the second half of the nineteenth century: his assumptions and analysis need to be updated in order to address to the technological, economic, and industrial change that has followed Capital's initial publication. In Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason, David Harvey not only provides a concise distillation of his famous course on Capital, but also makes the text relevant to the twenty-first century's continued processes of globalization. Harvey shows the work's continuing analytical power, doing so in the clearest and simplest terms but never compromising its depth and complexity. Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason provides an accessible window into Harvey's unique approach to Marxism and takes readers on a riveting roller coaster ride through recent global history. It demonstrates how and why Capital remains a living, breathing document with an outsized influence on contemporary social thought.


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Karl Marx's Capital is one of the most important texts written in the modern era. Since 1867, when the first of its three volumes was published, it has had a profound effect on politics and economics in theory and practice throughout the world. But Marx wrote in the context of capitalism in the second half of the nineteenth century: his assumptions and analysis need to be Karl Marx's Capital is one of the most important texts written in the modern era. Since 1867, when the first of its three volumes was published, it has had a profound effect on politics and economics in theory and practice throughout the world. But Marx wrote in the context of capitalism in the second half of the nineteenth century: his assumptions and analysis need to be updated in order to address to the technological, economic, and industrial change that has followed Capital's initial publication. In Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason, David Harvey not only provides a concise distillation of his famous course on Capital, but also makes the text relevant to the twenty-first century's continued processes of globalization. Harvey shows the work's continuing analytical power, doing so in the clearest and simplest terms but never compromising its depth and complexity. Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason provides an accessible window into Harvey's unique approach to Marxism and takes readers on a riveting roller coaster ride through recent global history. It demonstrates how and why Capital remains a living, breathing document with an outsized influence on contemporary social thought.

30 review for Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason

  1. 4 out of 5

    Always Pouting

    Definitely much more bearable to read than Capital itself, most likely because it's at least 700 pages shorter. I really like the way that it covered volumes II and III as well, mostly because I was hoping not to read them after trudging through volume I. To be fair volume I is the longest so it might have been so bad to read the other two as well. Anyways this was a good overview of Marx that covered a lot of his writing while also expanding on it and tying it back into the modern political sit Definitely much more bearable to read than Capital itself, most likely because it's at least 700 pages shorter. I really like the way that it covered volumes II and III as well, mostly because I was hoping not to read them after trudging through volume I. To be fair volume I is the longest so it might have been so bad to read the other two as well. Anyways this was a good overview of Marx that covered a lot of his writing while also expanding on it and tying it back into the modern political situation. I enjoyed it and it did give me some things to think about like the function of credit and it's intertwined nature with exponential growth. Things I've heard talk about and had feelings toward that were formally written out in a more cogent way that really allows me to articulate my own opinion on the situation in a more coherent fashion. Might check out David Harvey's other books in the future as well since this was pretty accessible.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David M

