The limits to Harvey : capital’s contradictions and imperialism

Higginbottom, Andrew (2011) The limits to Harvey : capital’s contradictions and imperialism. In: Eighth Historical Materialism Annual Conference: Spaces of Capital, Moments of Struggle; 10 - 13 Nov 2011, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


The merit of Harvey’s widely influential work the ‘Limits to Capital’ is that it critically engages with Marx’s ‘Capital’ in order to explain contemporary capitalism, especially in its spatial and temporal dimensions. This paper examines three arguments in ‘Limits’ with a view to comparing them to the classical theories of imperialism, and deepening the theory of imperialism from the engagement. The main area explored is the relation between technical composition, organic composition and value composition of capital. The organic composition of capital is a contradictory concept combining use value with value relations, concrete labour and abstract labour. Harvey’s treatment of the variation of value composition with fragmented production is critiqued. The second area is a return to the declining rate of profit and crisis debate, and the third is Harvey’s rendering of the theory of rent and ‘spatial fix’. The paper concludes by pointing to a different synthesis of these necessary elements in the theory of finance capital, expansionism and imperialism.

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