Friday, 1 April 2011

Crises of Capitalism

For a while I have been interested in hearing the responses of economists to the seemingly widespread anger that society helds against the profession. Economists, many say, have failed society because they failed to predict and prevent the financial crisis that we are now suffering. I do not have yet a fully articulated response to that anger but let me say that two things are clear to me now: 1) Society has a distorted view of what Economics is about and what economists do 2) and that that is not society´s fault but mostly ours as economists because we have been often too shy and sometimes too arrogant to reply back.

Above all, we as economists should not be dismissive of society's arguments nor of arguments coming from "heterodox" or "critical" thinkers such as David Harvey, a Professor of Anthropology at CUNY, with a distinguished career as a social theorist. I wanted to show you this video in which one of Harvey's lectures on the crises of capitalism is illustrated as he speaks. The video is interesting for several reasons. One, because it is very nicely done. Second, because the first half makes a very nice summary of the arguments put forward as explanations of the financial crisis. And finally, because he proposes several arguments, probably wrong, but that can help to ignite some debate. As I said, I do not think that we should dismiss his ideas just because he is a marxist. We should reply with sensibility, arguments and evidence. And I would like to hear your views on it.


  1. I've read quite a few books by Harvey which I got into through his critique of postmodernism, which I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys reading through the bad writing contest that the Philosophy and Literature journal used to sponsor. I think he's probably doing quite an important job salvaging and building on a lot of Marx's philosophical work in a relatively undogmatic way. There is a paper by Castree and Gregory which deconstructs and criticises his work generally but that is the only one I could find. His History of Neoliberalism throws up some interesting observations (off the top of my head he talks about the increasing rise of religion in China).
    I agree with your sentiment and would be interested to read responses to some of his ideas. If there are any economics papers in particular you could refer me to that would be great?

  2. The full talk that you've linked to there is also available at fora tv, I think it was around the time of his book 'The Enigma of Capital', but I'm not completely sure.