    'All capitalism is vulture capitalism' - in conversation at City Lights * The fact that so many find it harder to envisage the end of capitalism than the end of the world has everything to do with the fact that the future of capital accumulation is foreclosed in a towering volume of debt as anti-value. For many, the only seeming hope is that some external intervention - an apocalyptic even of some sort - will save us. It will not. The only thing that can save us is an explicit winding down if not 'All capitalism is vulture capitalism' - in conversation at City Lights * The fact that so many find it harder to envisage the end of capitalism than the end of the world has everything to do with the fact that the future of capital accumulation is foreclosed in a towering volume of debt as anti-value. For many, the only seeming hope is that some external intervention - an apocalyptic even of some sort - will save us. It will not. The only thing that can save us is an explicit winding down if not demolition of the tower of debt that dictates our future. - pp 93 * Harvey defines capital as "value in motion." A capitalist society would be one organized according to the needs of this motion. In light of this, what to make of the truly shocking phenomenon of wealth hoarding by elites in the 21st century? If it were ever possible to honestly believe tax cuts to the rich caused wealth to "trickle down," that time is obviously past. The utter shamelessness of the latest tax bill seems to confirm this. Wealth doesn't trickle down; it goes offshore to tax havens. Obviously this is very bad news for the poor and non-elites in general. Perhaps a more vexing question is what it portends for capitalism itself. See this excellent piece in the Jacobin https://jacobinmag.com/2017/11/paradi... People who claim to love capitalism and care about capitalism thriving should be very worried about this, because what this concentration of capital in an increasingly small group of people’s hands means is that the economic system is ossifying. It’s going backwards towards feudalism, where wealth was tied up generation after generation among a very small group of families. That’s exactly what we see happening now. At a time when the rich seem to be decisively winning the class war, it's hard to believe capitalism could be on its last leg. Yet by the definitions Harvey proposes, some sort of epochal shift does seem to be underway. We appear to be headed toward a kind of postmodern neo-feudalism. * As a geographer and urbanist, Harvey is especially good on the subject of alienation. Marx himself did not deal with the subject much in Capital, volume 1. Given that it can't be measured the same way as inequality and exploitation, it may seem less real. Part of the romantic heritage to be retired for the sake of a more rigorous political economy. In fact, I think Harvey shows convincingly it's a necessary concept to make sense of the current flash-points of the global capitalist system. For instance, it may help provide some resolution to the endless, mostly sterile debates about whether Trump's election was caused by economic anxiety or purely cultural phenomena such as racism. Advocates of the latter can point out that by some metrics the economy was actually doing just fine. While this may be true, statistics often fail to account for the way capital disrupts people's lives and lived environments. For this, a more qualitative investigation is needed. Harvey provides this with his writing on cities.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    There are basically three things that are truly worth saying about the text: 1) this book will make you understand why the following statement is not only true, but you will understand why and its very deep implications: "The Communist Party leadership in Beijing almost certainly did not set out to save global capitalism, but this is in effect what they did." — p. 180 2) if you want to actually understand what Marx wrote about capitalism — not useless propaganda, disengenous attempts at understand There are basically three things that are truly worth saying about the text: 1) this book will make you understand why the following statement is not only true, but you will understand why and its very deep implications: "The Communist Party leadership in Beijing almost certainly did not set out to save global capitalism, but this is in effect what they did." — p. 180 2) if you want to actually understand what Marx wrote about capitalism — not useless propaganda, disengenous attempts at understanding, and intellectually lazy summaries — without sifting carefuly through all of Capital, Grundrisse, and all of the other writings then you should read this book. It's the shortest you'll ever get in terms of understanding Marx's critique of capitalism. 3) read this book An immensely important work that not only clarifies Marx's writings, but puts them into historical perspective and provides a clear analysis of Marx's failings and ways to overcome these.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Foppe

    For those who are new to Marx or Harvey's work, please (first) check out The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism, as that work is rather more accessible. But if you're familiar with their work already, this makes for an excellent read. Harvey's main aim, in basically all of his work, has been to on the one hand show the relevance of Marx's analytic framework, and on the second to update it, specifically with an appreciation of the importance of geography and geographic difference to t For those who are new to Marx or Harvey's work, please (first) check out The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism, as that work is rather more accessible. But if you're familiar with their work already, this makes for an excellent read. Harvey's main aim, in basically all of his work, has been to on the one hand show the relevance of Marx's analytic framework, and on the second to update it, specifically with an appreciation of the importance of geography and geographic difference to the way 'capitalist development' functions. One important illustration of this being the history of the world since 1945: the rebuilding of the west formed the first impetus to growth, and because most of the world was still 'outside' capital's sphere, and because racism and sexism were still dominant, workers had a strong bargaining position, which allowed them to command a substantial part of the wealth and income growth over the period, while high post-depression income tax rates ensured that societies stayed relatively egalitarian. As women and people of color (and "illegal immigrants" in the US, and "guest workers" in Europe) started entering the workforce, and later Japan and the "Asian Tigers" joined the world economy, the downward pressure on wages increased, even as it became easier to produce goods "elsewhere", where regulations were more lax, and living standards were (much) lower. Then NAFTA, China, the former Soviet Bloc labor forces become available to capital, and by now advanced containerization and computerization allows for the near-seamless integration of most of the world's population into the "global market", while there is little room left for "growth" in the mature, western societies. So wages have long since stagnated, and most of the "wealth increase" since the 1990s has come from house price inflation made possible by the ("American Dreaming" suburban white picked fenced-, dual car, ) dual-income household, which allowed for mortgages (and thereby, house prices) to rise. This went well until it didn't, which is where we are today. All of these developments occurred only because and where there are/were (accessible) "greenfield sites", where regulations are still (or once again) lax, where humans are mostly unorganized, and where people are desperate for income (often by forced migration, evictions, enclosure and sale of common land). And everywhere where there no longer is "growth" and building going on, because there is no demand for it, or because there is too much competition, stagnation and stories of impending doom because "no more growth" -- no matter how good the standard of living is in an absolute sense, see Japan -- are the norm. This book, in some ways, is an attempt to more explore the dynamics and their interactions that he's discussed in the Enigma book in more detail, to make them more rigorous; and to integrate the importance of the role of the financial sector in particular, and money as debt, into the analysis, which was largely missing from the theory (because Marx intended to address it in vol.3 of capital, which he never completed; see A Companion to Marx's Capital, Volume 2). I don't think Harvey is done yet (and he's still a quite spry and agile octogenarian), but this makes for an excellent update and addition to his work. PS. if you want to read a more detailed account of the role of the financial sector from a marxist perspective, please check out Michael Hudson's Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy. For an anthropologist's account of money and debt and how those relate to human interaction, promise-making, and helping each other, see David Graeber's magisterial Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Peter Harrison

