Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason, London: Profile Books, 2017; 256 pp.: ISBN 978 1 78235 874 3, 14.99 [pounds sterling] (hbk)
Marx, Capital and the Madness of Economic Reason is the latest book by Marxist scholar David Harvey. Presenting a new approach to Marx's Capital and a novel visualization of the concept of capital as 'value in motion', Harvey shows that Marx's prescient analysis of capital's inner laws of motion can help illuminate many features of the world in which we live, including global natural resource consumption (pp. 178-184), the Greek debt crisis (pp. 83, 205), universal income (pp. 58-59), just-in-time production (p. 118), TPP and TTIP (pp. 160-164), public and private debt (p. 152) and alienation (p. 190).
Harvey presents Madness as an accessible, simple but not simplistic, introduction to some of Marx's central ideas, particularly as developed through the three volumes of Capital, taken as an integrated whole (pp. 1-2). Harvey's starting point is a novel visualization of capital's circulatory process, depicted by way of an analogy with the hydrological cycle (p. 2). Like water, Harvey argues, capital moves through various stages, undergoing mutations of form, at different rates, and in different places, without losing its essence (p. 3). As it moves through each stage, it faces certain barriers--and it is here that we find the potential, systemic, causes of crisis. If capital is value in motion, any pause or even slowdown in that motion for whatever reason means a loss of value' (p. 74) 'Capital remains congealed in one of its phases of reproduction because it cannot complete its metamorphoses', (p. 208) causing problems at subsequent stages, and threatening the continuity of the circulatory process.
It is here that Harvey introduces his concept of 'anti-value'--a concept which demonstrates brilliantly Marx's dialectics. In a dialectical understanding of capital, value always presupposes the possibility of its negation. If the 'motion' stops, therefore, we have the seeds of crisis. But the possibility of crisis is ever-present. In order to realize value and to release it for future use, there has to be demand for the goods produced; people have to have money to buy those goods which, in turn, have to be brought to market quickly enough so that they are not devalued. Accelerated turnover time, just-in-time production, investments in the built environment, social control, the 'orchestration'...