Due to my workload, I need to break this little project into four pieces. I’ll try to get one published every night and will gather them all together in a few days. As always, comments/corrections are appreciated.
David Harvey, Marxist geographer and intellectual: “I’m skeptical about the idea of reforming neoliberalism”
Originally posted in Spanish here: http://lachispa-revista.blogspot.com/2014/12/david-harvey-geografo-e-intelectual_23.html
An authoritative voice in the intellectual discussions of the left, and passing through Chile for the last “Puerto Ideas” in November, the professor from CUNY and author of “17 Contradictions of Capitalism” spoke with La Chispa about Marxism today, the crisis of neoliberalism, Latin America and Chile.
LC: In the context of revolutionary theory, in your opinion, what is the validity of Marxism nowadays?
DH: Marx offers a very good form of thinking social change and, at the same time, offers a way of critically understanding how capital functions. I believe that it is particularly important because capital moves in a mysterious way and at times veils what is really happening. Marx does a good job of demystifying these appearances and develops a method for investigating what is really happening and, therefore, understands what must be changed to have a revolutionary movement outside of capitalist domination, and that permits the construction of a world based on distinct social relations and with different notions of value.
LC: A characteristic of the left in the world has been the gradual abandonment of Marxism since the fall of the Berlin Wall. What is your analysis of that process? What are its consequences today?
DH: Well, there have always been two visions of the Marxist movement. One is the critique of capitalism and the other has been a type of theoretical tendency about how an alternative to capitalism should be organized. Marx did not say much about how an alternative society to capitalism should be organized, and I believe that it was for the single reason that he did not really believe in a utopian project that simply arrives and is implemented. He understood, rather, that revolution is a process in which you must describe what will work or not across various practices. Of course Marx had ideas about some types of practices in his time, but I believe that he never had position in which the practices in which he was involved should have been replicated in other places. The question of what the practices today should be remains and, of course, the emergence of some of these practices in the Soviet Bloc or in China clearly had various problems. I do not accept the general history of total failure. In fact, in some respects, these countries had extraordinary victories in this story that were forgotten, but I believe that, obviously, the path of those experiences was not sustainable and those particular practices collapsed.
But on the other hand Marx always had a critique of capital, and I believe that when unchecked capital triumphantly emerged they way it did in the 1990s, we quickly see that it was not a stable form of economic organization and this means that the necessity of a critique of capital was even more urgent. Then you encounter a situation in which economists were predicting the importance of the hypothesis of efficient markets and those types of things, and later everything fell apart, and when they were asked why, they had no idea, and the person that I believe had a good idea why everything fell apart is Marx. I think that after the collapse at the end of the 90s, Marx became much more relevant – for example after the great crisis in Southeast Asia in 1997-1998 and later in the Argentinean crisis in 2001. And we have been in a permanent state of crisis since then, overcoming it through the property boom in the United States and falling back in its collapse. We see, then, an excessively unstable and insane capitalist system, and the necessity of a critique becomes increasingly strong since people see that it is very difficult to understand why everything is happening. And now we have this irony in which revolution and transformation have been discredited, and the possibilities to build a critique against the contradictions of capital have become even more significant.