    A while ago I read the three volumes of Marx's Capital in tandem with the first and second volumes of David Harvey's "Companion to Marx's Capital". Harvey is of course also well known for his series of online video lectures on Capital, which formed the basis for the "Companion" books. In some ways this book feels like a shortened version of the longer work. It is a superb short introduction to the thought of Marx in all it's complexity. Harvey builds the book around the basic principle that for M A while ago I read the three volumes of Marx's Capital in tandem with the first and second volumes of David Harvey's "Companion to Marx's Capital". Harvey is of course also well known for his series of online video lectures on Capital, which formed the basis for the "Companion" books. In some ways this book feels like a shortened version of the longer work. It is a superb short introduction to the thought of Marx in all it's complexity. Harvey builds the book around the basic principle that for Marx Capital is 'value in motion' and uses the hydrological cycle to illustrate how this works in practice. His emphasis on contradiction and conflict in the thought of Marx is a great counter to the 'standard' deterministic version of Marxism. Harvey works through the various transformations that capital progresses through in moving from production to circulation to realisation (and then back into production) spiralling upwards driven by the need to accumulate. He draws out the dialectical nature of these transformations, riven by contradiction and the possibility of crises. This leads to the final chapter where Harvey begins the process of connecting this analysis to the current political conjunction. In particular he draws out how the dramatic growth of China demonstrates an acceleration in the challenges modern capital presents both to the continuation of a working economy and to a sustainable climate. Harvey also discusses the creation of 'anti-value'. One aspect of modern capitalism has been the creation of vast quantities of debt representing claims of the present on the future, determining the continuation of the production of surplus value in the need to service the debt that has been built up in the past. And yet the creation of this debt has been necessary to pulling capital out of its periodic crises, and in particular following the great recession of 2007-8. Harvey does not shy away from exposing the complexities of Marx's thought. In this the book is similar to the pair of "Companion" books. The goal is to encourage us to engage with Marx's thought as an insightful way of thinking about the current state of affairs, as an analysis that helps us to understand the way things are, and emphatically not as a dogma that must be revered without being changed. Harvey does a superb job of outlining Marx's framework, where it reflects the challenges we face today and where it needs further thought or revision. In brief, as a short introduction to the modern value of Marx's work this book is invaluable without ever being dogmatic. Perhaps the dissolution of 'actually existing' communism frees us to make better use of what Marx can tell us about modern political economy. If so, there is no better introduction than David Harvey's latest work.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John Mihelic

    The best book published this year is David Harvey’s “Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason”. In this centenary year of the Russian Revolution, it is important not to lose touch with those critical of the current economic system. Harvey bring the ideas of Marx into the 21st century and shows how they are still relevant to understanding capitalism today even with the evolution of capitalism since Marx first set pen to page.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    The world needs more old-fashioned Marxists like Harvey — who has written yet another effortless-seeming book offering a hugely readable, enormously nuanced, and appropriately acerbic reflection on his continued (growing!) relevance.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Liu

    I read this in preparation for a David Harvey lecture held at LSE last night. I didn't actually get to go to the event (it was over capacity ... Marxist events are really popular these days, it seems) but I'm glad I read this anyway. I'd already read two of his other books (Enigma and Seventeen Contradictions) and there was a lot of overlap, but he does explore some of the more geographical aspects of modern-day capitalism in this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Recommended if you want a better I read this in preparation for a David Harvey lecture held at LSE last night. I didn't actually get to go to the event (it was over capacity ... Marxist events are really popular these days, it seems) but I'm glad I read this anyway. I'd already read two of his other books (Enigma and Seventeen Contradictions) and there was a lot of overlap, but he does explore some of the more geographical aspects of modern-day capitalism in this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Recommended if you want a better understanding of how a system created by humankind to liberate us from material hardship has instead come to dominate us.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laszlo Szerdahelyi

