Senior Loeb Scholar lecture: David Harvey

Senior Loeb Scholar lecture: David Harvey


Good evening. Hi. My name’s John Peterson. I’m the curator of
the Loeb Fellowship. This is a lecture that
features a Senior Loeb Scholar. For the last several
years– I don’t even actually know the
year it started, because I wasn’t here– we’ve
been inviting one or two Senior Loeb Scholars each year to
spend an extended period of time with us, something beyond
a lecture, something less than a year as a
typical Loeb Fellow. This was the brainchild
of our dean, Mohsen, who had this idea to bring
someone here of note, someone that the student body
and faculty could gain more access to than
normally a lecturer might bring. I want to thank all the folks
that make this sort of thing happen. Sally Young, the program
coordinator, Shantel and the events staff who
are supporting this event but also supporting
other activities throughout the week with
this year’s Senior Loeb Scholar, David Harvey. There’s a seminar tomorrow. You can see that on the Events
page on the GSD website. But I’m here only
to introduce this as a part of the GSD
experience, this program. And Dianne Fainstein
is going to– Susan I’m sorry? Oh, Susan. I was thinking about getting
Susan’s last name correct. And I missed Susan’s–
uh, Diane’s first name– Susan’s first name. Who’s sitting very close
to Diane Davis, of course. So Susan Fainstein is a
scholar in her own right– is going to be here
today and tomorrow as part of the seminar. And she’s going
to be introducing our Senior Loeb scholar
this year, David Harvey. Thank you, Susan. [applause] Well, that’s the closest I’ve
gotten to being a senator. At any rate, it gives
me great pleasure to welcome David
Harvey back again to the GSD, and great pleasure
for me to be here tonight too. As some of you know, I taught
here for a number of years. At any rate, David is the
distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at
the City University of New York Graduate Center. And he’s also taught
at Johns Hopkins and been the Mackinder
Chair at Oxford University. Beginning in 1973,
with the publication of Social Justice
and the City, I think it’s fair to say that
David Harvey revolutionized the discipline of geography
and, more broadly, the disciplines involved
in urban studies. He did this by bringing
a Marxist analysis to the study of the city, but
also injected into Marxism, which really had lacked a theory
of space and social space, so that he really brought
a spatial understanding to the associated
disciplines of urban studies. His long list of
publications– and I think they’re enumerated in the
announcement for this lecture. I’m not going to
go through them. But it includes, among
many others, books on environmental justice,
on neoliberalism, on the transformation of
Paris, on the development of urban consciousness,
and on Marx’s Capital. In linking the question
of social justice to urban development,
Professor Harvey has broadly influenced the
multiple disciplines concerned with the physical, social, and
economic development of cities. His concern with Lefebvre’s
“Right to the City” runs through all his work. And it’s of crucial importance
to the design professions that are represented
here at the GSD. So please join me in
welcoming David Harvey. [applause] OK, so thanks for inviting me. And it’s a sort of a pleasure
to be here in Harvard. It’s not often I get
invited to Harvard. And actually, I’m quite
proud of that fact. But– [laughter] –in this instance,
I’ll forgive you. I want to start with
a simple fact, which astonished me and
continues to astonish me. Between 1900 and 1999,
the United States consumed 4,500 million
tons of cement. That’s in one century. Between 2011 and 2013, China
consumed 6,500 million tons of cement. That is, in three
years, the Chinese consumed 50% more cement
than the United States had consumed in the whole
of the preceding century. Now that is a scale of magnitude
of spreading cement around which is quite unprecedented. And you can just imagine
what the environmental, political, and social
consequences might be. So the question I really want
to ask is, why did that happen? In so doing, I want to
make a mild complaint about how the social
sciences work these days. When I first got into
the social sciences, we were very much trained to
try to answer the question, why? And we spent a lot of time on it
and made some pretty flamboyant suggestions as to why. And sometimes totally
unsubstantiated, but at least asking why it was what we did. From the 1970s onwards,
there’s been a gradual erosion. Less and less do people
ask the question, why? They ask the question, how? And the question “how?” has
helped a great deal, I think, in unraveling a lot of the
intricacies of what goes on so that you no longer talk about
the compelling force of class struggle or something
great like that. You talk about how it is that
the developers get together with the lawyers, get
together with the construction companies, and
they create a mess. And then this happens,
and then that happens. But I think we’ve had a
bit too much concentration on the question, how? Because whenever I ask
somebody who’s been very deeply involved in a “how?” story,
well, why did it happen? The answer always comes back. It’s the same. It’s complicated. And I say, well, yeah,
I know it’s complicated. But you’ve got to tell me why. No, you can’t because you’ve got
to deal with the complications. And I kind of go– I
get a bit impatient. So I want to ask
why that happened, all of that cement
being spread around. Well, of course, if it was
cement being spread around, it’s obviously being
used in construction. It’s obviously
about the creation of built environments
and urbanization and infrastructures
and all the rest of it. And there has to be an immense
amount of that going on. But of course, it’s
not only cement that’s involved in construction. So if you turn to
the steel industry, you suddenly see an
enormous expansion of steel production in China
and China consuming half of the world’s steel output. You also need all
sorts of other things. You need copper. You need minerals of all sorts. So China’s been consuming
about 60% or 70% of the world’s copper supply. So you go across the board. And you see a huge
amount of raw materials. And suddenly, of course,
raw material prices are relatively high. And raw material mining activity
is erupting all over the world. And in strange places, all
of a sudden, whole mountains are being shifted. And all sorts of consequences
of that sort are occurring. So the question
is then, well, why was China involved in such
a huge, huge expansion of its urbanization
infrastructural investment? And what do we want
to say about it? Now in this, I have to
go back a little bit, in the first instance, to
2007, 2008, when there was, as you’re aware, a
crisis which originated, interestingly, in this
country and, therefore, was defined as a global crisis. Other crises could occur in
Southeast Asia in 1997, ’98. They were regional crises. But you know, the United
States has a World Series. So it has to have
a world crisis. And actually, it
was quite localized. It originated particularly
in Southwest United States and the South of United States. And it was, of course, in
housing markets and property markets that it was
largely focused. Now, again, I’m going to go
back to that in a minute. But the consequence
of this crisis was, of course, that there
was a foreclosure crisis. There was widespread
unemployment in this country. And people who’ve just
been foreclosed upon or are about to
be foreclosed upon and people who are
unemployed don’t really go out and buy things. And so the consumer market
in the United States basically collapsed. And of course, the primary
supplier to that consumer market was China. And so China suddenly
found its export industries diminishing rapidly in a
very short period of time, disappearing down by about 20%. And it’s very
difficult, of course, to figure out with the
Chinese statistics what’s real and what’s not. But by some accounts,
something like 30 million jobs were lost in China. This is a huge job loss– in
late 2008, that kind of period. And one thing we do know
about the Chinese government is that it is very, very
nervous about potential unrest. And with 30 million
unemployed people, this is a rather rough
situation to be in. Now by the end of
2009, there was a report that came
out from the IMF and the ILO which talked
about what the net job loss had been in the crisis. And the United States
had the largest net job loss during that period. China, which I would’ve expected
to have had a huge net job loss given that it
lost 30 million, actually only had a net job
loss of about 3 million. And what this suggests is that
China somehow or other managed to absorb 27 million
people in the labor market in the space of about 1 year. Again, a bit like the
cement statistics, this is an astounding
performance. Well, here you do come
back to the question of, how did they do that? And how they did it was the
central government basically told everybody to get
out and lend and create as many projects as
you possibly could. So everything from regional
to local to national endeavors were put to work. The banks were told to lend. And unlike the United
States, when they gave money to the banks to
lend, the assumption was that the banks
were going to do it. But there’s no power to do it. But the Chinese
banking system is not arranged on such a principle. If you tell the bankers
to lend, they lend. And they did. So China developed this
huge urbanization program and infrastructure
development program, building whole new cities,
integrating the space economy of the nation, connecting
southern and northern markets in a much stronger
way, developing the interior of China so that
the coast and the interior were much more matched together. And when I was
looking at this, I was reminded very much of
what the United States had done after World War II. Which is, faced with the
problem of coming out of the Depression and a huge
increase in productive capacity during World War II,
the United States was faced with a problem. How do we not go
back into Depression? How do we actually absorb all
of that productive capacity in ways which are
going to be profitable? And the general
answer was, well, we’ve got to develop
the US economy. And there’s a lot of talk
about US imperialism. And that played a role. And there’s a lot of
talk about the Cold War. And that certainly
played a role. But the big thing they did
was to suburbanize, to create huge, kind of, investments. The interstate highway
system to pull together the West coast and the South
and to integrate the US economy. And of course, the 1950s and
1960s were, in many respects, the golden years of
capital accumulation. Very high rates of growth,
very satisfactory situation. And so the Chinese,
effectively, did the same as the US had done
after World War II, but did it much faster
and at a much huger rate. And I was struck, when I was
thinking about all of this, that I’d seen this kind of
game of using urbanization to solve economic and
political problems. I’d seen it before. And of course, my favorite
case is Second Empire Paris and Haussmann. And how Haussmann was brought,
in the wake of 1848 Revolution and the massive unemployment
