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Review
Professor Anthony Rosie, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

The Enigma of Capital by David Harvey. London: Profile Books. 2010


David Harveys work is well known to social scientists throughout the world. For economists in particular, who may feel that the teaching of neoliberal economic theory is still important, this will be a challenging read. But the book will also be a challenge for anyone in a university social science department who feels that what they do is important in its own right and the economic downturn and its effects are not directly their business. Towards the end of the book, Harvey bitingly comments:

The current crop of academicians, intellectuals and experts in the social sciences and humanities are by and large ill equipped to undertake such a collective task [big picture thinking]. Few seem predisposed to engage in that self-critical reflection that Robert Samuelson (Washington Post columnist) urged upon them. Universities continue to promote the same useless courses on neoclassical economic or rational-choice political theory as if nothing has happened and the vaunted business schools simply add a course or two on business ethics or how to make money out of other peoples bankruptcies.

(p 239) Here I give a brief overview of Harveys book and comment on why I think it will be valuable in teaching undergraduate students and many others. Written in eight chapters, the book moves from an account of the financial crisis of 2008 to the present through an analysis of capital, before moving in chapter five (Capital evolves) to Harvey's own analysis of how capitalism can be confronted at a general level. In the final chapter, he builds on this to develop a set of proposals around which the Left can group for action.

The opening chapter incisively sets the scene, and while the material will be familiar to tutors, it has a particular resonance because the account locates this crisis in

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relation to others that have preceded it. It could usefully be set beside John Lanchester's recent IOU: Why Everybody Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay. This latter book is of similar length and covers a longer time period. Lanchester is a novelist as well as a global finance commentator and his writing is certainly appealing for the general reader who wants to understand what has happened and why. The two books would give students the background they need to understand the latest crisis for capital. But Harvey challenges readers to think anew. His Marxist analysis is not simply for the Left at the present time but for a future generation that is going to live with the consequences of the present crisis. The summary of crisis is pithy and worth quoting: a crisis, after all, is nothing less than a massive phase of dispossession of assets (cultural as well as tangible) (p 246). Explaining what a derivatives market is and how it works (p 29), Harvey neatly summarises what a dozen globalisation textbooks take far too many pages to say.

While he uses a US-based banking analysis with global reference for the analysis of derivatives, this is a fast changing field. A particularly telling example is in the work of Jayati Ghosh (see Chandrashekar and Ghosh, 2002), whose critique of neoliberal reforms shows how the rise in food prices in many parts of the world was largely caused by the movement from direct producerseller relations to the expansion of corporate players into the market. Many financial houses became involved in selling grain without knowing anything about the product. This inflated the price until the speculators left the market suddenly in order to move capital back to the USA when the sub-prime mortgage fiasco unfolded. Harvey's book is particularly telling on such markets and how they operate. His text is particularly useful for students who are meeting ideas on commodities and the operation of markets for the first time. And he gives a much clearer picture of how the different parts of capital and labour operate than we find in many globalisation texts. For any tutor or student, Professor Harvey's online course, Reading Marxs Capital, vol 1, is important. It really helps address issues for students for whom Marx is a name and a shadowy presence rather than someone whose work they should include in their reading and thinking.

In chapters two and three, Harvey explains how capitalism survives despite being so crisis prone. He analyses the different reasons for investment and then outlines the corresponding barriers to such accumulation. There is a constant tension between

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the two. This leads to the capitallabour relation, and while Harvey may be covering familiar ground, he does so by bringing together plenty of examples and also by doing justice to the work of different Left movements and perspectives. We reach the market and its operation in chapter four.

Then, in chapter five, Harvey develops the social geography perspective: seeing capital acting upon a range of different spheres, including the production of new technological and organisational forms, production systems and labour processes, dominant social relations, relation to nature, evolutionary processes on planet earth, reproduction of daily life, capital circulation (pp 121122), which is then briefly applied to how a city might be designed. A tutor wanting to explore this with students, perhaps through modelling or similar activity, might well want to have Mike Davis's books on urban development at hand. Davis (2006) would be particularly helpful for such an exercise because his work brings out the ways in which cities are changing and how the dispossessed will be housed in the future. It would also support chapter six, The enigma of capital, where Harvey explores spatial change in the light of capital accumulation. Harvey brings out how the activity spheres are embedded in institutional arrangements and administrative structures including the state and multinational arrangements. This is telescoping a series of complex arrangements but it does reveal the bigger picture, which Harvey complains is missing from too many social science accounts of the world. He places class relations as primary, arguing that class is a role, not a label that attaches to persons (p 232). While he is at pains to bring out the gendered and racialised divisions in social structures, he does not adopt either the concepts or the approaches found in studies of cities and spatial organisation associated, for instance, with Saskia Sassen (see Sassen, 2006). For this individual reader, Sassens interlinked concepts are overly complex, although certainly rewarding for a study of historical change. But Harveys book provides a forum for debate, and both proponents of Sassens approaches and academics interested in critical race theory may well only agree with Harveys analysis. What Harvey does is to provide a landscape in which debates can take place, so his text is valuable for students seeking to locate such debates and develop their own ideas. This book does not particularly address the experience of living through the

