11 Apr 2014
On 9 April 2014, one of the world's most respected public thinkers visited the RSA to explore the hidden workings of capital. David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York, unraveled the paradoxes at the heart of capitalism. In this fascinating lecture and discussion the role of rapidly developing technology and its impact on labour is identified as a major challenge. Technology is actually removing labour from the dynamics of capitalism. Meanwhile, while there's a clear distinction between the 1% and the 99%, other frontiers of class struggle appear to be becoming ever more difficult to discern.
Harvey identified three contradictions of capitalism. The first contradiction of capitalism is the difficulty of keeping compounding growth going because capital is finding it difficult to find profitable outlets for all that compound growth. Where's it going to go? What's it going to do?
The other contradiction is the pace of technology, which is actually removing labour from having very much significance in the dynamics of capitalism.
The third contradiction is something called universal alienation. This refers to a disconnect between the way that most people are thinking and the political process. There is a disconnect between people's sense of identity and the kinds of jobs they do. This widespread alienation in the world of technology is in part because technology is beginning to remove labour from having a creative and direct involvement in the labour process.
Editor's Note: In 2010, Prof. Harvey also visited the RSA where he delivered a lecture on "The Crises of Capitalism". His input was wonderfully animated by the RSA. Watch it here.