David Harvey, the paroxysm of ignorance

I just came across this presentation titled Crises of Capitalism by David Harvey, without any knowledge of who he is and what his ideas are. It started up with the usual BS about people being greedy, regulation having failed, but then I first got shocked when he said that we had too much Hayek, and need more Keynes... Then, it all started to go very much wrong, so I Googled this guy, and here's what Wikipedia says about him:
David Harvey (born 31 October 1935, Gillingham, Kent, England) is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A leading social theorist of international standing, he received his PhD in Geography from University of Cambridge in 1961. Widely influential, he is among the top 20 most cited authors in the humanities.[1] In addition, he is the world's most cited academic geographer (according to Andrew Bodman, see Transactions of the IBG, 1991, 1992), and the author of many books and essays that have been prominent in the development of modern geography as a discipline. His work has contributed greatly to broad social and political debate, most recently he has been credited with helping to bring back social class and Marxist methods as serious methodological tools in the critique of global capitalism, particularly in its neoliberal form.
Well, I can tell you one thing: communism is still well alive, and people still believe it is the 'solution' to the problem, and the problem is 'capitalism'. Wow. I'm impressed. Like most supposedly brilliant guys — brilliant means having a PhD, not being able to understand the logics of causality, nor being able to think rationally — he got everything messed up and upside down.

Don't get me wrong, Bernanke and the likes are exactly like him: taking facts and linking them without understanding the real cause and effects. Communism in years 2000 is spawned by the Bernankes and Gordon Browns of our societies.

Very sad to see that this guy is also teaching history at the university. He must be leading so many people out of the real world into believing his non-sensual propaganda...

Even worst to see that this guy is credible, and that people think he makes sense...

Maybe this video is more relevant in terms of non-sensual thinking:


Anonymous said...

You're critique is about as incompetent as your label. This is merely verbal flourish without a single thoughtful refutation. As a matter of fact, there is no refutation at all.

Besides, no where in that entire short film does Harvey suggest a "communist" solution, nor even a solution at all. Sure, he admits that he thinks he has a grasp of the problem, but nowhere does he suggest a solution.

For one that is suggesting they know the "logics of causality," you are coming off like an idiot. Just because you say something is boneheaded does not make it boneheaded, or wrong, or irrational, or incompetent. Please enlighten us with your intellectual prowess and lead us out of this economic mess instead. Perhaps it would be best to engage with the ideas themselves, as Mr. Harvey has done, instead of invoking platitudes and shoddy logic.

pej said...

First of all, I don't think it's showing any positive behaviour to post such a comment on my blog without leaving the possibility of getting notified when there are replies to it. So I don't take your comment as a constructive one.

Second of all, you are right, I do no refutation, as the post was not intended to be self contained. My blog contains dozens of posts about economic theory. I suggest you go through them if you want to know why David Harvey is talking nonsense.

The other reason why I did not refute it is that almost every single sentence of his speech is wrong. He takes two facts, and links them by causality while getting it wrong.

You seem not to understand causality neither. Not refuting him by not giving any counter argument DOES NOT make him right, nor does it mean that I am wrong.

Just the fact that David Harvey is ignoring economic theory (Austrian School thinking), economic reality and historical precedents (communism did NOT WORK anywhere it was tried, and for very obvious reasons) leads me to not even want to debate with such ideas. Of course, Communists always find a reason why it didn't work, and would like to prove it will if you try again. It's like Krugman who will always complain that the stimulus was too small and that a bigger one — it will work! — is needed.

It would like trying to refute gravity. Gravity is there, whether I like it or not. So is economic reality.

Now, if you are seriously interested in understanding economics, I can recommend extremely interesting and easy to read books. Though coming clean from all the brainwashing you have been through by socialists and Keynesian is an extremely difficult process. I took me a lot of effort to get where I am.

Anonymous said...

Came across this via google. Harvey doesn't say anywhere that we need more Keynes; in fact he thinks reverting to a Keynesian style economy is impossible - in the first part of the RSA animate he was simply explaining the various 'stories' employed by various people/groups to explain the financial crisis, none of which he thought were, in and of themselves, correct or sufficient to explain it. It is the second half of the video in which he outlines (very briefly) his own thoughts on the crisis.

lifeisgood said...

I came across this link accidentally. Having taken extensive help of David Harvey's "Companion to Marx's Capital" & his online lectures on Marx's Capital, I must say that his ability to understand and teach Marx surpasses most of the self-proclaimed ideologues wasting millions of gigabytes of digital space today.

Being a student of Marxian Economics[of course through self-study], Harvey is one of the most essential authority to us. Sadly, his viewpoint is least read or understood.