of capital and labor, to rebuild the city of Paris. And this is one of the ways
in which all that labor and capital was absorbed. So by 1855, everybody’s
back in full employment. Napoleon, who’s declared
himself emperor, is secure because the economy
is going well and everything. So they’ve solved the problem. But you solve the problem,
of course, at a certain cost. And in both the Paris case
and the United States case after World War
II, and of course in the recent Chinese
case, the cost is that you go
heavily into debt. So one of the things that the
Chinese did was to debt finance all of this. But unlike Greece
and other places, they didn’t debt
finance using dollars. They didn’t borrow
from the United States. They had enough surplus
from the United States. So they borrowed in
their own currency. And the great advantage
of that is you can always inflate away
and deal with the problems of– but actually, China
moved from a fairly low debt to GDP ratio. It doubled its
ratio of debt to GDP in about five years in this
huge, huge urbanization and infrastructural investment. Now you can then
start to look at this and then say, well, this
is the Chinese answer to what might have been a very
serious depression in 2007, 2008. But it wasn’t only
the Chinese answer, because several other
places saw what the game was and did the same sort of thing. Turkey, for example, went
through a crisis in 2001, but pretty soon got out
of it through a kind of huge expansion
in its urbanization and had the second highest
growth rate, after China, during this post-2008 period. And anybody who was supplying
China with those raw materials, like copper, iron
ore, and the like, came out of the
thing pretty well. So most of Latin
America, which was kind of full of raw
materials, including soybeans and all the rest of it– so
Latin America turned itself into one vast soybean
plantation, basically, for the China trade. Latin America switched
its kind of allegiances in terms of global capital flows
to the Pacific and to Asia. And the depression, which
affected very much the United States and elsewhere,
didn’t really affect Latin America to
the same degree elsewhere. It was relatively mild. Though, of course, what’s
interesting is, in the case of Brazil, they did the same
thing as the Chinese had done. Lula, when the crisis
hit, said, we’re going to build a million houses,
low-income houses for the poor. And so that program,
Mi Casa Mi Vida, became part of the
Brazilian answer to what was a rather shallow
depression in 2000, 2008. But unfortunately,
as often happens in these cases, what
the Brazilians did was basically give the money
to the construction companies. And they didn’t ask them
to actually urbanize in any sensible kind of way. So construction companies
just built shoddy housing in bad environments without
any kind of infrastructures. They didn’t build a city. They didn’t build urbanization. They just built houses
and dumped them down wherever they could find
a place to put them. And of course, that did
absorb capital and labor. But it didn’t actually create
a decent living environment for anybody very much. So you then look
at the world, which is kind of very interesting. There is this vast
expansion going on in China, which
has ramifications all around the world. And in the United
States and Europe, partly for ideological reasons,
we find this commitment to austerity, and
we’ve got to get out of the debt, and all
those kinds of things. So you find, if you like,
a neoliberal orthodoxy, which has kind of upped the ante
during this depression, phase which is contrasting
with what really was a sort of a Keynesian
style expansion of China. So the world is divided
into two camps, sort of. But as happened to
Haussmann in 1867 and as happened to the grand
suburbanization spree at the end of the
1960s into the 1970s, all good things come to an end. And so there was,
in China, and has been in China not
only signs of crashes over the last few years,
but increasing signs of, this is now no longer possible. It’s no longer possible to
continue this, with the result that all of a sudden–
two or three years ago, if you were in Brazil,
everybody was running around like they had plenty of money. And they could do what
the hell they liked. And then this time you
go, and it’s total chaos because the money has dried up. I spent some time in Ecuador. And Ecuador was doing great. They were building highways. They were building
all kinds of things. I couldn’t figure out how it
was that their great new idea that you were going to
build in terms of Buen Vivir is actually satisfied
by building highways and suburban tract housing. But nevertheless, that’s
what they were doing. But all of that’s come to
an end in Latin America, all over the place. And so Latin
America now is a bit of a disaster zone
economically and politically. So you see these aspects of how
the crisis is moving around. Now one of the theses that I’ve
been looking at theoretically is the theoretical
question, why do crises move around in the way they do? They move around geographically. And they move around
sectorially so that you have a
housing crisis, which creates a financial
crisis, which is solved by sovereign debt activities. And you get a
sovereign debt crisis. And then, all of a sudden,
the sovereign debt crisis is in Greece. And you say, well,
how did it get there? And next thing you know,
Dubai World has gone up. Gulf states have gone crazy. So all sorts of things– and
it was a very peculiar kind of story about how the crisis
tendencies get moved around. But you can see also, as they
get moved around, some of them get reinterpreted as having
different causalities. And so the Greek crisis
occurred because– the fight with the Germans occurred
because the Greeks are lazy. It didn’t occur because of any
of all this other stuff going on. And you then get these
very simplistic notions. The crisis in this country
is due to immigrants. You’ve heard that one, I guess. So we have to actually
deal then with the way in which the crisis unfolded. And in order to do that, we
have to look at the trajectory. The main thesis that I’m
working on these days is not only how crises
get moved around, but how crises are
actually embedded in the very structures of what
capital accumulation are about. And one of the more
interesting insights I would have, and sort of don’t
have time to go into here, is I’ve been looking at
Marx’s theory of value, and value creation
and value production. And going back through
Marx, as I usually do, for about the 19th time–
or maybe it’s the 99th time. I can’t remember. And it turns out that Marx is
interested not only in value, but he’s also interested
in anti-value. And in fact, there’s
as much in Marx about anti-value as
there is about value. And I was suddenly struck
by this great metaphor. The physicists can only
explain the universe by having matter
and anti-matter. Actually, you can only
explain all this dynamic that’s going on in terms
of value creation and value destruction and
anti-value activity. And actually, capital thrives
on the anti-value as much as it thrives– and it has to
produce the anti-value in order to get the value. And this is kind of
a fascinating aspect of Marx’s theory which most
people have not really looked at, I think, closely enough. So one of my future projects
is to put that all together. But this notion, however,
of crisis formation has– moving around. Of course, we see
that the crisis that occurred in 2007, 2008 had
its roots, in many respects, in the way that
the crisis of 2001 was resolved, that the
stock market crashed, the kind of new economy, as it
was called, the electronics. The dotcom economy crashed. And money flowed out
of the stock markets. Nobody knew where
to put their money. And Greenspan dropped
the interest rates. And so everything started to
flow into property markets. So there you’re looking
at capital flows. Now this is a story
then that says, the reason that
this is occurring is because there is, deep within
capitalism, this struggle going on between value
creation and value destruction and anti-value. And that the anti-value
is actually fundamental to the value, that you
cannot do without one. And one form of
anti-value– and you’ll be surprised when you hear me
say this– is credit and debt. Because what debt
does is to say, you have to now create
value to this amount. And if you can’t create it to
this amount, then you go bust. So credit and debt is one of
the ways in which you actually foreclose upon future
value production. And this is terribly
important to capital. Because if we had an
open situation where we could actually
do what we wanted, we probably wouldn’t do all
of those things that they do. What we would do is do
something completely different. But actually, it’s
all foreclosed. We’ve got to do this now. We have actually
imprisoned ourselves into certain structures
of value production because we have
committed ourselves by virtue of the nature of
the debts we’ve assumed. This is true of homeowners. And this was well
understood back in the 1930s when
all of those reforms came in in the mortgage market,
which was that debt encumbered homeowners don’t go on strike. So, OK, we’ll debt
encumber as many homeowners as we possibly can
after World War II. And then they
don’t go on strike. Furthermore, we’ll put them
in the suburban country, out there where
revolution is hardly going to be on the agenda. And we give them a car. And we give them a nice
home and a swimming pool and that kind of thing. And they’re going
to be completely– and we suddenly find that,
actually, the formation of political subjectivities by
environmental reconfigurations and urbanization plays a
very, very important role in social stability. And actually, people
have code words for this. For instance, the World
Bank keeps on going on, and the IMF keeps on going
on about how home ownership creates social stability. No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t. What about all the foreclosures? I mean, they wrote that in the
middle of all the foreclosure crisis. And you’re saying, what? And now, of course, you’ve got
an interesting political thing where that political
control has broken down. And suddenly, a lot of
those foreclosed homeowners and those people who
feel under threat are doing all kinds
of crazy things politically, both on
the left and the right. And everybody is surprised. And you kind of go, why
would you be surprised? I mean, this is thoroughly,
thoroughly predictable, that actually, you create a
situation where, actually– and this is kind of– I lived
in Baltimore for many years. And so when Baltimore sort of
went up in its customary riots, I was reminded of the fact I
arrived in Baltimore in 1968, just after the assassination
of Martin Luther King. And all of the riots that went
on, and Baltimore burned down. And then, of course, here
it is all this time later. And we get a sort of
repeat performance. But when you look at
the foreclosure data, you know that, actually, a lot
of the stability in Baltimore that had been created–
particularly most African American populations
had been destroyed, totally destroyed. And here we have now a
situation of social instability. And you wonder how,
systemically, it’s going to be responded to
and in what dimensions it’s going to be responded to. Now this then raises a kind
of interesting question. What is it that the
