Summary of Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism

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Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism book summary
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Professor David Harvey uses Marxist theory to interpret capitalist society and details 17 “contradictions” he finds inherent in capitalism. He offers a well-developed argument, devoid of polemics, that points out the failings of the current economic system. This thought-provoking overview provides a refreshing perspective. Many academics, media commentators, economists and politicians reject any criticism of capitalism, but, Harvey says, they should address market bubbles, income inequality and the recessions that cause financial dislocation and economically inspired wars. His contradictions read more like descriptions of situations than like literal contrasts, but he poses interesting dilemmas. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends this book to those who want to discuss capitalism’s problems and possibilities.

About the Author

David Harvey, author of The Enigma of Capital, teaches anthropology at the City University of New York Graduate School. More than two million people have downloaded his course on Marx’s Capital.



Time to Re-Examine Capitalism

Recent economic problems reveal that capitalism has 17 inherent inconsistencies. Each “contradictions” warrants examination to spark debate about alternative economic policies. Consider capitalism’s “foundational contradictions,” the “constant features of capital”:

1. “Use Value and Exchange Value”

All commodities purchased in a capitalist society have a use value and an exchange value. A house, for example, may have several use values, including utility as a shelter. Use value applies when you finance the purchase of a home with a mortgage, and you pay interest on your mortgage because the house’s use value is of paramount importance to you. Its exchange value, however, concerns money only – the question of how much you should pay to buy or rent a house. The answer is complicated. Basic financial factors – profit, interest, materials costs and land prices – determine a house’s exchange value. But speculation that casts housing solely in light of its exchange value creates distortions and hardships for those who derive use value from their homes. Speculation creates a Ponzi scheme in which borrowed money fuels bubbles.


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