Accumulation by Dispossession

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= Accumulation by dispossession is a concept presented by the Marxist academic David Harvey, which defines the neoliberal changes in many western nations, from the 1970s and to the present day, as being guided mainly by four practices. These are privatization, financialization, management and manipulation of crises, and state redistributions. [1]


David Harvey:

"By this I mean the continuation and proliferation of accumulation practices which Marx had treated of as “primitive” or “original” during the rise of capitalism. These include the commodification and privatization of land and the forceful expulsion of peasant populations (compare the cases, described above, of Mexico and of China, where 70 million peasants are thought to have been displaced in recent times); conversion of various forms of property rights (common, collective, state, etc.) into exclusive private property rights (most spectacularly represented by China); suppression of rights to the commons; commodification of labour power and the suppression of alternative (indigenous) forms of production and consumption; colonial, neocolonial, and imperial processes of appropriation of assets (including natural resources); monetization of exchange and taxation, particularly of land; the slave trade (which continues particularly in the sex industry); and usury, the national debt and, most devastating of all, the use of the credit system as a radical means of accumulation by dispossession." (quote provided by Mike Gismondi, email)


From the Wikipedia [2]:


Privatization and commodification of public assets have been among the most criticised and disputed aspects of neoliberalism. Summed up, they could be characterized by the process of transferring property from public ownership to private ownership. According to Marxist theory, this serves the interests of the capitalist class, or bourgeoisie, as it moves power from the nation's governments to private parties. At the same time, privatization generates a means for profit for the capitalist class; after a transaction they can then sell or rent to the public what used to be commonly owned.


The wave of financialization which set in the 1980s is allowed by governmental deregulation which has made the financial system one of the main centers of redistributive activity. Stock promotions, Ponzi schemes, structured asset destruction through inflation, asset stripping through mergers and acquisitions, dispossession of assets (raiding of pension funds and their decimation by stock and corporate collapses) by credit and stock manipulations, are, according to Harvey, central features of the post-1970s capitalist financial system.

Management and manipulation of crises

By creating and manipulating crises, such as by suddenly raising interest rates, poorer nations can be forced into bankruptcy, and agreeing to such deals like that of the structural adjustment programs can yield more damages to those nations. Harvey reasoned that this is authorized by parties such as the U.S. Treasury, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

State redistributions

The neoliberal nation-state is one of the most important agents of redistributive policies. Even when privatization or commodification appear to be profitable to the lower class, in the long run it can affect the economy negatively. The state seeks redistributions through a variety of things, like changing the tax code to profit returns on investment rather than incomes and wages (of the lower classes)." (