Chinese are going to do, given their current
difficulties? Well, I have another theory
that I’m very fond of. And it’s called the
spatial fix, which says, when there are surpluses
of capital and labor somewhere or other, then one of
the things that happens is people start to take it. And they start to spread
it around elsewhere. This is what real
economic imperialism was about from the
mid-19th century onwards. Surplus capital and
labor from Britain came to the United States,
or went to Australia, places like that. And imperial activities
can take two forms. And the British Empire, I
think, was an interesting one, to the degree that
Britain tried to keep India as a captive market. It didn’t actually help
resolve the problems of overaccumulation of
capital and surplus labor in Britain because the demand
from India was not very strong. The Indians were being forced
to produce all kinds of things, including opium
to sell to China, which kind of is an interesting
thing about capital. It’s pretty neutral about
those sorts of things. So you wonder what’s going
to happen in the drug trade in the near future. But on the other
hand, Britain didn’t control the United States. And the surplus
capital from Britain and labor from Britain
coming to the United States could create an
alternative center of capitalist development,
which actually created a huge amount of demand,
which actually absorbed much more of British goods. And it was much more
of a better solution to Britain’s
overaccumulation problems. The only problem was,
at some point or other, the United States became
stronger than Britain. And so it too had
surplus capital– wondering what to do with it. Now the Chinese have got
a lot of surplus capital. And this is what makes
me particularly fearful. Because the capital could
be in monetary form, or it can be in physical
production form. And one of the surpluses
of capital they have is huge surplus capacity
in making cement and steel. So how are they going
to deal with it? Well, they’re trying to
actually bring down– deal with the overproduction
capacity a little bit within China itself. But at the same time,
they’re looking outwards to say, where can we actually
spread this cement around? And they’ve come up with
a number of answers. One of them is internal. For instance, I don’t
know how credible this is. But the Financial Times has
reported on several occasions that the Chinese
are now proposing to create one city of something
like 130 million people. There is one city
which is basically going to contain the whole
population of Britain and France. It’s going to be
centered on Beijing. It’s going to be all high-speed
stuff and everything, which will take up a lot of
steel and concrete, right? Huge amounts of
steel and concrete. So that’s one way of dealing
with the problem– create a city of 130 million people. Do you want to live in a
city of 130 million people? I don’t know about that. But that’s not enough. So one of the things you
find is that, of course, China is spreading
out and wanting to put cement everywhere. It wants to put
it in East Africa. It’s building railroads and
building highways and building things in East Africa. And of course, it’s all
Chinese cement and steel which is being used
in all of that, and a lot of Chinese labor, even
though there’s plenty of labor there. They’re doing the
same in Latin America. There is this
whole kind of thing about transcontinental rail
lines running from Pacific to Atlantic so that you
can get from a port in Peru to Sao Paolo in one and a half
days or something of that kind. Shooting it over the top of the
Andes and down the other side. And there are several
proposals of this kind that were laid out some time ago. But nobody took them that
seriously until the Chinese came along and said,
hey, we got enough steel and– so they’re doing that. There’s the other report
coming about about how they’re going to rebuild
the Silk Road so that you can get from Shanghai to
Istanbul on a high-speed rail network that runs
through Central Asia. And actually, already,
those Central Asian cities are building like crazy. So suddenly, this is becoming
a big urbanization spot. This is a program,
which is simply about– would not occur were it not for
the fact that the Chinese have all of this surplus capacity
in cement and steel production. And of course, this
is one of the ways in which they can
actually stabilize what might be a rough landing
in the Chinese economy through a crisis in
China, as opposed to a gradual tailing
off and managing to deal with the surplus
capital accumulation by using this sort of
technique of the spatial fix. But this is actually
doing something that I think is really
very interesting. And one of the things that
I have commented on– so forgive me if I restate
it– is that if you look at the scale of Haussmann’s
project in Paris, it was about the city. There was some stuff
that went on elsewhere. They were building railroads
throughout France as well. If you look at what
went on in this country after World War II, it was a
sort of metropolitan level. Moses was the kind of figure. You move from
Haussmann to Moses. And it’s a transformation of
scale at which the urbanization process is understood. But now you look at it,
and you say, this figure of how much cement
got consumed is indicative of another
change of scale. And it is of an enormity
that I find deeply troubling. And we should ask
the question, why? Why is this happening? Why does it seem inevitable? Why is it that we’re
not sitting and saying, no, no, we don’t want that? Well, it has a lot to do
with the nature of what capital accumulation is about. Capital accumulation is,
of course, about expansion. It’s about growth. It’s always about growth. It has to be about growth. And for a very
simple reason, which is a capitalist starts
the beginning of the day with a certain amount of
money, goes into the market, buys labor power and
means of production, creates a commodity,
and sells it at the end of the day for
more than at the beginning of the day. That is, value has to increase. And in a healthy
capitalist economy, all capitalists are actually
increasing their value at the end of the
day, which means there has to be a lot more
at the end of the day. So when you look at the history
of capital accumulation, what do you see? You see that it has been
increasing at a compound rate. Now compound growth rates
produce exponential curves. And exponential
curves go like that. And there’s always inflection
points in exponential curves. They sort of seem to
dawdle along pretty mildly for a little bit. And then they go up. And then they go up. And then they go, voom. It’s like the famous
story of the guy who invented chess and asked the
king to give him a reward. He put one grain of
rice on the first square and doubled it for every square. And by the time you get
to about the 46th square, all the rice in the
world is used up. And how you get to the
64th square, nobody knows. This is the nature
of compound growth. And there are some
wonderful stories about it. There was a fascination
with compound growth, in a positive sense,
in the 17th century. And Marx has a great
time talking about some of these people. And actually, Charles
Dickens got into it in a very interesting way. If you’re familiar with
the novel Bleak House– throughout Bleak House,
there is this lawsuit, Jarndyce versus Jarndyce,
which has been going on for ages and ages and ages. Actually, it was a real lawsuit
which originated in 1785 when somebody had 600,000 pounds
and said it should be invested at a compound rate of 7%. And that it should not
be touched for 100 years. The trouble was that when people
started to actually reckon what that became
worth in 100 years, they found it was actually
about three times the size of the British economy. And so they actually introduced
a law that said things like this couldn’t go on. You cannot make a bequest
that lasts more than 30 years. Now all of the people who
were the sons and daughters of the original person who made
this decision contested it. And so it was contested
in the courts. And it was decided
in 1857, which is when Dickens was
writing Bleak House. And at that time, it was
the big joke of the town. Because as you remember
in Bleak House– and this is actually what happened. When they actually
decided on the case, there was no money left. It had all gone in legal fees. And so this is– well,
don’t get me on lawyers. But anyway. So compound growth then is
built into the capitalist accumulation process. And I bet all of you, insofar as
you’re involved in urbanization projects, are actually
involved in the question of how to manage growth and
how best to make it grow. You want growth. Why do you want growth? Growth is the wrong
thing right now. We’re on that inflection point. And if we actually double or
triple the amount of cement we have to pour
in 30 years time, which is implicit in what
compounding growth is about, your kids will be up
to here in cement. Now this is not a
feasible project. Right now, the
problems of environment and all the rest of
it are serious enough to say we have to do something
about this absolutely senseless commitment to growth. And there’s an irony here. We’ve actually, in Europe
and the United States, for all the wrong reasons,
seen very low growth. But actually, that’s
environmentally friendly. The places that have not
seen slow growth– other ones which have been wrecking
their environments and, furthermore,
wrecking the environments of all kinds of other places. Ecuador, for example,
where I spend some time– or have been
spending some time– is now 50% or more committed
to the China trade. Its foreign investment
is heavily Chinese. And what are the Chinese doing? They’re building things. They’re building a huge
hydroelectric project with Chinese cement and Chinese
steel and Chinese labor. And yeah, it’s going to
provide about 60% or 70% of the electricity
demand in Ecuador, and all the rest of it. But this is a
huge, huge project. And of course, they
also want to support putting a highway over
the Andes and all of that. So these projects are
coming about because of the necessity of growth. Now I am simply going
to say, at this point, that we’ve got to a point where
we have to argue that there is a need to think
about, not necessarily a zero-growth society,
but a way in which growth can be actually tempered down. Because the compounding
rate of growth, according to those
people who’ve tried to measure this stuff–
since about 1780 onwards, the actual figure that
somebody like Madison comes up with after assembling
as much data as he can about it is something like a
2.25% compound growth. That’s what history of capital
accumulation points to. And 2.25% compound growth in
1780 wasn’t really a problem. By the time you get to 1900,
it’s not really a problem. I mean, much of the
world still has not been incorporated within
capital accumulation. But look what’s
happened since 1970. You’ve incorporated– China
has come into the system. The Soviet empire has collapsed. And so that is now part
of the whole thing. And we’re talking about a 3%
compound growth on all of that. And actually, when
you look, what you see is a very interesting
pattern in all of these countries of using
urbanization as part of what that growth process is about. I’ve mentioned what the