    If there is one fundamental question that this book essentially explores, it's the following : ''If Capitalism were a character in Alice in Wonderland, which character would it be ?''. To put it simply, it would probably be the character of the Mad Hatter, for what other character can best embody the irrationality of actions and behaviors and the temporal distorsion shared by both: of believing that it is always 6.00 PM or in the case of capital that time can be subdued and sped up to gain more If there is one fundamental question that this book essentially explores, it's the following : ''If Capitalism were a character in Alice in Wonderland, which character would it be ?''. To put it simply, it would probably be the character of the Mad Hatter, for what other character can best embody the irrationality of actions and behaviors and the temporal distorsion shared by both: of believing that it is always 6.00 PM or in the case of capital that time can be subdued and sped up to gain more material possessions. Harvey manages yet again, by virtue of a concise and eloquent exposition and a through his ability to bond with his reader, to navigate the complex and vast works of Marx to understand the complexity and the danger of today's dominant economic system. Using Marx, Harvey seeks to give us an understanding of the structure and content of his works, the immense debt (irony) we owe him for his works and the great degree to which his theories continue to explain the march of capitalism but also how much more we need to expand and complete his ideas in a world that shifts and changes technologically and is shaped and bent by the will of capital. Using the theory of circulation of capital, Harvey takes a look at the different facets of how our economic system got to where it is right now (a state of a crisis prone, manic-depressive juggernaut) and the processes that we should understand and expect from a system that is based on an ever expanding and complex structure of debt, fictional value and where the economy not only has stopped playing the role of satisfying the needs of the people who are aggregated in its functioning but that has essentially become a vast Ponzi scheme. Bankers and investors thrust into a hyperaccelerated system whose only goal is that of accumulation are set to the task of shifting, moving and coming up with new forms of maneuvering a vast amount of money, that has no real value and that circulates in a very complex financial system. From the way that it affects our social bonds, our perception of time, the importance of commodities, our social environments and our mentalities capitalism in its most vicious form of today threatens the future of our existence by seeking to buy it out through debt and bondage. The great crimes and manipulations happen behind rows upon rows of code, virtual space and of unintelligible technical language and unleash catastrophic consequences in the real world like the crisis of 2007-2008. This book needs to be read and understood (even if that means putting it down to google or double check a term or an event or do extra research) because it offers one the gateways to understanding the effects of financial capital on our economies but most importantly on our individual lives. An important takeaway from this book for me, that is relevant in our understanding probably of a multitude of concepts not limited to capital, is the areas that we need to defend from the enroachment of capital and that are under constant duress: technology and it potentialities of liberation or oppression, our mental conceptions of the world, our social relations, our relations to nature, the production of commodities and the institutional arrangements of our society. This book, like Marx and like many other brilliant authors smothered by the stale ideologies of our time and layers of illusions that capital has constructed, simply wishes for us to come to grips with our position as the Dormouse and to finally wake up and stop letting the March Hare and the Hatter from dipping our heads in the teapot, while we dream of being Alice.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Frank D'hanis junior

    Pretty good refresh of my Marxist basics, though I'm not enough up-to-date with current Marxist discussion to tell what's so specific about Harvey's outlook. It is obvious though that he is an excellent geographer and he is very apt to apply Marx's value theory to the modern globalist economy. Pretty good refresh of my Marxist basics, though I'm not enough up-to-date with current Marxist discussion to tell what's so specific about Harvey's outlook. It is obvious though that he is an excellent geographer and he is very apt to apply Marx's value theory to the modern globalist economy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Very difficult to process but I kept at it.... Why does Flint Michigan still not have clean water?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex Macon

    Extremely useful if you, like me, are trying to get familiar with Marx's Capital but are too lazy to actually read Capital. Extremely useful if you, like me, are trying to get familiar with Marx's Capital but are too lazy to actually read Capital.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rowena Abdul Razak

    Excellent critique on Marxism while applies Marxist theory to the current global economy and decent crises

