Inicio > Economía, Economía marxista > “Financialisation and capitalist acucumulation: structural accounts of the crisis of 2007-9”: Costas Lapavitsas

“Financialisation and capitalist acucumulation: structural accounts of the crisis of 2007-9”: Costas Lapavitsas

The crisis of 2007-9 resulted from a financial bubble marked by weak production, expanding bank assets, and growing household indebtedness. For these reasons the crisis casts light on the financialisation of capitalist economies. The literature on financialisation generally links weak production with booming finance; according to some, causation runs from weak production to booming finance, while for others it runs in the opposite direction. This article argues that there is no direct causation between booming finance and weak production. Rather, financialisation represents systemic transformation of capitalist production and finance, which ultimately accounts for the crisis of 2007-9, and has three main features. First, less reliance of large corporations on banks; second, banks shifting their activities toward mediating in open markets and transacting with individuals; third, increasing implication of individuals in the operations of finance.

 

Key words: Crisis, financialisation, rentiers, banking, Marxism, post-Keynesianism

 

1. Introduction

The upheaval of 2007-9 has no historical parallel. It emanated in finance and spread to production partly through financial mechanisms. Its global character was largely due to securitisation which encouraged adoption of investment banking practices among commercial banks. Above all, its proximate causes lay in mortgage lending to the poorest sections of the US working class.

Not surprisingly, there has been a flood of writings on the crisis within radical political economy and heterodox economics. Some have relied on traditional arguments of Marxist political economy, typically emphasising over-accumulation and falling profit rates. Others have stressed the financialisation of capitalism, and therefore the exceptional role of finance in causing the crisis. These approaches are far from mutually exclusive, indeed use of the term financialisation has become increasingly commonplace. But they reveal an underlying concern that traditional explanations fare poorly in relation to this crisis.

The concept of financialisation, in contrast, holds considerable theoretical promise. It is one of a few innovative ideas to come out of radical political economy in recent years. For one thing, it seems capable of relating the unusual features of the crisis to the secular growth of finance. For another, it gives insight into the structural transformation of capitalist economies with its attendant social implications. To be sure the concept is still raw and undeveloped, as is shown by considering some of the literature below. But there is no denying its power.

 

In this light, section 2 of this paper offers an empirical account of the crisis that demonstrates its peculiar character, above all, with regard to finance and particularly the role of household debt. Section 3 then discusses some of the literature on financialisation and the crisis, paying attention to Marxist, post-Keynesian and other heterodox works which propose causal links between problematic production (the ‘real’ economy) and thriving finance (the financial sector). Section 4 considers theoretical and empirical problems that arise when such links are postulated. It is argued that causation between production and finance is not direct but heavilymediated, while running in both directions. On this basis, section 5 draws on the methodological approach of classical Marxism to put forth a view of financialisation as systemic transformation of mature capitalist economies which ultimately accounts for the crisis of 2007-9. Section 6 concludes.

Financialisation and capitalist acucumulation: structural accounts of the crisis of 2007-9

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