You provide no credible assessment of his arguments. You rather equate him with Keynesians, with whom Marxists have nothing to do, at least in my understanding.

This man's been teaching Marx's Capital's Volume I & now II & III, since last 40 years in a row beginning in 1971. He's an author of many books that give a very different viewpoint about the world we live in. Its absolutely fine to oppose a viewpoint, mainly because your's isn't in coinciding with his.

Just like Communists have some or the other reason to defend their views, just like your Keynesian counterparts(of course they have nothing against Capitalism per se) always have the "only if the stimulus were big" argument, Austrians have the same old rambling "Reduce the Government and 'abra ca dabra'"!

That's what every dogmatic does, you too are no exception. Rather than critiquing Harvey, you should have at least tried to understand that he's NOT a Keynesian & that Keynesians are NOT Socialists or Communists. Far from it.

This same old Austrian rambling that Keynesians are Socialists, everyone is brainwashed in schools and colleges in Socialist thinking, etc. is very poor and mediocre. A rational thinker should(and assuming you're one) understand that schools, colleges, universities 'justify' wage-labour, justify private ownership in means of production, justify Government's role in Economy, justify capitalism per se. Am NOT criticizing these things, only pointing them out to refute you 'Socialist brainwashing argument'.

You people define Socialism as it suits your ideological standpoint, and then criticize it. You can and you should, but equating the popular definition with Marx or Communism is wrong.

Austrians keep stressing that we need "true free-market" capitalism, that's all. You can read a 1000 books, 10000+ pages of stale Austrian literature, but all boils down to this- Government's the problem and Market's the solution.

The mere fact that Austrian Economics is hardly taught anywhere other than your political propaganda centre- Ludvig Von Mises Institute, shows that people are least interested in your buffoonish ideas. Why not keep it to yourself, and save some digital space?

Also, this tactic of "you're all brainwashed and we idiots know the truth" is old. Bring something better. {You said so to a previous commentator}.

Everyone gets brainwashed somewhere or the other. Your pro-capitalism, pro-wage labour, pro-wage slavery State does it to the majority, some get done by Marxists & some by Austrians.

Harvey, as such is an academician. He has his own set of admirers. You can read his "Enigma of Capital" & "Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution". These will provide you with a brief survey of his conceptual apparatus. You can disapprove him, that's fine, but don't make ad hominems against a person who has a different viewpoint. You can neglect him, but do have a look at his way of writing and thinking, you might get a different lense to see the world, maybe a better one! Take care.

pej said...

@Life is Good:
Thanks for sharing your opinion.
Obviously, I appreciate that you took the time to write such a long answer, but unfortunately, you seem to have no understanding of how the world works, and on top of that, no knowledge of history.

Communism and socialism simply do not work and are utopian ideas. You can pretend you don't understand this, and tell me the Eastern Europe, Communist China, North Korea, and Cuba are great successes, I won't try to convince you otherwise, as obviously you're familiar with the great libertarian ideas of the Austrian School of thought and still decide to ignore and try to ridicule them.

Ironically, all these things are cyclical and in times of crises, the extremes tend to gather more and more momentum, that's how communism and fascists go into power during the great depression and the WWII.

You can be part of the group of people who don't believe in gravity and believe the earth is flat. I'm on the other side of both ideas, and as such, I can only say that you share with David Harvey, the paroxysm of ignorance.

Christopher Zimny said...


Can I add you on facebook? My name is: Christopher Zimny (I have a colored profile picture).

Christopher Zimny said...

Also, lifeisgood:

Austrian economics is a value-free science. In itself it has no ideologies or moral agendas. What those of us who subscribe to it have in mind ideologically has nothing to do with the science itself.

In point of fact, "Austrian" economics is a rather unfortunate label, as you'll sometimes hear others of our stripe say, because it really is just plain, pure economics. All that's different about it is its methodology, which has no, and cannot have any, inherent agenda. For example, if you can find some implicit moral stricture in the statement: "People use means to achieve ends." you're probably nuts.

All economics says is what happens in an economy, not what should happen. Wouldn't you agree that it is possible to look at something and state objectively what occurred without imputing moral precepts to it? That's what Austrians do, it is only after we see what happens that we say that the action was a good or a bad thing. For instance, we can observe the actions of a government and state what occurred objectively. It is only after an analysis of the facts that anyone says that it is morally wrong. Libertarians come to one moral conclusion, socialists come to another; communists or fascists might look at the same fact and come to altogether different moral conclusions. None of this alters the objective facts about the situation, which is precisely what Austrian economics studies.