  14. 5 out of 5

    F J Gilbert

    I found this book one of the best and most convincing explanations of Marx's theory of capital, which Harvey defines not as 'money' but as 'value in motion'. Money is a fictional concept which is given value by people believing in it as valuable. Key quotes: 'Most work in the social sciences favours some 'single bullet' theory of social change. Institutionalists favour institutional innovations, economic determinists favour new technologies of production, socialists and anarchists favour class s I found this book one of the best and most convincing explanations of Marx's theory of capital, which Harvey defines not as 'money' but as 'value in motion'. Money is a fictional concept which is given value by people believing in it as valuable. Key quotes: 'Most work in the social sciences favours some 'single bullet' theory of social change. Institutionalists favour institutional innovations, economic determinists favour new technologies of production, socialists and anarchists favour class struggle...Marx cannot and must not be read as a single bullet theorist...In Marx's substantive work, there is no prime mover, but a mess of often contradictory movements...' (p. 114) 'If the circulation of capital is under immense competitive pressure to accelerate, then this requires speed-up in consumption. I still use my grandparents' knives and forks. If capital produced only items of this sort it would long ago fallen into permanent crisis. Capital evolves a whole range of tactics, from planned obsolescence to mobilising advertising pressures and fashion as tools of persuasion, all in the cause of accelerating turnover time in consumption.' (p. 198) 'Capital, we have argued, is value in motion. Within the circulation process of capital, blockages periodically appear...In the crisis that ensues, 'everyone has good to sell and cannot sell, even though have to sell in order to pay...Factories stand idle, raw materials pile up, finished products flood the market as commodities...' (Marx, Das Capital, Vol. 3, p. 164) This is the madness which we have lived through time and time again again over the last forty years.' (p. 208) For me, the book really showed how Marx was extremely perceptive in his analysis of the problems of capitalism, and revealed how he was a complex thinker, whose theoretical framework still has validity today.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jacob van Berkel

    Not useless, but as "an exposition of Marx's thought" also not quite as helpful as I hoped. There's a lot of stuff in there that felt like filler to me, entire chapters were devoted to pointless and lengthy explanations of the painfully obvious (e.g. capitalism changes the built environment) or seemed devoted to ideas that are more Harvey's than Marx's. At the same time it lacked any discussion of some of Marx's ideas I was hoping to learn more about. There is nothing in here about Marx's 'base Not useless, but as "an exposition of Marx's thought" also not quite as helpful as I hoped. There's a lot of stuff in there that felt like filler to me, entire chapters were devoted to pointless and lengthy explanations of the painfully obvious (e.g. capitalism changes the built environment) or seemed devoted to ideas that are more Harvey's than Marx's. At the same time it lacked any discussion of some of Marx's ideas I was hoping to learn more about. There is nothing in here about Marx's 'base and superstructure' ideas for instance. Also, and this might be my lack of familiarity with the substance, but I found Harvey's explanations often very confusing, very wordy, and often lacking a clear point. But it did taught some things, among which is some insight on the fatal contraction at the root of what Marx saw as "the most important law of political economy". So that's at least something. But ultimately this book, like capitalism, has failed to satisfy my wants, needs, and desires, as I am now still on the lookout for "an exposition of Marx's thought".

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bird Dude

    Feels like much of this has already been enunciated, much more cogently, in other places by Harvey. A filler effort,this is like when Steven Seagal churns out a film in one week to pay off his gambling debts to the bulgarian mob , still can't hate Daddy Harvey for trying to get that bread though. Feels like much of this has already been enunciated, much more cogently, in other places by Harvey. A filler effort,this is like when Steven Seagal churns out a film in one week to pay off his gambling debts to the bulgarian mob , still can't hate Daddy Harvey for trying to get that bread though.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kaushik

    Well, this book is written in typical Harvey style, elaborating concepts in a way that are easy to understand for most people. However, some parts of the book - especially those that elaborate the three volumes of capital and the 7th and 8th are dense and require a thorough reading. I really liked his older book "17 Contradictions" better than this one, this book sort of gets muddled and very dry in the middle, although the final chapter is very insightful and instructive in the light of the cur Well, this book is written in typical Harvey style, elaborating concepts in a way that are easy to understand for most people. However, some parts of the book - especially those that elaborate the three volumes of capital and the 7th and 8th are dense and require a thorough reading. I really liked his older book "17 Contradictions" better than this one, this book sort of gets muddled and very dry in the middle, although the final chapter is very insightful and instructive in the light of the current crises. More detailed review to follow.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sean Estelle

