There is another interesting place where Harvey intersects with social conservatives. As we think about the impotence of all these proposals that aim to change our economic system but end up strengthening its worst attributes, we’ve got to ask, but then what? What can we do? There are clearly massive problems with this form of capitalism. If we don’t like it, what can we do?
At this point, Harvey says – and I wholeheartedly agree – that we need to look at our way of being in the world. Money isn’t just bank notes. It’s a system of social relations. We need to change those social relations if we want any real change. Any mass-scale debt-forgiveness or welfare payout will leave us more indebted than before because that’s how we are. If my mortgage (which is my only debt) were paid out in full by a magic fairy tomorrow, you know what I’d do the day after? I’d buy a larger house, which I totally don’t need. And a swimming pool and a new car and a ton of books and a trip to Europe. That’s what we all would do and find convincing excuses to justify it. And hey, I’m among the more financially responsible among us because I haven’t had a dime in credit card debt for years and zero car debt or student loan debt ever. Most people are a lot more out of control than I am.
This is why Harvey talks about the human nature. There is a lot of variety, he says, in how human nature can manifest itself. It can also evolve. Shit’s not gonna change until we stop defining ourselves as consuming, purchasing, accumulating individuals. This won’t be solved by government intervention or the hidden hand of whatever.
Sorry, have to run to my book club. More later.