The financial crisis of 2008-9 was the largest and most devastating crisis since the Great Depression. What started on Wall Street soon spread to the rest of world and into the balance sheets of nation states. The cycle of austerity and recession in the subsequent decade is still effecting households and the real economy to this day. But what caused the crisis in the first place? In this now classic essay, Robert Brenner traces the origins of the crisis to the long downturn since the mid '70s, and offers what is still one of the best analyses of the financial system.