    I read this as a primer before a group of folks in my local DSA chapter starts reading Capital. It is helpful in some aspects with demystifying terminology, but definitely is not a 101 (hence the 4 stars, as that’s what it felt marketed as). It felt like I did have a few key aha! moments during this though, like an in depth analysis on why time-banking + alternative currencies are bunk, specificity on how capital flows from the Global South to the Global North, and a clear explication of the def I read this as a primer before a group of folks in my local DSA chapter starts reading Capital. It is helpful in some aspects with demystifying terminology, but definitely is not a 101 (hence the 4 stars, as that’s what it felt marketed as). It felt like I did have a few key aha! moments during this though, like an in depth analysis on why time-banking + alternative currencies are bunk, specificity on how capital flows from the Global South to the Global North, and a clear explication of the definition of capital as “value in motion”.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Titus Hjelm

    This book reads almost like a condensed version of everything that Harvey wrote in the last 20 years. There's the exegesis of Capital, there's space-time, and there's Haussmann. But it is not an easy introduction. On the contrary, the condensed form makes some of the sections so dense that they require careful slow reading. Hence, not for the faint-hearted, I'm afraid, but rewarding if Marx (and Capital, especially) is your thing. This book reads almost like a condensed version of everything that Harvey wrote in the last 20 years. There's the exegesis of Capital, there's space-time, and there's Haussmann. But it is not an easy introduction. On the contrary, the condensed form makes some of the sections so dense that they require careful slow reading. Hence, not for the faint-hearted, I'm afraid, but rewarding if Marx (and Capital, especially) is your thing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steve Hart

    This ended up denser than I had expected, but well worth the time and effort. No one does Marxplaining better than Harvey as he is always ready to call him out for things he missed, places he didn't go far enough on, and places where we need more, contemporary analysis. At the same time, the narrative presented is one in which Marx's analysis is overwhelmingly relevant to our times. Everyone needs to read this stuff if we're gonna ever find our way out of this mess. This ended up denser than I had expected, but well worth the time and effort. No one does Marxplaining better than Harvey as he is always ready to call him out for things he missed, places he didn't go far enough on, and places where we need more, contemporary analysis. At the same time, the narrative presented is one in which Marx's analysis is overwhelmingly relevant to our times. Everyone needs to read this stuff if we're gonna ever find our way out of this mess.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rohan Arthur

    A clear-headed and devastating critique of the spiralling crisis inherent in the economic reason of our times. Harvey does not wander far from Marx and from 'The Capital' in constructing his arguments, but he is masterful in his ability to make the philosopher frighteningly relevant to the times we are living through. A clear-headed and devastating critique of the spiralling crisis inherent in the economic reason of our times. Harvey does not wander far from Marx and from 'The Capital' in constructing his arguments, but he is masterful in his ability to make the philosopher frighteningly relevant to the times we are living through.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ieva Jusionyte

    The last chapter alone, on the madness of economic reason, is the most insightful critical take on the present day economic and political realities I’ve read in a while. It builds on what comes before - meticulous analysis of capital as value in motion in Marx’s texts. Not an easy book, but one that invites to think.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robert Maisey