Chinese plan is for Beijing. The Turks have a similar
plan for Istanbul. They want to create a
city of 45 million people. And to that end, they’re
colonizing the whole of the north of the Bosphorus. They’re putting a new bridge
over the northern end. They want to build an
airport up there and all this kind of stuff. This is a huge
urbanization project. The problem for Turkey is
that it’s got to borrow money. And it’s got to borrow
either euros or dollars. And that’s not so easy to do. The Chinese don’t have
that restraint for reasons I’ve already kind of mentioned. So the boom in Turkey
has come a bit unstuck because it’s recognized
that the debt of the country is not necessarily as payable. And so people start to worry
about– international investors start to worry about
that sort of thing. So with this future,
it seems to me that there are a number
of things we should start seriously to think about. We have to think
about how to organize an economy in such a way that
it’s not dedicated solely to growth. Now the Ecuadorians
and others have this notion of building
it around something called Buen Vivir. It turned out to be kind of
just a piece of rhetoric. And it really isn’t serious,
but it could be serious. And we need, I think, to
really look very closely at how we can start to
reorganize and reorchestrate the use of the
world’s resources. Because one of the things that’s
been happening, of course, is that as China goes on
this huge sort of spatial fix spending spree on
a global basis, it needs a lot of
mineral resources. Ecuador is in difficulties
because of the collapse of the oil prices. So what does Ecuador do? It borrows from the Chinese. And what do the
Chinese want in return? They want open access to
all the mineral resources of southern Ecuador,
which happens to be where a lot of
indigenous populations are. And those indigenous
populations are not liking what’s happening. And there’s struggle going on. And guess what? Indigenous leaders
are being killed. You all have heard the story,
or you will hear more of it in due course. So this is the
sort of thing that is going on with this
compounding of growth. And we have to think strongly
about how to manage it. Furthermore, there is something
else which is going on, which is connected
to this, which is, what is this
growth actually about, when you start to look at the
nature of the urbanization process which is underway? It increasingly is the
case that the growth is about creating
possibilities for investment. It’s not about creating
a decent urban life. I mentioned the
Brazilian case because it was about feeding the
construction interests and getting labor and capital
employed in construction. And that was that. It was a temporary fix. But it wasn’t about creating
decent urban environments at all. There was no commitment
to that in the process. And what is so
striking right now is that we seem to be
committing ourselves not to creating cities
for people to live in. When I mean “people,” I
mean all people to live in. We’re creating cities
for people to invest in. And the kinds of
things we’re building are for investment purposes. Now why is this? And why do I even see it in
Ramallah, as well as in Turkey, whereas of course, in New York,
London, and all the rest of it? And it has a lot
to do with the fact that if you have surplus
capital and you’re looking to save for your future
and for your family’s future– and this is where the
individualism comes in. With that in mind, where do you
put your money in these times? Where’s a safe place to put it? Do you put it in
the stock market? Do you keep it in monetary
instruments of some kind, bonds, the rest of it? Or do you put it in assets? And of course, a lot of
capital has been flying into assets since the 1970s. But now it’s so interesting. The housing market and property
market went through a crash in 2007, 2008. But guess what? One of the primary objectives
of people right now to invest is in property and land. Because many people
judge it to be more secure than almost
anything else. Gold– that’s also in
the picture, of course. So that if you kind of look
at a situation– and I’ve seen it both in Turkey
and in Palestine. You have this incredible
situation, particularly in Palestine where all
of this is going on. I don’t have to talk about that. But around Ramallah,
they’re building these high-rise
apartment blocks. And you say, who’s
building them? Well, it’s some
of the people who have employment in the
Palestinian Authority, which is notoriously corrupt. And those people who
have that employment are taking their
money, and they’re putting it into property
because that is security. China recently has
loosened its regulations. And there’s evidence
in New York that one of the primary buyers
of property in New York right now are Chinese who
are getting their money out of the country one
way or the other and buying property elsewhere. They’re doing the
same in London. And it’s not only the
billionaires who are doing it. It’s actually upper
middle class people who are engaging in the
equivalent of a land grab. But it’s a kind of a property. And even all pension
funds are increasingly flowing into this direction. They’ve always had
an arm doing that. Unfortunately, it might
belong to TIAA-CREF. And they’re doing some
pretty ghastly things in Latin America in terms
of land grabs and things of that kind. So in fact, what we’re seeing
is a redirection of capital flow away from actually creating
a livable environment for the mass of the
citizens of any place to creating investment
opportunities for people who want to store
their money and keep their wealth in some
form which they feel is fairly safe from an
individual standpoint. So they want to be
sure that they have it. Of course, if you did that in
Syria, you lost out very badly. But other parts
of the world, this is judged still to be a
primary form of investment. Now again, what do you
want to do as a planner? Do you want to
spend all your time sort of trying to figure
out how to create investment opportunities for middle
class and upper class people so that they can invest in it
and not necessarily live in it? Or do you want to actually build
an alternative urbanization which is about what the people
need, and what they want, and how can it be done? And there is, therefore, I
think, a tremendous alienation right now in terms of what
the urban process is about. And it’s absolutely
no surprise to me that over the last
15 years, some of the major outbreaks
of discontent which have occurred in the world
are about urban issues. Gezi Park– what was that about? It wasn’t a working
class uprising. This was a cultural uprising
against the qualities of urban life, and
the authoritarianism, and the lack of democracy. And while there are all
sorts of crazy things being done in this country and said
in this country and things totally misguided, a lot
of that, it seems to me, is connected. It’s very much connected
to the foreclosure crisis. People lost their security. They lost their houses. They’re angry. They need somebody to blame. They can’t blame capital
because everybody tells them that’s communist. [laughter] But the great thing
about Bernie Sanders is he’s actually made socialism
partially respectable, particularly with
people under 35. And he says to
them, oh, yeah, we should do away
with student debt. And higher education
should be free. And young people say, well,
that sounds a pretty good idea. And if that’s
socialism, why not? [laughter] So this is kind of
a crazy situation. But it’s also a point where we
have to think about the why. The why is very simple. It is rooted in the
nature of capital. So it has to accumulate. And as Marx put it, accumulation
for accumulation’s sake is the center of capital. And you can either plan
for the rest of your life further accumulation–
in which case, good luck, because you’ll be living
with feet in cement and then up to the
waist in cement. Or you can kind of go, OK,
we’ve had enough of this. And I’m a great admirer
of many of the things that capital has done. And Marx was too. He was very envious of
the way in which capital had constructed things. And I think that we have
a lot of things we can use in a completely different way. But in order to deal
with that, we’ve got to get out of this
ideological mess we’ve got ourselves into
that says, there are certain things
that can be said, and certain things
that can’t be said. And those boundaries are as
firmly fixed in universities as they are anywhere else. And that is one of the
more horrific things which I can report. Because these things are
not debated and discussed in the way they should
be debated and discussed in those institutions which
should be discussing them. Because the universities
have been corporatized. They’ve been neoliberalized. And actually, the
resistance is still there. And it’s still open. But it’s very, very weak. And something has to
be done about that. And a lot of the discontent
which exists– and actually, it exists in a different
class configuration. And the class
configuration is actually approaching it from a
rather different dimension. And here, theoretically,
I’ve had a big fight within the Marxist
fraternity, if it’s that. It’s more likely a
circular firing squad. [laughter] You see, Marx talked
about production a lot. Volume 1 of Capital is very
much about the production of value and surplus value. Volume 2 is about
realization of value, and the realization of
surplus value, that is. And Marx is very clear, in
Grundrisse and elsewhere, that in order to
understand capital, you have to understand
what he called the contradictory unity between
production and realization. Now Volume 1 is read
in Marxist circles and revered, quite
rightly, because it’s a magnificent book. Volume 2 is hardly read at
all because it’s basically a bit unreadable. But if you don’t read it,
you don’t understand capital. And unfortunately, a
lot of Marxist’s haven’t understood capital. Marx is very clear at the end of
the first section of Volume 1, chapter 1 that if you
cannot realize the value in the market, then
it’s not value. This is where
anti-value comes in. And that means there
can often be struggles around the realization process. And where does the
realization process occur? It occurs in neighborhoods. And in fact, capital
can extract wealth as much from the
realization process as it extracts from
the production process. That you can pay
the worker more, and the worker goes
home and pays higher rents and pays more for
the– they lose it back to the capitalist class
in the form of rent. They get it in
the form of wages. And they lose it in
the form of rent. And actually, if
you ask people, what are the major lines
of exploitation? You mention credit
card companies. You mention landlords and
rents and property speculation prices. You mention what telephone
companies do to your telephone bill by adding all these
weird charges which say you were roaming somewhere
where you weren’t and things like that. So there’s a lot of
crookedness goes on and a lot of
extraction of wealth, increasingly, from the
realization process. And a lot of that is on
the streets of the city. So it’s no accident that most
of the uprisings that there have been, in Brazil in 2013
and in Turkey in 2013, were more about the
politics of realization than they were about the
politics of production. And that this is where a
