Historian David Harvey talks about capitalism and economic crises

Zachary Silva

Karl Marx said it before: Capitalism is a dangerous social power. And historian and anthropologist David Harvey said it again Thursday night in a speech based on his new publication, “The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism.”

But Harvey also issued a warning.

“Be very careful about putting faith in Marx’s one-liners,” he said.

Speaking to a crowd that packed the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, Harvey stressed his own opinions of the risks involved with capitalism. A Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the City University of New York, he believes systemic problems “need systemic solutions.” And a main problem right now is “politics are dominated by the Party of Wall Street,” in which he groups the capitalists.

“We’re looking more like a model where we’re focused on making money, getting power and manipulating the political process,” Harvey said.

He compared our current crisis both to past economic accounts as well as to recent events.

“We’ve been told that a free market would be a benefit to all,” he said. “If only we’d stop having this sand thrown in our eyes by the Tea Party and FOX News.”

Weinberg sophomore Rafael Vizcaino appreciated Harvey’s timely references.

“I was expecting more relating to the future, but he connected well to recent events,” he said. “He’s inspiring to us young guys.”

Harvey also discussed how specific areas suffer economic freezes when disaster hits. He mentioned former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to keep New Yorkers spending after the Sept. 11 attacks. He then spun another serious example of an economic disaster – the 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano – into a quip.

“You saw how the Icelandic bankers took revenge by erupting that volcano,” he said, noting the eruption halted travel business.

Joking aside, Harvey offered further examples of specific crises. He spoke of the Southwestern United States’subprime lending problem, as well as international epicenters of crisis. For example, countries and cities that host the Olympic games expect a major economic boost but end up “going bankrupt after overspending on the opening ceremonies.”

A close friend of Harvey’s and a sociology professor, Georgi Derluguian called Harvey “the best historical geographer in the world.”

Still, Harvey wanted to explain why he would speak about a subject that has already been discussed at length.

“I say, ‘What can I say about a situation that others aren’t saying?’ And for me,” Harvey said. “that’s not too hard because I’m a Marxist.”

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