    I've given this a slightly lower rating than it deserves. This book is thorough and very well argued. The reason I didn't give it a higher rating was because my own limited grasp of the subject limited my ability to get the most of this book! I've given this a slightly lower rating than it deserves. This book is thorough and very well argued. The reason I didn't give it a higher rating was because my own limited grasp of the subject limited my ability to get the most of this book!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason by David Harvey is a modern critique of Marx's three volumes of Capital. Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A leading social theorist of international standing, he graduated from University of Cambridge with a Ph.D. in Geography in 1961. Madness seems to be the description of modern capitalism.  It's destroying the planet.  It is built like a Ponzi scheme were con Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason by David Harvey is a modern critique of Marx's three volumes of Capital. Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A leading social theorist of international standing, he graduated from University of Cambridge with a Ph.D. in Geography in 1961. Madness seems to be the description of modern capitalism.  It's destroying the planet.  It is built like a Ponzi scheme were continual growth is required to keep it alive.  It's nearing its limits as an economic system.  Wages have remained stagnant in the US while the standard of living is propped up by cheap imports and rising personal debt (not to mention worldwide debt).  More and more people around the world are buying cars only to sit in them for hours in traffic.  Climate change is real and brought on by mankind by the burning of hydrocarbons and the stripping of the land.  We have planned obsolescence of consumer goods.  We are hit at every turn with fees; look at a cell phone bill, for example.  Companies charge convenience fees to pay online over mailing a check.  As a whole, we are not living as well as our parents did.  We, as a whole, also, don't have the jobs that gave us affordable comprehensive health care.  Skilled labor is disappearing as industries deskill the labor force and create a surplus of workers to keep jobs scarce.  We are living in times much like those Marx and Engles had witnessed in their lifetimes.  Harvey covers all three volumes of Capital with real-world explanations and where Marx got things wrong.  Marx many times forget to take into account expanding technology.  Machines were seen and are things not to make the worker's job easier but as something to increase profits.  Today machines take many old jobs away as well as the expansion of globalization.  In early industrial England, wages were set to the price of bread.  Workers had to eat to remain productive.  To increase profits, industrial leaders pushed for laws allowing the importation of cheap grain.  Workers backed this idea; cheaper bread meant better living.  Industrialists supported it because they could keep wages lower if bread was cheaper maximizing their profits.   Today this exists in the big box stores keeping prices down so workers do not realize their wages are stagnating and subsidized processed food keeps prices down so we think we are well fed.   One particular case in the book concerns China.  It is 200 years of capitalism rolled up into a handful of decades.  When thinking of New York City, Los Angeles, the highway systems, and the concrete sprawl of America consider that in the 100 years between 1900-1999 the United States used 4,500 million tons of concrete to build all of that.  Between 2011 -2013 China used 6,500 million tons of concrete. In a two year period, China used more concrete than the US did in 100 years.  The banking crisis that started in the US in 2007-2008 could have been a worldwide disaster.  When US and western markets crashed, imports went down.  China found itself in a crisis.  A totalitarian state does not want labor unrest and with millions now out of work China began a massive public works project.  Roads, dams, and even ghost cities were built with borrowed money.  The government told the banks to loan money and loans pour out of the banks.  China prevented its collapse by temporarily diverting labor to other projects until the crisis passed.  The command economy of China is not Marxist; it is a totalitarian system that mimicked a century of capitalism in a handful of years.  China, like the US, now sits under a mountain of debt.   Harvey writes an interesting study of Capitalism as seen by Marx and sometimes as revised for the modern world.  The ideas are the same.  Capitalism exists not to make a better life for everyone, but to maximize profits.  Totalitarian regimes paid lip service to Marx in the past but none really came close to following his theories, hence, Leninism, Stalinism, and Maoism where Marx was merely a wrapper covering atrocities.  Today, in America, socialism is misunderstood and feared.  People hate socialism except for public roads, public parks, public schools, subsidized food...  Some of that has changed after the bank collapse and the recognition that hard work and a good education will still leave many poor and deeper in debt.  The 1% has changed from being a symbol of outlaw motorcycle gangs to bankers, vulture capitalist, and CEOs.   No one is saying that we need a revolution or the Marx was 100% correct.  We have seen what capitalism can and will do when its free to operate on its own or even forced as the case of China.  Instead of condemning Marx to the dustbin of history we need to take look at it without the lens of the Cold War.  Marxism did have a positive effect on Europe in the mid to late1800s.  Workers organized work weeks were shortened.  Leisure and vacations became more common for workers.  Labor is an important part of any economy but rarely gets the respect it deserves.  

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bilal Khan

    I'm not sure how to rate this book. I found it as dense as I expected. It is theory and analysis of theory, so no one should walk into this expecting an easy read. I have not read Marx's Capital. I suppose Harvey's reading cannot be fully assessed without having read that in order to determine how accurate you believe his reading to be. I've certainly read some of the criticism of his analysis of abstract labor. That said, it was highly informative and seems to (through his reading of Marx) iden I'm not sure how to rate this book. I found it as dense as I expected. It is theory and analysis of theory, so no one should walk into this expecting an easy read. I have not read Marx's Capital. I suppose Harvey's reading cannot be fully assessed without having read that in order to determine how accurate you believe his reading to be. I've certainly read some of the criticism of his analysis of abstract labor. That said, it was highly informative and seems to (through his reading of Marx) identify the contradictions in the capitalist system. It was also not just blind acceptance of Marx. Harvey repeatedly pointed out the limiting assumptions Marx made to allow his analysis to function. Anyway, I found it informative and useful given the clear crisis we are in at the hands of capitalism.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    In the Acknowledgement, David Harvey says he was encouraged to write this book by his friend and publisher - though I was unsure as I read it what exactly he was adding to his already significant contribution to Marxist exegesis and how it applies to our world today. This book is not an introduction (as it is very dense) and I'm hoping it is not a summary of his work (because I keep hoping he will write a book specifically about the 'free gifts' of nature and how Capital can be resisted from the In the Acknowledgement, David Harvey says he was encouraged to write this book by his friend and publisher - though I was unsure as I read it what exactly he was adding to his already significant contribution to Marxist exegesis and how it applies to our world today. This book is not an introduction (as it is very dense) and I'm hoping it is not a summary of his work (because I keep hoping he will write a book specifically about the 'free gifts' of nature and how Capital can be resisted from the position of the natural environment). That said, Harvey continues to simmer a clear broth of how the economy works today with flavours of capitalist contradiction and crisis. Yummy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Digger Blaque