lot of the politics lies. And that is very
difficult to organize for a number of
particular reasons. First, the class
configuration that’s involved in the extraction
of wealth through realization is completely different
from that that is involved in production. It’s not capital versus labor
in the realization process. It’s capital versus
everybody else. So that middle class
people– I mean, if I go to a small restaurant
owner in New York City and say, hey, how
come you’re paying your workers so little money? The immediate response you would
get from the family restaurant is, you don’t understand. I’m exploiting myself
at a huge rate. I get in here at
6:00 in the morning. I don’t go home
till 10:00 at night. I work my ass off. How can I possibly afford to
pay anybody very much more than I get? I say, well, where
does all the money go? To the bank, to the rentier. And so if I said to
that person, hey, let’s have an alliance against
the banks and the rentier, I think the answer would be,
yeah, that sounds a good idea. And I think you can
see elements of that even in what Trump and the
Tea Party and other people are talking about. There’s something there
that needs to be configured. And we shouldn’t simply dismiss
some of these arguments. We’ve got to understand why
the arguments are being made the way they are and how
they can be reconfigured around a political
movement that is actually going to be
dedicated to the idea that we want to create cities
that are fit for people to live in. We don’t want to
create cities that are fit for people to invest in. You want to create cities
which are about non-growth but are actually about
something much more systematic. Now Marx had an
interesting comment, which actually comes from Hegel. He talked about the
difference between what he called a “bad infinity”
and a “good infinity.” A good infinity
is something that continues to reproduce
itself over time forever and ever and ever. And a circle is a kind
of mathematical version of the good infinity. It’s when the circle becomes a
spiral that the problem starts. Things spiral out of control. Capital is spiraling
out of control. And that spiraling
out of control is represented by the fact
that the infinity is not contained in any way. It just goes further
and further and further. The number system
is a bad infinity. For every big
number you can make, there’s always one
more you can add to it. It goes on and on and on. And you never know
where it’s going to go. It’s like pi in the
other direction. How many decimal points
do you put on pi? And a bad infinity
is where we’re at. And we have to get it
back to a good infinity. And I think Marx
understood that very well because he’s very strong about
the nature of reproduction, reproduction of the social
order and how we can think about the reproduction. It’s when its reproduction
on an expanded scale that the problems really start. And we’ve got to start to
actually get ourselves back to thinking about the
good infinity, as opposed to the bad infinity of things
spiraling out of control. And I think that metaphor
of spiraling out of control is something which
is, I think, very meaningful to what is
happening globally and locally. I think that until
we can find means to control that, there will
be no amount of tinkering and doing good things on the
edges which is really going to make that much of a
difference to what seems to me a huge macroeconomic problem. Thanks very much. [applause] Do we have time for
questions or discussion? Yes. OK. Yeah? Yeah? OK. [inaudible] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, come on. Oh, OK. Thanks. So when you were talking
about China, the overcapacity, in the light of everything
you were saying– so much of which makes a lot of sense to
me– I found myself wondering, well, whence the necessity
for the investment to address the– I accept
the overcapacity or the level of capacity. But whence the necessity to
invest it for China in the way that you’re talking about? Which I guess gets
back to Capital and the Marxian analysis,
which maybe you’d care to elaborate
on a little further. Well, if you’ve got surplus
capital and labor which is involved in, say, steel
and cement production, there are two things you can do. You can either just close down
a lot of the cement and steel works and have
major unemployment, which the Chinese are very
nervous about for good reason. Because all the reports
that come out suggest there’s a good deal of
potential labor unrest in China. So their thing
is, well, maybe we can use some of this
surplus capacity– keep as much of
this– I mean, they’re trying to curb some of this. And there’s no question they’re
trying to bring some of it down. But at the same
time, they’re going to say, OK, are
there ways we can use this productively elsewhere? Yeah, there are. There are all these projects. I didn’t mention the new
Panama Canal, for example, is another one. All of these huge mega-projects
which the Chinese are willing to undertake and
fund because this, I think, keeps employment
levels at a level which is maybe more acceptable. Whether they’re right that major
labor unrest is potentially around the corner and the
authority of the party might be in question if it cannot
manage that unemployment, I don’t know. But that’s a typical
question which arises in states of overaccumulation. Throughout the
history of capitalism, again and again, we’ve
seen overaccumulation of capital of various kinds–
producing things, the railroad overinvestment in
the 19th century, all those kinds of things. And the answer is
either it just crashes, and you have an immediate
political crisis, and you have a kind of
revolution or something like that. Or you try and manage it in
some way so actually it doesn’t. So I think it’s an attempt
by China to manage it. Yeah? Thanks, Professor Harvey. This is a wonderful,
wonderful talk. And I definitely agree
that it’s really important to emphasize this notion of
capital realization by Marx. But I also feel
that there is sort of a parallel between this
notion of capital realization and what Polanyi talks about
as market forces and market society, this notion that
the really important part of capitalism is not
just about production but about consumption, market
exchange, and commodification. And I think Polanyi is sort
of optimistic in the sense that he does
believe that society is able to wage
collective action against the commodification
of labor, land, and money, like against
bankers and rentiers. So do you think his
optimism is warranted? Or do you think this politics
around capital realization is much harder than what we
have already imagined before? The main difference between
Polanyi and Marx on realization is this, that Marx spends
a lot of time talking about two kinds of consumption. One is final
consumption, which is what you and I–
and the other is what he calls productive
consumption, which is investment in infrastructures. In the Chinese
case, for example, it’s not consumerism
in the sense we mean it in this country
that is driven in a realization process. It’s productive consumption
and creating new fixed capital investments and infrastructures
and things of that kind. So it’s a different
kind of consumption which is supposed to
improve productivity. Now the big question is,
are all the investments that have been made
actually contributing to rising productivity? 50% of the Chinese economy
has been driven, particularly over the last five or six
years, by physical investment infrastructures. 25% alone by housing. And it’s not clear to
me that a 50% investment of your GDP in that kind
of productive consumption is getting a good rate of
return when the rate of return, in terms of the growth
of the Chinese economy, is now sinking
down to around 6%. And some people think
it’s much lower. So productive
consumption runs out because you’re creating fixed
capital for something that doesn’t arrive. This is classic. My classic example
of that is the case of Cuidad Real, just
south of Madrid, which is one of these
speculative building projects. And they built a new airport
to which no planes have flown. The result is that
they had a 2 billion euro kind of airport
sitting there doing nothing. And last summer they
tried to auction it off. And the top bid
was 10,000 euros. [laughter] So If you’ve got
11,000 euros and you fancy having an airport in the
middle of Spain, be my guest. So this is what I mean by–
the building of the airport is productive consumption. But it’s not realized, again,
by planes flying there and using it and this kind of stuff. So but that’s a big
difference between Marx and Polanyi is Marx is very much
aware that consumption is not simply about final consumption. It’s about productive
consumption plus final consumption. And Marx, of course, is
also very well aware in ways that Polanyi was not
quite very clear about. That is that if you’re
extracting surplus value from the laborers, the
payment of the laborers tends to go down. And if the payment
of the laborers go down, as it has done since
1970s– labor has not received more money– then the
market, the final market, in terms of consumer
demand from working people, is basically stymied. And the only way you can deal
with that is the credit system. And the credit
system goes belly up, which it had some
problems with in 2008. So Marx has a much finer
way of understanding this. But I always liked Polanyi. I thought it was a very
helpful way station on the way to reading Marx. So people who– I used to
disguise my Marxism by saying I was quoting Polanyi
when I wasn’t. [laughter] I had all these great
disguises, by the way. I first started teaching
Capital in a geography program. And for five years– in
an engineering school. [laughter] And for five years, the
central administration thought I was teaching a
course on capital cities. [laughter] And it was only
five years later, when the course was
well-established and people gave it some very
good things that they said, they couldn’t do much about it. So yeah. But Polanyi, it’s good. Um. Hi. Oh, excuse me. You talked about
the spatial fix idea for what people
do when they have to work with surplus capital. And you gave the example
of going from Haussmann to the suburbanization
to what China is doing. We also see a scale change,
a huge scale change. Yeah. And it’s quite bothersome
because I am a believer in the law of dialectics. So quantitative changes
lead to qualitative changes. So what do you see as the
big macroeconomic threat with this huge
scale change that we are witnessing with what China
is doing with surplus capital investment? Yeah, the scale change–
I mean, this, by the way, parallels some of the
things that Giovanni Arrighi points out in his study
of shifting hegemony. And the big question is that
if the US is not as hegemonic as it once was, how
are we going to think about hegemonic center to
the dynamics of capital accumulation? And there are many, many signs
that it is, of course, breaking apart into regional hegemons,
so that Germany doesn’t take much notice of what
the US says anymore and does his own thing. And Europe, Brazil
is pretty hegemonic, and Latin America, of course,
United States and China and the Far East. So you’re really moving into
these regional hegemonic structures, which is bothersome
in the following sense– that the history of situations
