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.
In this excerpt from Money, Michel Aglietta insists that money be seen as "an essentially political animal," arguing against the "three lies" relied upon by financial theory and the financial lobby it serves.
Responses from Wolfgang Streeck, Cédric Durand, Susan Newman, David M. Kotz, Mingqi Li, Mary Mellor, Andrew Ross, Tim Di Muzio, Dario Azzellini, Ying Chen, Richard Murphy, Michael Roberts, Lena Rethel, and Heikki Patomäki.
Cedric Durand's Fictitious Capital offers a lucid analysis of the growth of finance and its significance for capitalism. In this essay, originally published by Open Democracy, Durand surveys the current state of the global financial system.
Capital could not just abolish the gains of the postwar period. It was necessary to preserve social peace. The "trick" in the 1970s consisted of using inflation to defuse the emerging conflict between labour and capital over redistribution. The money machine was used to compensate for the loss of income which resulted from the reduction in capital’s contribution to the welfare state… Evidently, that could not last. So from the late 1970s inflation was replaced with public debt, and states borrowed (rather than tax) in order to be able to keep up the level of services. Then, in the 1990s, when states began to worry about the growing weight of debt servicing as part of their budgets, and reduced their spending (and thus social services) we took recourse to private debt. In other words, we made it easier than ever for households to take on debt so that they could preserve their purchasing power, which was being cut back by these budget consolidation measures. And that led us to the 2008 catastrophe.