Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crises of Capitalism - Animated David Harvey

This is a great 11 minute video of David Harvey's recent talk at RSA in London. David is a great Marxist analyst and has written several books about capitalism and finance. I have to admit that I have not had a chance to read his books cover to cover, only snippets and listened to some of his talks. There are a couple quotes that I find to be fantastic.

The first one goes, "The whole history of capitalism has been about financial innovation, which has the effect of empowering the financiers.” This is a powerful quote for me. It really gets at my inner inspiration and is what drives me to explore the side of our political-economy that deals with this question. In my research I am attempting to highlight this financial innovation by showing how very clear political decisions were taken that would make money compatible with capitalism within the confines of an American style democracy that entrenches the rights of private property.

This thinking falls heavily on Geoffrey Ingham's understanding of money as having its own forces of production. David Harvey is essentially highlighting the same fact, as I am, by trying to highlight some of the historical evidence for understanding money in this way. Money needs to be seen as something that has been built and constructed so as to make it compatible with the functioning capitalist democracies of today (here I am borrowing a term from E.M. Wood).

I believe this is a powerful intervention that is been pushed by those that are exploring Community Currencies and other forms of alternative money. This brings me to the second quote, "We have a duty to change our mode of thinking". Here Harvey is throwing down a particular challenge to academics. He is telling us we have to bring a fresh perspective to our way of analyzing our political-economy.

I know that I am doing this. I know this because most people reject my thinking and assume that there is no real relevance to a discussion of money in terms of building a viable post-capitalist ecologically minded political-economy. My sense, and I think Harvey would agree (though I have not had the chance to ask him personally) that this is a good site for exploration. As Harvey points out, since the 1950's the US and the Bank of England have been siding with the financiers over manufacturing. This highlights clearly the way in which money has its own forces of production and is a tool in and of itself that is most clearly entrenched in our political system.

We have to understand money in a new way. We need to bring a fresh perspective to it. Both in terms of understanding how it got to the position it now holds, how changing it in meaningful ways challenges the entire conception of our current political-economy, and that it is not something that is a result of the economy but is constitutive of the sort of political-economy that we chose in the 18th century to entrench into today's capitalist-democracy.

I believe that the most important direction we can move our monetary system towards is one that is not focused on accumulation of money as a form of wealth, one that has a pricing mechanism that can respond to both abandunce in terms of supply and infinite value in terms of price. These are the innovations we need to think about incorporating into our financial system. Until then we will continue to battle a system that is both controlled, focused on scarcity and has two opposing forces 1) accumulation 2) velocity (aka movement) of money.

Here is the video.

This is the animated video:

And this is the full lecture video:

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