After Trump left office, after the events of January 6th, after witnessing a years worth of inadequate response to the latest economic crisis and Covid-19 pandemic, Professor David Harvey felt that there was a great deal of questioning in the air: How did we get here? But regardless how many times this question was asked in the mainstream media, Harvey felt no compelling answers were ever given.
Thus, as of March 2021, he’s been devoting his latest episodes of Anti-Capitalist Chronicles to taking a deeper dive into answering that question, from a Marxist perspective, of course.
Six episodes later, Professor Harvey has looked back at the origins of capital in the 15th and 16th centuries, and to critical events following World War II that have shaped our current neoliberal world. Each ending with a historical cliff hanger, they display the deeply rooted origins of our current crises, and the many contradictions of capitalism.
In How Capital Evolves, Harvey explores the evolution of capital throughout history and examines the shifts to financialization from commodity production and trade, and the transfer of power that followed. He draws from Marx, Fernand Braudel and Italian sociologist Giovanni Arrighi to look critically at shifting hegemonies, shifting centers and structures of capital and domination, the rise of neoliberalism and what has since followed. "We then fall for the fallacy of saying if we want to change the world we have to change people's ideas. Marx's point is you can't change people's ideas unless you exchange the experiences upon which those ideas are based."
In The Golden Age of Post-War Capital, Harvey explained how a new, suburbanized economic development model promoted a certain kind of lifestyle for white privileged workers at the same time that the Bretton Woods agreement, the policies of expansion of demand through debt financing of the suburbs, and the debt financing of the reconstruction of Japanese, German and European economies led to rapid rate of growth globally, the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments and the emergence of contradictions that led to a very significant shift in politics. “Anti-immigrant politics these days is always thought of as a cultural question, whereas back then it clearly had its roots, clearly had its roots, as a labor question."
In Absolute Contradictions of the Post-War Era, he argues that the New Deal was the best example of an efficient centralized planning and production system, but that its success led to the rise of left-wing groups and ideals that began to threaten the very survival of capitalism, resulting in the systematic repression of socialist ideologies which in turn led to the turmoil of the 1960s and 70s. “[The US] had to get the economy going and at the same time as it had to do something about this particular kind of ideology which was creeping in, that said the government direction is a good thing, government direction helps, government can be for the people and by the people.”
In Keynesianism of the 1960s, Harvey discusses the US’s efforts to secure its position as the global leader in order to keep up with the Soviet Union's militarization and protect the world from the spread of Communism, with some unexpected results in addressing racism at home. “If [the US] was going to be involved in a struggle over communism in Africa then it had to have credibility with African politicians. And you couldn't have a credibility if you maintain racial segregation inside the United States."
In The Legitimation Crisis of the late 1960s, Prof Harvey discusses the various rising social movements that challenged capitalism and corporate power, and questioned the legitimacy of the government, and which prompted a counter-attack by the big monopoly companies who saw their power and wealth eroding. “[Big wealth] felt by 1975 that their power and their influence had been seriously compromised and they were determined to get it back.”
In The Politics of Austerity of the 70s & 80s, he talks about the birth of neoliberalism following the New York fiscal crisis of 1975, which set the precedent of guaranteeing repayment to the bondholders and the financial institutions first and foremost, resulting in the sacrifice and suffering of the people. The vast government spending of the 1960s was replaced with fierce austerity measures imposed on the population, in an effort to bail out corporations and enable the wealthy elites to regain power and control. “Neoliberalism was born explicitly through the strategy that was set up in 1975 in relation to New York City which was one of the largest public budgets in the world.”
Professor Harvey is not done yet. Stay tuned for upcoming episodes of Anti-Capitalist Chronicles that will continue to reveal how we got here, and indicate what we need to do from here.
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