where there is no clear global hegemonic power, but
there’s regional– [sneezes] Excuse me. There’s regional
hegemonic configurations– is that they can get
against each other. And of course, that’s typically
led to global conflicts and global wars. Geopolitically,
we’re seeing some of the consequences of that
in the Middle East right now with Russia versus the
United States versus European Union. So I think that
the scale problem of how capital is
working is such that you really need global
regulation of many aspects. We need global regulation
of financial flows. You need global
regulation to deal with issues like climate
change and species extinction and habitat destruction. But we don’t really see anything
very serious happening on that. And I know there
are negotiations. But the really serious
stuff that needs to be done is not being done. So you may be saved from being
up to your neck in cement by being up to
your neck in water with sea level rise or
something of that kind. The question of global
hegemonic configuration is one which Arrighi,
of course, was adamant that this didn’t mean that
China was becoming the hegemon, because the global economy
is now so integrated. And the point here is you have
to think about compound growth on everything that’s going on
in the global economy right now. And you think about it
30 years out from now. And you’ll see amazing,
amazing things. I actually went to Brazil
several times in the 1970s and didn’t go back again a lot
till the last five, six years. And I went back to
some of the cities I knew in the early 1970s. And they’re totally
unrecognizable, totally unrecognizable. You sort of come in
on a superhighway. You’ve got condominiums. You’ve got mega
shopping centers. You’ve got high-rise
stuff going on around you. I mean, in every city,
Recife, Fortaleza, whatever. And this is the
style of urbanization which you’re seeing
all over the place. And you get what I think
are just insane economies emerging out of this. My favorite one is
Sao Paolo, which rests on automobile
production as economic base. So they produce a
load of automobiles that then go sit in traffic
jams for hours on end. And you can’t say, this is
not a very sensible economy. This is insane. Why don’t you stop
producing automobiles? They say, well, the
economy would collapse. So are you going to produce
even more automobiles? Yeah, we’re going to expand
the automobile industry as much as we can. And you kind of go, well,
where are they going to go? You’ve already got all the main
streets absolutely, totally, totally– and that’s where
you traffic engineers come in. You’ve got to engineer
it in such a way as to, somehow or other, get
15 lane highways or something like that through the center of
the city, which is going to be a very nice place to live in. You know, with 15-lane highways. I mean, I’m sure you’ll
enjoy that environment. So I think the hegemony
question is a big one. And unfortunately,
the left doesn’t have any particular answer to that. The left is obsessed
with local initiatives are somehow the answer. People misinterpret
me when I say that, as if I’m against
local initiatives. I’m not. I think pretty much
all politics originates with local initiatives. But if it originates and stays
there, then that’s the problem. The problem is to scale up
the politics to something rather different. And the left has
not actually been thinking about that
sort of thing very much. So I have a lot of
admiration for what the anarchists and autonomistas
are talking about that. But I have profound
disagreements with them when it comes to issues of
this kind, of how to scale up and what should happen
when you scale up. Yeah, hi. I guess I want to apologize for
asking a hypothetical question. Why? Why apologize for that? If you were giving this
same lecture to an audience in China, how would you– I’m going to do that
this summer, by the way. Yeah, so how would you
rephrase this lecture? I wouldn’t rephrase it at all. No? Why would– So what would the main
points of leverage be in that context for you,
in the Chinese audience? I have no idea. I’ll find out when I get there. [laughter] Look, my contacts
with Chinese academics and some Chinese
people in the party, I found it possible to talk
about many of these things. I think they’re super aware. They obviously have
to be super aware because life expectancy
in Northern China has declined by about 5 years
in about the last 10 or 15 years because of the
density of air pollution. And they know they have
to do something about it. They know their
rivers are sewers. And they’re very aware of a lot
of these kinds of questions. So I think they recognize
that right now they’re involved in certain things. So I don’t think it’s impossible
to have a decent conversation. I’ve had decent conversations
in this country with visiting people on these topics. And I see no reason when I go to
China that I would say anything different to the Chinese. I might change some
of my examples. But that’s about it. And I’d add a little more
criticism of the United States, just to– [laughter] Because the United
States deserves a lot. I mean, you know. Yeah? Professor Harvey, I was
wondering, where would you locate some of the sources
of this ideological mess you’re talking about? Which are the
institutions where we could go and historize
to understand what is happening right now? Well, I tried to get
my version of it, which is in the book on
neoliberalism, when it was clear in the early
1970s that corporate capital and the big wealthy classes
felt deeply threatened by what was a certain decline
in their wealth, and certainly a feeling
that there had been a power shift towards labor. And if you look at
the legislation that went through Congress
under Nixon– and it got signed by Nixon–
it created the Environmental Protection Agency. It created OSHA. It created Consumer Protection. A whole raft of
legislation which was curbing capitalist class power. And there was a famous
memo from somebody who eventually went on
the Supreme Court saying, we’ve got to have
a counter-strategy to all of this. And all of these
institutions got together. The big business bureau and
all of those institutions got together. This is when they
decided, at that time, that the universities
were impossible. They should be surrounded
by think tanks producing alternative information. And that’s when they founded the
Olin Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the
Heritage Foundation. All the foundations were
set up by big capital. And their job was to produce
an alternative understanding of the world. And this was funded by the
major corporate and individuals. In New York, for example,
the Rockefeller brothers played a very important role
in doing this kind of thing. So my own university, CUNY,
didn’t charge– had no tuition fees at the time. So there was a huge
fight over tuition. And it was mainly led by the
Rockefeller brothers, who went through the various– they
went through places like– they controlled the Reader’s Digest. So they had a whole slew
of articles coming out in the Reader’s Digest
saying things like, you know, free education is
poor education. If you want good
education, you’ve got to pay for it,
that kind of thing. So there’s a huge ideological
fight on that level. And of course, then this
whole kind of individualism and Reaganism and
Thatcherism all came in. And this is
supported by– again, Britain had analogous
institutions which were the center of it. They co-opted the
Swedish bankers to create something
called the Nobel Prize in Economics,
which they promptly gave to Hayek and Friedman. I mean, you know. So I tried to lay
a lot of that out. So this was an
institutional response to what was felt to be a
desperate situation on the part of corporate capital. And even in this country,
corporate capital and the capitalist class. And they were, of
course, successful. Now, of course, a lot of that
success is breaking apart. Because as we see with
the Republican Party, the Republican party is there to
do the bidding of the wealthy. But it does it on the
backs of or support from low-income populations. But they’ve done nothing. The New York Times had a
piece– I think it was today, actually– which is
talking about the fact that the grassroots of
the Republican Party say these people in
the Republican Party have done nothing
whatsoever for us. So that’s why we want
somebody different. This is why we’re
voting for Trump. But to be honest, Cruz frightens
me more than Trump, frankly. But ideologically– and it’s
been increasingly difficult. We’re increasingly put in
situations where we can only act in a neoliberal way. I think it’s very
clear that we are all neoliberals without knowing it
in that a lot of our decision making is now kind of actually
constituted in such a way that there was only
one way we can go. And that’s going to take
a big change of mentality to bring back some notions
of communal action, communal solidarity,
which is why I do like a lot of
the local initiatives to try to talk
about urban commons. I do like many of the
attempts to create what you might call
unalienated spaces in a sea of urban alienation. This, to me, again, is a
very important initiatives. But changing the
mentalities of populations is going to be extremely,
extremely difficult. But we think radically different
now than we did in the 1970s. And even I find myself being
neoliberal on occasions, particularly when I look at
my pension fund and think– [laughter] I get that, you know? But again, you see, that–
if you could give security to people who are
without pension funds, this would be something
radically, radically different. Because you commit
people to– pension funds are invested in
the stock market. So if you crash
the stock market, everybody’s pension
fund goes under. So there’s a vested interest
in saving the stock market. So when there’s a central
bank to quantitative easing– which, by the way, is a very
good example of bad infinity because the central bank
is simply adding zeros to the money supply. When it did quantitative
easing, the money simply flowed into the stock
market, a jacked up stock market, which is great
for my pension fund. So I benefited from that. And I’m very grateful. But at the same time, I
don’t want it to happen. And so we all get
internally conflicted about things like that. But that’s the way in which
things are structured now into this kind of thing where,
for me to go after capital and to say, let’s close
down the stock market, let’s really wreck
the stock market– which as a real revolutionary,
I should want to do. And I kind of go, oh,
my god, my pension fund. What will happen? [laughter] So we all get
dilemmas of that kind. And we’re all of us in that. Professor Harvey, thank
you for your lecture. It’s very well placed in
many respects in the sense that we find
ourselves in a space where political subjectivities,
like you put it, are firmly being cemented
by the sheer force of debt that we accumulate. And to the question
of the spirals, the macroeconomic spirals that
are getting out of control, where would– in your opinion
or from your perspective– be strategic places to
start attacking, dismantling that spiral? And what role does university
play in that process? Well, Europe has been
pretty much a dead space, for me anyway, over
the last few years. It’s livened up some, to
