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Friday, September 26, 2008

Literary Dose #34

"What [Karl] Marx was able to show was that these three necessary conditions of a capitalist mode of production [being growth-oriented, resting on the exploitation of living labor in production (i.e. a gap between what labor gets and what it creates), and being technologically and organizationally dynamic] were inconsistent and contradictory and that the dynamic of capitalism was necessarily, therefore, crisis-prone. There was, in his analysis, no way in which the combination of these three necessary conditions could produce steady and unproblematic growth. In particular, the crisis tendencies of capitalism would produce periodic phases of overaccumulation, defined as a condition in which idle capital and idle labor supply could exist side by side with no apparent way to bring these idle resources together to accomplish socially useful tasks. A generalized condition of overaccumulation would be indicated by idle productive capacity, a glut of commodities and an excess of inventories, surplus money capital (perhaps held as hoards), and high unemployment. The conditions that prevailed in the 1930s and have emerged periodically since 1973 have to be regarded as typical manifestations of the tendency towards overaccumulation."
- David Harvey from The Condition of Postmodernity (Blackwell, 1990, pp. 180-181).

7 comments:

  1. This is funny - like posting Mein Kampf quotes after the LA riots.

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  2. IF YOU BELEIVE IN SOCIALISM SO MUCH GO TO CUBA... NO WAIT THEY WOULDN'T LET YOU IN....

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  3. By Karl Marx's own theory, every progress in human society is made in a zig-zag fashion, (sorry, can't quote his exact words). But he never saw crisis might be part of capitalism's self improving process.
    The idle capital and idle labor would vent through exploring new human interests. Just look at what a colorful life we have now comparing 1930s.

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  4. It just makes me sad to see these comments. I think it's really important to try to imagine a better world. And the first step is to admit that capitalism has some serious issues at it roots.

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  5. Thank you for your expert opinion on the complexities of of a global economy, Mr. Architect. Your profession wouldn't exist were it not for capitalism, by the way.

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  6. nick, the author is not an architect but a social theorist. it maybe true that architects cannot survive without capitalism, maybe, but architecture will. do you believe our built environment will be better with architects thinking only about their commissions? do you want architects to be dictated by a quantitatively-driven factor such as capitalism? i definitely would not.

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  7. This is a great quote John - I'd like to find the original Marx quote though. To reply to nick above, I think that maybe the city - as we know it at least - wouldn't exist without capitalism (I like to think of the city as "frozen capitalism"), but architecture certainly could. There were truly amazing things built in the Soviet Union. And do we consider China capitalist now or not?

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