David Harvey: A Companion to Marx's Capital.

Author:Welsh, John
Position:Book review

David Harvey

A Companion to Marx's Capital, Verso: New York, 2010; 239 pp.: 9781844673599, 10.99 [pounds sterling] (pbk)

David Harveys A Companion to Marx's Capital is an accessible presentation of Volume 1 of Marx's great work. The book proceeds structurally in a chronological fashion through Parts I-VIII. The City University of New York (CUNY) lectures, upon which this companion is closely based, are currently available as podcasts. In this companion, Harvey places Volume 1 (focusing on 'the world of production of surplus value') within Marx's broader project. This is important given Harvey's own particular interests in the spatio-temporal features of the circulation of capital (Volume 2) and capitalist crises (Volume 3). Thus, it is apparent that a reading of Volume 1 alone is insufficient, but a necessary undertaking.

The companion adroitly and successfully holds the reader's hand through the notorious first three chapters on commodities and money, then through the more turgid sections of accounting, to the juicy reward of vampires and occult phenomena of The Working Day. Harvey's pedagogic mode works by distilling key terms and highlighting core themes, which are then repeated and emphasised throughout, whilst being appropriately woven into the structural fabric of the book as a gradual unfolding of Marx's critical argumentation.

The book is not written in an inter-textual vacuum, and nor is it merely a historical account of Marx's thought. It segues well into much of Harvey's own recent bibliography, and addresses salient questions that must be asked of the mutations and transformations in contemporary capitalist society. The intention is not to mediate 'what Marx really said', but rather to draw out Marx's style and line of argument in light of our present capitalist milieu. If there is a raison d'etre for this companion, it is to contribute to an intellectual and analytical counterbalance to the ascendant neoliberal capitalist class project that has been being prosecuted since the late 1970s, to which Harvey refers particularly in the last few chapters, as well as throughout his other texts on accumulation and surplus politics. To this end, Harvey draws a parallel between Marx's own immanent critique of classical liberalism and Harvey's own critique of today's neoliberal ideological apologists.

Harvey confronts the prevalent (mis)conceptions doggedly held over Marx's style and method. Marx is not a 'grubby materialist'. Rather...

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