understanding capital

07/14/2010 § Leave a comment

animated excepts from david harvey’s lecture on the financial crisis.  harvey is one of the country’s leading marxists academics, and has a 13 part lecture series on marx’ ‘capital vol 1’ available on his website.

i am squarishly excited about this find, and feel like ive found a new guide to help me grapple with issues like finance capital, monetary policy, capital crises etc.  in some ways, despite close to 10 years of living and learning as a radical activist/organizer, i feel like my analysis on the mechanics of capitalism are pretty paltry.  i have some grasp of the historical trends of neoliberal policy: globalization, deregulation, privatization etc.  and i understand that it benefits the extremely wealthy at the degrading, heartbreaking expense of the majority of the global population.

so it turns out that marx produced an intensely relevant breakdown of the components of capital, predicting the nature of crises and describing how extreme inequality is an inherent outcome of free market capitalism.

i think in our generation of young adult activists, we’ve been able to broaden radical politics to start with an anti-oppression framework; seeing how systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, classism, ableism, adultism etc operate on and through our bodies and how these systems are mutually enforced and co-productive.  not to deny that our movement has severe problems relating to all of these systems, but at least for ‘professional radicals’ its expected that you have some grasp of these concepts and that you can identity and act on the execution of oppressions through their manifestations (4 I’s of Oppression): ideology/culture, institutions, interpersonal and internalized.  so i am glad this is fundamental.

but then i look at our sophistication on issues of economy, and it feels like were collectively atrophying.  becoming politicized after the fall of the soviet union, the turn of china, what thatcher called the “end of history,” we lack an empirical counter balance to the hegemony of capital.  not to say i am a fan of authoritarian state socialism (i am not), but its a different political lansdcape when there is no visible competing economic system (cuba) to even stoke the imagination towards the possibility of economic transformation.  not to underestimate the potential power of bolivarian alliance as a global narrative counterpoint, but at this point, my sense is that we’re scattered and fuzzy when it comes to the big picture.

my friend francis put me on to harvey, and reminded me that 30 years ago, all of our circles would have considered ourselves marxists.  today, i think the left political line has bleeded right, growing pro market ideology amongst those who are actually sympa/empa-thetic to the experiences of poverty.  while i still carry a conceptual line between activist who are anti-capitalist vs liberal, i dont fault my peers who believe in modified capitalism (progessive taxes, more regulation, redistribution etc) as an end goal.  after all, our objectives are basically the same, and there is a degree of practicality that i can’t deride.

but at the end of the day, as marx contends – and as i believe – it will never be sufficient.  so then its our challenge to articulate a more concrete vision for capitalist alternatives that also address the failings of centralized state planning in the past.

studying participatory economics (parecon) over the last 5 years and more recently neologizing democratism, im convinced its a movement necessity to sharpen our economic analysis and begin highlighting not only what we’re against, but what we’re for.

then sobering, is to realize that you cant know what you’re for, without really understanding what you’re against.  so, im circularly starting over, this time with harvey.  trudging through capital and daydreaming revolution.


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