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The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1583671849
ISBN-10: 1583671846
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this timely and thorough analysis of the current financial crisis, Foster and Magdoff explore its roots and the radical changes that might be undertaken in response. With a foray into the Great Depression of the 1930s, they move to the present situation, born out of the housing bubble, the wider explosion of debt and the problem of financialization of capital. They survey the long-term implications and the larger political-economic aspects of the crisis to propose that the crisis raises questions that are primarily political rather than economic. They suggest that society will eventually conclude that our fatally unstable political-economic structure should be replaced with one of social use rather than private gain—a more humane order geared to collective needs. This book makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing examination of our current debt crisis, one that deserves our full attention. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A must read! Here is an excellent guide to understanding the role debt overload and the stagnation of the real economy played in the recent crisis, in the tradition of Sweezy and Magdoff."
-—Michael Perelman,California State University, Chico, and author of Railroading Economics, The Invention of Capitalism, and The Confiscation of American Prosperity


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583671846
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583671849
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alan G. Nasser Sr. on January 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
I've been teaching the financialization of the US economy for some years now. It's not been easy to find a clear, thorough and convincing analysis of the tendency of the economy to shift from industrial production to financial speculation and other forms of debt as a source of business profits. The onset of the current financial crisis makes it more urgent to have available to both students and the general public a lucid and detailed explanation of what's happening and why. In my opinion, this book fits the bill. There's nothing else quite like it.

Foster and Magdoff's book makes the economic and political issues crystal clear without undue simplification. So, for those who suffer from "economics anxiety" this book is an oasis in a desert of dry, incomprehensible and often ideologically obfuscating economicspeak. The authors discuss the financialization of what was previously an industrial economy, the explosion of debt and speculation which followed the deindustrialization of America, the household debt bubble and how all this came to a head in the present meltdown.

The book is helpfully divided into two parts, the first discussing the causes of the meltdown, and the second describing and analyzing the consequences. Key terms such as securitization and derivatives are defined, the views of major economists from Milton Friedman to J.M. Keynes and Hyman Minsky are explained and, perhaps most importantly, there is an extensive analysis of the relation between the financial and the real, i.e. tangible-goods-and-services-producing, economies.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Great Financial Crisis" by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff offers one of the most cogent and timely analyses of the current economic meltdown available in print. Composed of a series of articles first published in Monthly Review magazine between May 2006 and December 2008, with additional material including a Preface, Introduction and References, the authors amply demonstrate the usefullness of the Marxist tradition in explaining the root causes of this latest crisis of capitalism. Importantly, the authors rescue economics from the bondage of abstraction and science by showing us that power and politics define the dynamics of the capitalist system, making the crucial point that it is the working class who both supplies the source of wealth and bears the greatest burden in times of economic distress.

Drawing heavily on the groundbreaking work of Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff, the authors contend that stagnation (slow growth and high unemployment) is the normal state of affairs in mature economies where monopoly capital has come to control the means of production. High levels of profitability has the effect of diminishing the purchasing power of the working class, leading to decreased investment in real productive ventures and increased financial speculation. At some point, finance is almost completely decoupled from the real economy and becomes a driving force on its own, leading to ever increasing indebtedness, inequality and systemic instability.

Foster and Magdoff convincingly demonstrate the prescience of Sweezy and Magdoff's work, which was written in the 1960's, arguing that today we are witnessing the unfolding of precisely the kind of crisis that had been predicted.
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Format: Hardcover
THE GREAT FINANCIAL CRISIS is a very important book. But before I get into detail, I should say that the lead essay on the emerging housing bubble--written in early 2006--convinced me, in conjunction with the MR team's analysis of the coemerging eco/energy crisis, that the future for capitalism was not bright and so I took a chunk (spring of 2007) of retirement money and paid off my house --against the advice of financial advisors and in-laws, etc, who claimed that my interest rate on the money invested would continue to exceed my mortgage rate so that it was foolish to pay off the house merely to feel more secure. Well: the money that went to pay off our house would have lost over half of its value. Booya to the financial advisors and well meaning relatives! John Bellamy Foster saved me over 25 grand and gave me some security: were I to lose my job, at least they couldn't take the house!

Okay: the best way to understand this book is to contrast it with a book like Dean Baker's recent PLUNDER AND BLUNDER. Baker's is a very useful book on the stock market and housing bubbles, but despite a host of superficial similarities between the two books, they really offer rival causal analyses of the crisis.

For Magdoff and Foster, financialization, with its attendant speculation, bubbles, and debt driven consumption, is a necessary consequence of intrinsic stagnationist tendencies in the capitalist economy. These tendencies themselves emerge from the contradictions of capitalism.
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