the degree that now there are movements like Podemos
and so on in Spain. And now what we’re seeing–
and this is, I think, an interesting feature. In many parts of
the world, there is a political interest
in capturing local power. We even see it in this country. We see it in
Seattle, for example, raising the minimum wage. Los Angeles, raising
their minimum wage. And radical mayors
and city councils can start to actually
consolidate things at a different level
than can typically be done by a local
neighborhood organization. But it would take a
coalition between the two so that if, for example,
one of the answers to affordable housing issues is
something like community land trusts, you need the
city council to help you get the land and do
all those kinds of things. And when the city council does
that, as happened in Montreal some years ago, then
you can actually get off-market
housing developing in very significant
areas of the city. So the fact that you’ve got
radical mayors in Barcelona, Madrid, and the like
suggests that something is going on at that level. I’ve just came back
from Brazil supporting the campaign of
Marcelo Freixo, who’s kind of working on the theme
of– “if the city was ours” is the slogan of the campaign. And it’s an attempt to–
he’s running for mayor. And he has a bit of a shot of
getting it– a lot of barriers. So I think there’s
movement of various kinds which is beginning to occur. And movements of this kind
can be sort of small tremors that then become
major earthquakes. Or they could just become
small tremors, and that’s it. But I think there is
something going on at that level in many
parts of the world, which I think is encouraging. And what I see in certain
places is that– for instance, a country which seems to have
sorted some of this out– I was very impressed earlier
in the year– or last year. I was in Uruguay. And I was talking with Mujica
and some of the academics in the university who were
supporting the social housing projects and the like. And sort of pushing the politics
even further, or in this case, keeping the politics
out as far left as they can possibly keep
it after Mujica stepped down from the presidency. So I think spaces are
changing very fast. And in exactly the
same way, you don’t know where the crisis
is going to hit next. You don’t know which
country is suddenly going to declare it’s close to
bankruptcy and god knows what. So I think we don’t really
know what kind of movements are going to erupt where. It’s a very volatile situation. Nobody in Turkey expected
Gezi Park to occur. And Gezi Park was a process. Unfortunately, it triggered
also another process by Erdogan, which is a process
towards a totally autocratic, rather brutal kind
of police state. Which is unfortunately
being not challenged at all by the European
Union because Turkey is housing about 2
million Syrian refugees. And I think the threat of the
Turks is to open the gates and shove them all into
Europe and then see what– so in order to keep them there,
the European Union is not saying anything about the
fact that people who signed a letter just talking about
to negotiate with the Kurds and not kill them lost their
jobs, are being, in some cases, prosecuted, probably going
to be spending time in jail. So more than about
1,500 academics are under suspicion
and under arrest. We know, at the same time,
that certain cities or towns in Southeast Anatolia are
being put under martial law, that nobody is allowed
on the streets. And actually, people are
actually starving to death in some of those towns. So there’s killings
going on at that rate. And the Kurdish question
has become a violent one. So my point here is that
nobody would have predicted this two or three years ago. Things are moving very
fast, are very volatile. In the same way that Brazil, two
years ago, everybody was happy. They had a lot of money
and all this stuff. Now everybody’s desperate
because there’s been basically an economic collapse. Same is true in Ecuador. Same is true, to some
degree, in Bolivia, all of those countries providing
raw materials to China. So we don’t know at all where
things are going to happen. But again, one of the
things that capital is often very, very good at is being
highly flexible and very adaptive in its strategies. And that’s something
that the left needs to learn from
capitalists– how to be adaptive and adept
and fast in your strategies. And in fact, the left
is very conservative. My Marxist friends are stuck
in the mud a lot of the time. It’s kind of really chronic. And so you kind of
say, what’s the help? What’s the point of the left
if it can’t actually change its view from 1930 to now? And this is part of the problem. And the dynamic part
of the left is actually more likely to be the
cultural producers who are playing a very important
role in a lot of this. The people who
launched the Gezi thing were more out of
the cultural level. The people who launched
the Brazilian 2013 were very much
animated by that sort of– coming from that
kind of background. Again, it was the
politics of realization that was involved
there, rather than the politics of production. And I have a hard
time getting people on the left to recognize
the politics of realization as being where we are
really at right now, and where we should really
be mobilizing and mobilizing around the different
materiality of what is involved in that form of organization. Versus what has
traditionally been a sort of left which is animated by
the politics of production. So I’m not saying the politics
of production is irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong on that. But we’ve got to actually
create alternative politics. And I haven’t seen that
emerging very much in Europe at all, except now in Spain. But again, these things
move very quickly, as we’ve seen in this country
over the last two or three years. I mean, who would have
thought Bernie Sanders would be where he’s at? It’s quite amazing that somebody
who claims to be a socialist– [cheering and applause] –is actually getting votes. And when he gets 70% of the
vote in the state of Washington, you kind of go, this
is really something. Um– Apparently, it’s– Uh– Sorry. Are you going? Yeah? Hi. Sorry, I’ve been
waiting for a while. Sure, go ahead. Thank you. Hi. Sorry for interrupting. I was wondering, what are
some possibilities for what it would look like
to have a society and an economy organized
around good infinities rather than bad infinities? Can we make that
the last question? I’ve been told I should
make this the last question. But I’m going to disobey. And I’ll have a
couple more questions. [LAUGHTER, CHEERING, AND
APPLAUSE] Look, there are a number of
formats which we can look at. I’ve always been a little
bit of a secret fan of Murray Bookchin’s writings
on urbanization and the like. Which is not to say that he
was a nice guy or anything like that, because he wasn’t. But his idea about kind
of municipal organization and confederal
socialism seems to be one of the ways in which one
can start to organize around the politics of realization. And one of the strengths
of Podemos in Spain is that they grew
out of a lot of kind of assembly-type reconstructions
of political organization and political power. So they still have some
rootedness in that, even as they’ve gone national. Now how that rootedness is being
maintained, I’m not quite sure. And I always fear that things
like that, the rootedness will disappear and get neglected. But something similar
is happening in Rojava, for example, where the
Kurdish PKK is organizing on Bookchinesque principals of
assembly structures of decision making. Which, to some degree, is
partly coming out of Bookchin, partly out of the experience
of the Zapatista movement. So how you start to deliver
resources and deliver basic necessities to populations
in times of difficulty or in times of
trouble becomes a kind of a– there emerges a
form of sociality which is radically different
from the sort of possessive individualism
that dominates in a neoliberal world. And we see some of
that, particularly in the wake of disasters
of various kinds. When the people who are involved
in the Occupy Movement in New York rallied around
trying to deal with the aftermath
of Sandy, they did a faster and better job
than any of the official relief services. And I think what they showed
was that something that’s built upon lines like that
can be very efficient and very effective. Unfortunately, it tends to
be that it’s reconstruction of the existing social order
that was involved there, rather than a transformation
of political consciousness on the part of those
people being helped. And so I think
there are examples of this kind where things happen
in a different kind of way. And the interesting
thing is that when they happen in a
different kind of way, when people get embedded
in those things happening in a different kind
of way, they start to say things like,
well, we don’t have to do it this old way. We have alternatives. I think that it’s
possible to talk about utopian alternatives. And I think it’s very good that
people have utopian designs. And I’m all in favor of that. But I think that the best
teacher on this is experience. And I know from, for
instance, Turkish colleagues that the experience of
participating in the Gezi process made a
radical difference to the way in which they
thought about themselves in relationship to the
society going on around them. I think this was true of
the Occupy Sandy people too. And that there is a
growing consciousness that we don’t have to do
things in this completely neoliberal way. And we can do things on a
much more collective basis. And so, yes, there
are alternatives. But it takes the mixture
of enough people who have the ideas about
how to do it differently and enough experience of
doing it differently to show that it actually can work. And as happened
with Occupy Sandy, show that it could
work even better than all the bureaucratized
corporate and corporatized systems of relief that
have been structured into the way the state operated
and the way in which the Red Cross is organized. So I think there are
real possibilities. And this is where some of
the small-scale solidarity economies and the like,
I think, have something important to teach us. And can be the basis
for alternative ways to get us out of the necessity
of continuing to grow, grow, grow, grow, and get us back
to a virtuous infinity, which is a reproduction of
social life adequately and appropriately for all
the people in the population. So I will take
one more question. There’s one somewhere down here. Yeah? It seems that– OK. –the human population is
going to– it seems inevitable that it’s going to be
increasing by several billions over the next decades. And part of this is
used as a justification for grow, grow, grow. You didn’t map this
population growth onto your critique of capital. And I wondered if you would
make a few comments in that way. Yeah, well, I’ve always been
told that we can only actually solve the global poverty problem
by growing because we can only redistribute out of growth. And of course, we’ve had growth. And there’s no redistribution. So that story’s a silly one. Yeah, there’s a
population growth issue. Interestingly, the
case of Germany was so fascinating
that a lot of people didn’t want to welcome
the immigrants. Merkel kind of said, we need
