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‘How much is too much?’—Benjamin Kunkel on David Harvey for the London Review of Books

Tamar Shlaim27 January 2011

Benjamin Kunkel has written a lengthy article on David Harvey for the London Review of Books. Nominally a joint review of his recent books The Enigma of Capital and A Companion to Marx's Capital, it engages with Harvey's entire body of work, and especially his seminal The Limits to Capital 

Over recent decades, the landmarks of Marxian economic thinking include Ernest Mandel's Late Capitalism (1972), David Harvey's Limits to Capital (1982), Giovanni Arrighi's Long 20th Century (1994) and Robert Brenner's Economics of Global Turbulence (2006), all expressly concerned with the grinding tectonics and punctual quakes of capitalist crisis. Yet little trace of this literature, by Marx or his successors, has surfaced even among the more open-minded practitioners of what might be called the bourgeois theorisation of the current crisis.

Noting that "to date, a revived Keynesianism has formed a left boundary of economic debate in the press at large", Kunkel sees in The Enigma of Capital both the first serious "book-length example of Marxian crisis theory addressed to the current situation", and "a proving ground for what Harvey has called, referring to The Limits to Capital, ‘a reasonably good approximation to a general theory of capital accumulation in space and time’."

Marxist economic writing at its best praises the system it comes to bury in more dazzling terms than more apologetic accounts ever achieve, and Harvey's sardonic paean to ‘the immense potential power that resides within the credit system' finds him at his most eloquent.

Kunkel concludes: 

At the moment Marxism seems better prepared to interpret the world than to change it. But the first achievement is at least due wider recognition, which with the next crisis, or subsequent spasm of the present one, it may begin to receive.

Visit the London Review of Books to read the article in full.

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