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geographical and social imagination but ideas for this can be found in earlier work (Harvey, 2005). Harvey points out that the activity spheres can be, and often are, in tension with each other. It is from and through such tensions that different movements develop, including what he terms in his final chapter the discontented and the alienated (p 240). The different spheres are not deterministic and what is minor in one era can be major in another. Thus capitalism replaces feudalism slowly and bit by bit (p 135). The spheres co-evolved and of course different tensions arose. It is by looking at such tensions and how to counteract them that Harvey seeks to build an anti-capitalist movement in the final chapter. This is not new, but Harvey does not claim it to be. What does the final chapter provide? Tellingly it is titled What is to be done? And who is going to do it?. Harvey points out that a return to 3 per cent compound growth per year is no longer possible without a new basis for profit-making and the absorption of surplus. His figures are stark. Three per cent growth requires profitable global investment of $1.6 trillion in 2010, rising to $3 trillion by 2030. It is surprising that there is so little discussion about how capitalism can be confronted and the current debates over cuts in the UK bear this out. A starting point for Harvey requires a political movement that may start anywhere and then move from one sphere to another, reinforcing its impacts each time. This makes a dialectic between the spheres inevitable and necessary. Of course there are tensions but Harvey's question is relevant to all social science tutors: what would happen if an anticapitalist movement were constituted out of a broad alliance of the discontented, the alienated, the deprived and the dispossessed (p 240)? While Harveys prescriptions are not new, they start from the need for a vision of what is possible. He identifies five possible movements of opposition as starting points for political effort. His first is the NGO arena, recognising of course that many dedicated workers in NGOs often refrain from anti-capitalist activity, seeing their work as integral to social betterment against enormous odds. For Harvey, their work is important but incapable in itself of challenging capitalism. He then considers the anarchist, autonomist and grassroots organisations that refuse outside funding. While there are often bitter disagreements between organisations here, there is also a shared rejection of negotiation with state powers. The emphasis is on experimentation and there are signs of growing interest by people in this work. Third is the transformation within Left political parties, which

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have in many cases (particularly the UK) involved themselves in neoliberal policies. However, there is a broader grouping in, for instance, Latin America that offers potential for such a development. The autonomist movement in Argentina is a case in point. Fourth, we find movements that do not have a particular political philosophy but face a pragmatic need to avoid displacement or the dismantling of social welfare provision. Here the focus on daily life provides the sphere of activity. Harvey sees this area as capable of enacting revolutionary change. His fifth and final area is that of emancipatory movements based around identity, for example, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation. For Harvey these arenas do not fit neatly together and there is much work to be done to organise and bring about change.

How might this book be used in university social science teaching? I have suggested it might act as a counterweight to other texts and also as a stimulus. It is worth thinking through how some of the groupings of people Harvey identifies as the dispossessed and alienated might act. This book is a valuable corrective to many official forecasts but it can also be used to set scenarios, to encourage action and debate. Far too often, exercises risk becoming a simple model building that is largely divorced from the business of living. More complex exercises and inquiries are needed today to enable students to understand the crisis of capital, what it means for them and how they might act to confront ideologies that frequently disempower them.

6 References
Chandrashekar CP and Ghosh J (2002). The market that failed: a decade of neoliberal reforms. Manohar: Leftwood Press.

Davis M (2006). Planet of slums. London: Verso Books. Harvey D. (2005). The sociological and geographical imaginations'. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, vol 18, pp 211255.

Lanchester J (2009). IOU: why everybody owes everyone and no one can pay. London: Allen Lane.

Sassen S (2006). Territory, authority, rights: from medieval to global assemblages. Princeton: Princeton University Press.