the labor, so bring them in. And of course, the
demographics of Europe are zero population
growth, close to that. And there’s going to be
a real problem, again, about the future
because the working population is diminishing while
the older population is rising. And so you’ve got a crisis
of pensions and all kinds of things coming up. And the obvious
way to resolve it would be to open the
floodgates and let all of the Syrians in and
everybody else who will come in and bolster the population. But that then generates
all of the negative stuff about immigration. So I think that
there are features of this in population growth. If we look at where the
population is growing and what it’s about and
where the population is not growing– of course,
half the world is pretty close to zero growth. Much of Europe is actually
close to zero growth. Japan is zero growth. China is actually down to a
kind of– and everybody’s kind of now worried
because they think that China’s going to be
overtaken by India in terms of population because there’s
no population– no one child policy. And of course, the Chinese
have recently abandoned that. So the population growth
issue is an important one. It would be my
observation that, yeah, a stable population probably,
at some time in the future, is going to be just as
necessary as a stable economy. But that doesn’t mean
that somehow or other we have to keep on growing
to accommodate that growing population. In fact, it means it
the other way around, as far as I’m concerned. It means that certain
parts of the world have to learn to deal with less. We can start, in this country,
with the following factoid– which I’ve forgotten
where I got it from. Probably the Financial
Times since that’s my usual source of information
these days, which is very good. And it pointed out
that about a third of the Christmas presents bought
in this country are never used. Most of them are
junked immediately. Well, we can stop buying
all those Christmas presents because they’re going
straight into the– they’re only used once. Or they’re thrown away
or something like that. So find a different way to
give a Christmas present, which would be something like,
be nice to somebody. [laughter] Wouldn’t that be a nice– go on. Give somebody a hug, you know? Give them five hugs or
something like that. And if you’re really fond
of them give them 10. So we could start with,
how much consumption is complete junk in this country? And people recognize that. But then people
get angry at you. My daughter is convinced that
the country will go to the dogs if people took my approach
to buying clothes. [laughter] I once had a taxi driver
in Philadelphia ask me. He said, are you an academic? I said, yeah. He said, you should be
ashamed of yourself. I said, why? Dressing like that, he said. I said, what do you mean? And he said, well, there are
all these unemployed tailors and makers of suits
in Philadelphia. And you go around dressed
like some sort of– you should be grown up,
not a sort of hippie wearing that kind of
jumpers and things, he said. Get yourself a
good suit, he said. And then he backed
off because he thought he wouldn’t get
a tip at the end of it. [laughter] But I thought it was a
very nice thing to say. But so I think
there’s a lot that can be done in terms of
reduction, obviously, which wouldn’t be missed at all. And I think all
this fetish stuff about everybody going
crazy about Christmas presents and sales– I’m
not against consumption. I’m all in favor of good
food and things like that. But I am saying that there’s a
lot of ways in which we could do with much, much less, with
an actual improvement in quality of life rather than a
diminution of quality of life. And I think that there
are ways to go about that. So I think the redistribution
can be accomplished even within a situation
of very slow growth, provided that there is
a recognition that this is an essential feature of
what our future should be about and how it should
be constructed. But at some point or other,
the population question also has to be resolved. And I think that, of course,
in some parts of the world it has been resolved. We’re at zero growth in
many parts of the world. And then those parts of
the world which are not are usually those
which are unstable, where the social security
mechanisms are very low. And as everybody recognizes,
one of the best ways towards population stabilization
is the education of women. It is an absolutely
crucial feature. Any country which has a very
elaborate education of women immediately experiences,
I think, tremendous kind of shifts in demographics. And I think that
that’s, again, one of the features of
any social order which I think would
be absolutely crucial. So I think we’re going
to leave it there. So thank you all very much. [applause]


14 thoughts on “Senior Loeb Scholar lecture: David Harvey

  1. It is funny how all the narrative against Marx has made Marx so much more relevant… at least Marxist explanations of events does not include moral justifications such as: greed is responsible for all the ills, or personal laziness is why some people are poor, etc etc

  2. Most illuminating even as I still grapple with Marx, Ricardo, and Smith. I'm a mathematician from the quant side of things and have a hard time reconciling the equations. For example, modern econometrics doesn't have anything about profit. In fact the entire profession is adverse to talking about profit. They're also adverse to history of economics. Didn't realize the profession had so many taboo subjects. It is not an honest branch of academia, like say, one would find in, math, where truth and logic are rigorous pursuits.

  3. More sad old Marxists. Edifying poor old Karl Marx. Marx was an unwell person , and sadly an out right racist, Karl hated Jews as he so clearly articulated in his seminal 1844 work " A World Without Jews”. After this stunning piece of hate writing Kooky Karl spent the rest of his tragic life elaborating an incoherent series of screeds justifying coercive social policies that impacted with a much higher degree of oppression on the Jewish people than on his myth of a "working class". Kooky Karl invented a whole new form of anti-Semitism, one premised on distracting people with a social economic mumbo jumbo while setting up systems that impacted Jewish people (and Jewish sects like Christianity) more so than others.

    Karl’s kooky writings model a rhetorically closed self-justifying system, subjective definitions, an absence of natural economic or independent price signals, lack of internal consistency, the pagan wackiness of “historical materialism”, sectarian intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism a series of rather glaring epistemological problems and so on. It was just so much egocentric nuttiness, but don't worry Dave here will sort it all out.

    Most informed people are aware Poor old Karl, led a crappy self-indulgent life, as a drunk, a rapist (ask the maid), a never bath "smelly" guy, and out right racist who’s life’s work was dreaming up new ways of updating ancient anti-Semitic prejudice with veiled 19c economic, social class mumbo jumbo, ( labour theory of value anyone?) , and a big dose of delusional utopianism as the eschatological desert, (see Nathaniel Weyl’s book, “Karl Marx: Racist”).

    Anyway , if you too hate Jews (or Christian people), or Judeo-Christian cultures, or freedom you just have to spend your life promoting Kooky Karl and his hate fuled nonsense.

    But if you are not a racist, and like rational logic , and love your fellow man , and can respect the rights of others you might like this Reading List .

    Karl Marx, Racist, By Weyl Nathaniel
    The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek
    A World Without Jews. By (the racist) Karl Marx
    The Open Society and its Enemies by Karl popper
    Marx's Religion of Revolution: Regeneration Through Chaos
    by Gary North PhD.
    Communist Eschatology by Francis Nigel Lee PhD.
    Socialism by Ludwig Von Mises

  4. There is no population problem. Economists and sociologists from both sides of the fence and all over the political map in fact, have pointed out, with endless evidence, there is no issue with 'Over population' and in fact the Human population is and has been shrinking and the wealthier people are and the more birth control options there are, the more educated people are becoming and the drop in infant mortality rates, along with life expectancy going up also, are all things contributing to the fact there's a shrinking population that is a global phenomenon also. It is true that in a lot of countries these facts have also lead to more older people than younger people knocking about but, for all kinds of reasons this is not an issue that is at all producing negative effects for anyone. Especially since when it comes to problems such as pollution, climate change, rising sea levels, the 'poorer areas', that are being accused of over populating the planet are t6he victims of these effects that are caused, by a considerable amount, in large by the people in New York and California who are using their private jets to tour the world preaching this crap in the first place! People have also been pointing out that not only were academics, like Thomas Malthus, wrong, they were actually very, very wrong within their own life span. Such trends were already moving in the exact opposite direction. Even if there was a population problem the big question then becomes one of Eugenics. What should we do about it exactly? What gives 'Us' or any one person or group of human beings the right to even start thinking about suggesting that 'What we need is some more social engineering. The 20th century just wasn't full of enough Nobel peace prize winners who were the first to join the Nazi Party and then leap straight over to Communism after the liberation of Auschwitz had been caught on film ….. Yep, we need some more of that, How big is my IQ I am just so educated. Don't forget, he who forgets the past is condemned to repeat it, or is the saying 'He who does not understand a single thing about human beings, politics and history is condemned to repeat it.'? I always get those two sayings mixed up. So if you are just a half decent human being, and not a psycho-manic-socio-pathic horror show for a person, it should very much be a mute point anyway. We could get as evangelical as the Catholics about it I suppose. Where ever they send missionaries to tell indigenous peoples that 'despite Aids, poverty and other social issues contraception and abortion is a sin.' Why not send in these over anxious, socially awkward, tweed jacket wearing, pipe smoking, anti-human, 'Radicals' to talk passionately about their violent revolutionary fantasies. The 'Revolution' that they can't and won't be fighting in themselves because someone has to strategize and write pamphlets for goodness sake. There's work to be done … by someone else. There's people to blame … for my own crimes! Here we go again! I can feel it coming on, this time around we'll get to see 21st century violence on our iPods. It'll be great!!

  5. It would have been nice if there was a title on his lecture. I drafted it as 'Capitalist growth, crisis, and urbanisation' but if anyone knows that there was an actual title pls let us know.

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