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Economic Crisis

Four Crises of the Contemporary World Capitalist System

This essay examines aspects of the global political economy that I hope will inform progressive governments and movements for social change. It evaluates the constraints and opportunities presented in the current conjuncture of world capitalist development by analyzing four areas of crisis in the contemporary world capitalist system. These are not the only contradictory elements in the contemporary conjuncture, but they are, in my view, the most salient | more…

September 2008 (Volume 60, Number 4)

Notes from the Editors

Just over a year since the beginning of the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, and only six months after the federal bailout of Bear Stearns, the seizing up of credit markets continues. The failure of eight U.S. banks this year, including IndyMac, and the recent instability that struck the two government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, requiring a special government rescue operation, has had the entire financial world on edge. Mortgage-related losses by themselves “could cause a trillion dollars in credit to vaporize,” according to a special July 28, 2008,Business Week report. The downside effects of financial leveraging (the magnification of results associated with borrowed money) mean that each dollar lost by financial institutions could lead to reductions in lending of fifteen dollars or more, creating a shockwave so massive that it could reveal structural weaknesses throughout the economy. Already the economy is reeling, with faltering growth, a deep slump in housing, massive job losses, rapidly rising oil and consumer goods prices, and a falling dollar | more…

The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China

The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China

The days of boom and bubble are over, and the time has come to understand the long-term economic reality. Although the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, hopes for a new phase of rapid economic expansion were quickly dashed. Instead, growth has been slow, unemployment has remained high, wages and benefits have seen little improvement, poverty has increased, and the trend toward more inequality of incomes and wealth has continued. It appears that the Great Recession has given way to a period of long-term anemic growth, which Foster and McChesney aptly term the Great Stagnation. This incisive and timely book traces the origins of economic stagnation and explains what it means for a clear understanding of our current situation. | more…

June 2008 (Volume 60, Number 2)

Notes from the Editors

The first third of 2008 should have been a wake-up call to those who, in the short-lived days of capitalist triumphalism, were inclined to lose sight of the immediacy of the internal contradictions of capitalism and of the resistance that the system continuously regenerates. The enormous extent of today’s combined world food-and-economic crisis is now patently obvious. Anti-imperialist and anticapitalist initiatives are once again mushrooming around the globe. | more…

The Subprime Debacle

As the United States braces itself for the onset of a recession, much of the blame for the current downturn is being attributed to the recent subprime mortgage crisis. While boom and bust cycles in real estate markets are nothing new, what distinguishes the current crisis is that the massive run-up in home prices was driven by the proliferation of new forms of securitized finance that permitted massive sums of loan capital to be pumped into the property markets. Only a few years prior these exotic financial products were being touted for their ability to hedge risk and achieve a more efficient allocation of credit. Buoyed by an exuberant sense that the wizards of Wall Street had so thoroughly transformed the nature of risk that the rules of the game had been fundamentally altered, investor demand for these securities exploded, and the underwriting and trading of these new forms of engineered debt underwent an extraordinary period of growth… | more…

The Financialization of Capital and the Crisis

With the benefit of hindsight, few now doubt that the housing bubble that induced most of the recent growth of the U.S. economy was bound to burst or that a general financial crisis and a global economic slowdown were to be the unavoidable results. Warning signs were evident for years to all of those not taken in by the new financial alchemy of high-risk debt management, and not blinded, as was much of the corporate world, by huge speculative profits. This can be seen in a series of articles that appeared in this space: “The Household Debt Bubble” (May 2006), “The Explosion of Debt and Speculation” (November 2006), “Monopoly-Finance Capital” (December 2006), and “The Financialization of Capitalism” (April 2007). | more…

An Age of Transition: The United States, China, Peak Oil, and the Demise of Neoliberalism

Until recently, the global capitalist economy has enjoyed a period of comparative tranquility and grown at a relatively rapid pace since the global economic crisis of 2001–02. During this period of global economic expansion there have been several important economic and political developments. First, the United States—the declining hegemonic power but still the leading driving force of the global capitalist economy—has been characterized by growing internal and external financial imbalances. The U.S. economy has experienced a period of debt-financed, consumption-led “expansion” with stagnant wages and employment, and has been running large and rising current account deficits (the current account deficit is a broad measure of the trade deficit). Second, China has become a major player in the global capitalist economy and has been playing an increasingly important role in sustaining global economic growth. Third, global capitalist accumulation is imposing growing pressure on the world’s natural resources and environment. There is increasingly convincing evidence that the global oil production will reach its peak and start to decline in a few years. Fourth, the U.S. imperialist adventure in the Middle East has suffered devastating setbacks and there has been growing resistance to neoliberalism and U.S. imperialism throughout the world. | more…

The ABCs of the Economic Crisis: What Working People Need to Know

The ABCs of the Economic Crisis: What Working People Need to Know

The economic crisis has created a host of problems for working people: collapsing wages, lost jobs, ruined pensions, and the anxiety that comes with not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Compounding all this is a lack of reliable information that speaks to the realities of workers. Commentators and pundits seem more confused than anyone, and economists—the so-called “experts”—still cling to bankrupt ideologies that failed to predict the crisis and offer nothing to explain it. | more…

The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences

The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences

The bursting of the housing bubble and the ensuing financial debacle have left most people, including many economists and financial experts asking: Why did this happen? If they had been reading Monthly Review, and were familiar with such articles as “The Household Debt Bubble,” “The Explosion of Debt and Speculation,” and “The Financialization of Capitalism,” they would not have needed to ask. In their new book, The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences, Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster and long-time Monthly Review contributor, Fred Magdoff, update this analysis, exploring the whole course of what is now known as “the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression”: from the debt explosion and housing bubble to the subprime debacle and federal bailout. They argue that this latest financial crash, although greater than any since 1929, is itself a symptom of deeper problems connected to the stagnation of the “real” or productive economy of mature capitalism. Financial bubbles have become the chief means of countering stagnation, but these inevitably burst, bringing the underlying economic problems back to the surface. The only recourse of the system: new and bigger bubbles, leading, as they too pop, to still greater financial crises and worsening conditions of production—in what has now become a vicious cycle. | more…

April 2004 (Volume 55, Number 11)

Notes from the Editors

This is the fourth in a continuing series of special issues on the economy to which we have devoted the magazine each April since 2001. In the first of these, written shortly before the 2001 recession began, we took on the then prevalent myth of the “New Economy,” arguing that it was more myth than reality, and dispelling the notion that high tech and rising productivity gains had somehow tamed the business cycle. In April 2002 we dedicated the Review of the Month to examining the core economic contradictions of the system in terms of “Slow Growth, Excess Capital, and a Mountain of Debt.” Last April we asked the question, “What Recovery?” and focused on the fact that the recovery had failed to spread to employment, and on the whole problem of labor underutilization—inquiring into how the economy managed to keep going at all under these circumstances. | more…

Global Economic Crisis, Neoliberal Solutions, and the Philippines

The economic crisis that has been affecting the global economy for the last two and a half years started in East Asia. We’ve heard story after story about the problems in Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and even Japan—but we’ve heard almost nothing about the situation in the Philippines. Is there something that the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank don’t want us to know about the situation there?  | more…