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This chapter discusses the contradictory role and place of finance within the post-1980 US economy. A central argument advanced is that the relationship between the real…
This chapter discusses the contradictory role and place of finance within the post-1980 US economy. A central argument advanced is that the relationship between the real and financial sides of the economy has become increasingly more complicated and contradictory. Therefore, the distinction made between “real” and “financial” problems of the economy needs to be better qualified by taking into account the dynamics between the two. The contradictory relationship is analyzed through a discussion of finance in relation to labor and households, nonfinancial corporations, speculative asset bubbles, and global imbalances. This analysis shows that finance has been in a contradictory unity with the rest of the economy. It has contributed to some of the problems in the economy, while providing solutions to them at other instances and in the process it shaped and in turn was shaped by the rest of the economy.
This chapter examines explanations for the slowdown of capital accumulation since 1980. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data on trends on productivity and capital spending, we find that slowing productivity growth accounts for slower capital accumulation. Other explanations for the downturn, such as outsourcing, the “post-industrial” economy, and financialization, do not reflect macroeconomic trends. However, we argue that shareholder value ideology affected decisions about how to balance productivity growth and inputs such as capital and labor. We discuss the consequences of slowing accumulation on American economic hegemony.