“Capitalism Never Solves Its Crisis Problems; It Moves Them Around Geographically”

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This is one of the best — and visually interesting — animations about modern capitalism and the political/economic system we’ve been living in for the last 50 years I’ve ever seen. If you’ve been following my wanderings for the past week or so — for example, “Free Trade and Capital Flow: How billionaires get rich“ — you’ll know why I recommend it.

From the creators, RSA Animate:

In this RSA Animate, celebrated academic David Harvey looks beyond capitalism towards a new social order. Can we find a more responsible, just, and humane economic system?

This RSA Animate was taken from a lecture given as part of the RSA’s free public lecture programme. The RSA is a 258 year-old charity devoted to driving social progress and spreading world-changing ideas. For more information, visit http://www.thersa.org

Note: I’m not presenting it to recommend any given solution (and the speaker offers none). I’m putting it up for its wonderful explication of the process and structure of this modern world. The headline quote:

“Capitalism never solves its crisis problems; it moves them around geographically”

comes at 7:00 minutes in, and as soon as you see how the speaker got there, you’ll get it. Wonderful work. Watch (h/t valued commenter Bill_Perdue).

Notice at 7:40, “Capitalism cannot abide a limit.” David Graeber makes the same point in a different way in DEBT: The first 5000 years. (The audiobook version is excellent, by the way. Very listenable.)

Graeber says (paraphrasing) that some systems have to expand constantly or they collapse. There’s no stasis point for them. Empires based on the nexus of coinage (which means mines) + conquest (using soldiers paid by the coinage) + slaves (captured by the soldiers to work the mines) are a perfect example.

The Roman Empire was one such instance. It was a coinage empire heavily dependent on slaves. Once they couldn’t expand, they crumbled. Post-Roman Europe had many serfs but fewer slaves (though Europeans were involved in the slave trade to Islam as middlemen). And much of the money in medieval Europe was virtual, just like today.

Modern capitalism, according to Graeber, is another instance of a system that will collapse as soon as it stops expanding. (I’ll leave you to figure out why, but consider the quarterly profit report of any major company. What happens to companies with consistent zero growth?)

I ended up watching this video several times, each one increasing my understanding. I hope you enjoyed this as well.