    Other reviewers have already said what I would say about this book. I found I knew less about Marx's "Capital" than I thought after reading it. The text is dense with some references it took me a while to understand so if you are new to Marx, you'll want to take a lot of time reading this one. It is well worth reading to the end for the final chapter which explains the title of the book and where Harvey offers an illuminating capitalist critique: The Madness of Economic Reason, i.e. the insanity Other reviewers have already said what I would say about this book. I found I knew less about Marx's "Capital" than I thought after reading it. The text is dense with some references it took me a while to understand so if you are new to Marx, you'll want to take a lot of time reading this one. It is well worth reading to the end for the final chapter which explains the title of the book and where Harvey offers an illuminating capitalist critique: The Madness of Economic Reason, i.e. the insanity of our the rational of our current economic system. A good read, would have given it five stars if I had not had to struggle with some of the terminology, references and concepts offered.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Morten Greve

    I fully acknowledge the continuing relevance and importance of Marx’s thinking. You’d need to be blind and dumb not to in our current predicament. Harvey does a good job of explaining a string of key Marxian concepts, and the final chapter about the current conjuncture is interesting (if slightly superficial and only loosely tied together with the previous chapters). My problem is that I don’t really get off on the conceptual masturbation that sometimes afflicts this literature. To my mind, the cu I fully acknowledge the continuing relevance and importance of Marx’s thinking. You’d need to be blind and dumb not to in our current predicament. Harvey does a good job of explaining a string of key Marxian concepts, and the final chapter about the current conjuncture is interesting (if slightly superficial and only loosely tied together with the previous chapters). My problem is that I don’t really get off on the conceptual masturbation that sometimes afflicts this literature. To my mind, the current value of Marx’ thought is not so much all these (pseudo-)exact intricacies but his anger and indignation, his instincts, his premonitions, his vague visions and hunches... And this book doesn’t really cover those the way I would have liked it to. Maybe I should re-read Derrida’s “Spectres of Marx”?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robert Cochran

    Everyone should try to struggle through Capital Vol. 1 at some point in their life. Emphasis on the struggle. As brilliant as Marx's insight might be, he is a turgid writer at best. Harvey takes the insight of Marx, adds helpful context and exposition, and helps imagine ways that Marxist philosophy can still be a productive tool in our day and age. I especially appreciate how Harvey recognizes Marx was far from the perfectly linear and prophetic figure he has been mythologized as. Everyone should try to struggle through Capital Vol. 1 at some point in their life. Emphasis on the struggle. As brilliant as Marx's insight might be, he is a turgid writer at best. Harvey takes the insight of Marx, adds helpful context and exposition, and helps imagine ways that Marxist philosophy can still be a productive tool in our day and age. I especially appreciate how Harvey recognizes Marx was far from the perfectly linear and prophetic figure he has been mythologized as.

  30. 5 out of 5

    William

    An attempt from David Harvey to recontextualize Marx's economic theories in 21st century terms. There are parts of this book that are incredibly dense (as there are in other Harvey pieces I've read), but I think this is maybe the best starting point for modern day readers trying to get into Marx. This will give you a foundation to get into Marx's own writings (with a little patience). An attempt from David Harvey to recontextualize Marx's economic theories in 21st century terms. There are parts of this book that are incredibly dense (as there are in other Harvey pieces I've read), but I think this is maybe the best starting point for modern day readers trying to get into Marx. This will give you a foundation to get into Marx's own writings (with a little patience).

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