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There is no recovery or growth to be seen. All over Europe including Britain , wages are stagnating, unemployment is rising, and the cost of living is rapidly increasing. All of this is occurring simultaneously with government austerity and spending cuts to public services. At the other end of the social scale wealth is increasing at an exponential rate. The contradiction here is enormous.

How can this be the case when life for the vast majority of people is getting harder? The question goes to the very root of the capitalist system, and to date, there has only been one form of economic analysis that can fully explain it, and that is Marxism. Marx explained that economic crises are not simply the result of a mechanical cycle of boom and bust, like a pendulum that swings one way and then the other, as many bourgeois economics would have us believe.

Rather, crises occur because of the contradictions inherent in the capitalist system. Labour is the most accurate expression of value as it is the common social substance for everything that is produced in society. Labour goes into everything. The market price of a commodity is only the monetary expression of that value money itself being a commodity. The market forces of supply and demand only account for the fluctuations in the price of a commodity, but do not in any way explain this exchange value at the point when supply and demand are in equilibrium. The basis of the capitalist system is production for the sake of profit.

This profit is derived from surplus value, which is the unpaid labour of a worker. But how is this possible when all workers are paid wages? The answer, in short, is that workers are not paid the full value of what they produce.

This surplus is then either re-invested into production, or pocketed for the consumption of the capitalist. The fact that capitalism produces for profit — that workers produce more value in a day than they are paid back in the form of wage - means that the wages of workers can never exceed the value produced in society.

The Great Financial Crisis and Stagnation/Depression

As a result, workers will never be able to buy back the full value of what they collectively produce. But as a class, workers — i. Anyone that has to sell their labour power for a wage is classed as a worker, part of the working class. This class makes up the vast majority of the population, and therefore also accounts for a large part of the market for commodities.

What is a bond yield inversion, and why does it matter?

These facts alone leave the capitalist system prone to overproduction — to produce more than the market can absorb. Multiply this by the amount of other capitalists competing with each other over this limited market and we get a more accurate picture of the scale of this problem. Each capitalist is interested in maximising profits. The rational choice for the individual capitalist, therefore, is to reduce their labour costs - i.

Meanwhile, this same capitalist hopes the other capitalists will pay their workers as much as possible, in order to be able to afford the goods that they produce. However, when every capitalist makes this same "rational" decision, it leads to a situation that is extremely irrational for capitalism as a whole: wages are driven down; unemployment is created; the market for goods shrinks further. Capitalism cuts away at the very branch that it is sitting on.

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The working class was energised and radicalized by these conditions. It was united and educated, its solidarity and consciousness were increased. Steadily, through the 19th and into the first half of the 20th century, it became politically stronger — better organized and more militant.

A revolutionary industrial working class grew up just as Marx predicted. In the advanced capitalist world, however, conditions are much changed since then. Whether these ideas apply still today is questionable. In particular, the character of the classes that make up these societies has been transformed. The industrial working class is now only a small and still diminishing part of work force of advanced industrial societies.

This is due partly to global economic changes and the growth of industry in China and elsewhere; but it is due also to changes in the character of production itself, particularly with automation and the use of information technology. The old industries which gave birth to the revolutionary working class have been transformed. The old industrial working class in these industries is only a small fraction of its former self.

Increasing numbers of people work in the service sector — in offices, shops and even at home using computers. Trade union membership and political militancy have declined. The solidarity and class consciousness which characterized the industrial proletariat in its heyday is gone. It is doubtful that it will ever return.

Crisis of Capitalism

The working class still makes up the great majority of the population even though its character has changed. For the most part it is now located in offices and shops, in distribution depots and call centres, rather than in factories.

Great Minds - Richard Wolff - The System-wide Crisis of Capitalism

But it is still the working class, made of people who are in subordinate positions, who have no share in capital and are dependent entirely on their labour for their livelihood. Many commentators have ceased to regard the working class of any sort as a potential revolutionary force. Instead they look to disenfranchised, dispossessed and disaffected social groups — to women and minority groups, and to the young.

However, these groups lack the solidarity and unity of interests of the class-based socialist movement or the unifying vision of Marxism. It is doubtful that they can form a sufficiently united or coherent movement. The working class is still the most likely revolutionary agent.

Crisis of capitalism: 10 years after the Lehman collapse

There is little present sign of its fulfilling this role, but it would be a mistake to interpret this as a mark of satisfaction with the present state of things. Particularly with the economic recession that is now upon us, there is a large measure of alienation and disillusion. The main reason why people are so quiescent is that they see no way in which they can bring about significant change which will lead to a better future. Once that hope is present the situation could change quite rapidly. However, it is not certain that the left will be the main beneficiary.

If the experience of the great Depression of the s is anything to go by, the danger is that a nationalist and far right reaction will develop. The prospects for socialism are still distant. Similar things must be said about the situation in the third world. On the contrary the gulf between rich and poor has increased dramatically, not only within nations like the USA and Britain, but also globally. In large parts of Africa and Latin America the most dreadful levels of poverty and disease are endemic, and yet for the present there are no signs of revolutionary forces emerging.

Who can doubt, however, that the conditions exist for revolutionary movements and that they will arise given the right circumstances. In the newly industrializing nations of Asia the situation is perhaps different. China and more recently India have been industrializing at an unprecedented rate. The processes that were occurring in Britain in the middle of the 19th century, and which Marx analyzes in Capital, are being repeated on a massive scale and at an accelerated pace.

People are flooding in from the countryside to the cities to work in the newly created factories and sweatshops which have sprung up. Extremes of wealth and poverty exist side by side. Whether these developments will lead to the creation of a militant working class in Asia, as they did in Britain, remains to be seen.

But again, there are few signs of this so far that I am aware of. The current crisis has brought the capitalist economic system to the brink of breakdown. He draws parallels between the s and today noting the destructive consequences then of the collapse of international collaboration and the descent into geopolitical rivalries. Harvey's weakest chapter is his last "What is to be done?

MR Online | Marxism and the Crisis of Capitalism

And who is going to do it? His policy prescriptions are presented more as ideological positions than reasoned arguments. Harvey's conclusion that "Ideas have consequences and false ideas can have devastating consequences" p is a compelling rationale for understanding the critiques of capitalism and reading this book.

I find it difficult to believe this is David Harvey's best. The chapters give the feel of shorter essays that do flow, but not as well as they could. I will try Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism next. S I find it difficult to believe this is David Harvey's best. Some of the videos in which he appears on YouTube are quite good if you want to hear some of his main points. Feb 18, Robert C rated it it was ok.

Frankly, if he had a point, I never saw it bring made. It was an interesting look at economic history and philosophy; However, it was unreadable dull. As stated, I never did get to the part where he makes a meaningful point, it just meanders about. Jun 30, Kane Faucher rated it really liked it. It is good for what it is. Harvey swings a mighty bat at neoliberal capitalism, but this book is more geared for a general audience than something more academically refined like the works of Peck and Tickell. I've been searching for understanding why.

I don't buy most of his arguments. He's using a lot of negative qualifiers without actually making it clear why what he is talking about should be so bad. Jun 22, Luke Echo rated it liked it. Its a quick and easy read and summarises Harvey's take on the issues of Capitalism today.

Ten years on, the crisis of global capitalism never really ended

Having already watched his lecture series on Marx's Capital Vol 1 and Vol 3 it was quite familiar ground. Didn't enjoy it, but it is better than two stars, its just this is slightly out of date thanks to a somewhat fragile economic recovery in the UK and US. Not bad, but not great either.