In an article for the Guardian on the deep-seated structural problems of the US economy, longtime Economics Editor Larry Elliott discusses the late Giovanni Arrighi's book The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times, of which a new and updated edition was published by Verso in February 2010.
Giovanni Arrighi in his book The Long Twentieth Century argues that there have been four major phases of capitalist development since the Middle Ages, starting in Genoa and moving on to Holland and Britain before the start of American dominance during the Great Depression of 1873-96.
It was during this period, Arrighi argues, that commerce started to play second fiddle in Britain to finance, just as it had in Genoa and Holland when their phases of pre-eminence were drawing to a close. The financialisation of the American economy in turn can be traced back to the mid-1970s, so by this interpretation of history, the dotcom collapse of 2000-01 and the financial crisis of 2007-08 (with the military entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan sandwiched in between) are part of a much longer term development. According to this thesis, the concentration of economic power on Wall Street, the stagnation of incomes for all but the rich, the structural trade deficit, the military overreach, the switch from being the world's biggest creditor nation to its biggest debtor add up to a simple conclusion: we are in the twilight years of the long American century.
Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.