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Time to move on from capitalism: David Harvey

Posted on the July 19th, 2010

In a recent talk for the RSA Society, social theorist David Harvey asked if the time has come for a new social order that would be more humane and responsible than capitalism. The video above is a special excerpted portion of Harvey’s 31 minute talk — accompanied by an entertaining cartoonist’s animation (full version here).

Harvey is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). His most recent book, “The Enigma of Capitalism,” was published in April of this year.

I’ve transcribed a short excerpt from the ending portion of Harvey’s talk:

Any sensible person right now would join an anti-capitalist organization. And you have to. Because otherwise we’re going to have the continuation. And notice it’s the continuation of all sorts of negative aspects. For instance, the racking up of wealth.

You would have thought the crisis would have stopped that. Actually more billionaires emerged in India last year than ever. They doubled last year. The wealth of the rich — I read something this morning — in this country has accelerated. Just last year, what happened was the leading hedge fund owners got personal remunerations of $3 billion each. In one year.

Now, I thought it was obscene and insane a few years ago when they got $250 million. But they’re now hauling in $3 billion. And as the famous statement — I think it was by Andrew Mellon — way back… ‘In a crisis,’ he said, ‘assets return to their rightful owners,’ i.e., him. And that, in effect, is the plug of the financial world right now. ‘Yeah, the assets are going to return to us.’ Now that’s not a world I want to live in. And if you want to live in it, be my guest.

But you’ve got to start thinking. And what bothers me about academia… I don’t see us debating and discussing this. I don’t have the solutions. I think I know what the nature of the problem is. And unless we’re prepared to have a very broad based discussion that gets away, you know, from the normal pablum you get in the political campaign and — you know, everything’s going to be okay next year if you vote for me — it’s crap. You should know it’s crap and say it is.

And we have a duty, it seems to me, those of us who are academics and seriously involved in the world, to actually change our mode of thinking.

I know I’m pretty sick of pablum. But I do think it’s not only academics who need to change their mode of thinking. We all need to (see more here).

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