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1. Introduction: Financialization and the World Economy - PERI

1. Introduction: Financialization and the World Economy - PERI

1. Introduction: Financialization and the World Economy -

1. Introduction: Financialization and the World Economy Gerald A. Epstein ______________________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION In the last thirty years, the economies of the world have undergone profound transformations. Some of the dimensions of this altered reality are clear: the role of government has diminished while that of markets has increased; economic transactions between countries have substantially risen; domestic and international financial transactions have grown by leaps and bounds (e.g. Baker, Epstein and Pollin, 1998: chapter 1). In short, this changing landscape has been characterized by the rise of neoliberalism, globalization, and financialization. While many books have been written about neoliberalism and globalization, research on the phenomenon of financialization, the subject of this book, is relatively new. In fact, there is not even common agreement about the definition of the term, and even less about its significance. Greta Krippner gives an excellent discussion of the history of the term and the pros and cons of various definitions (Krippner 2004). As she summarizes the discussion, some writers use the term ‘financialization’ to mean the ascendancy of ‘shareholder value’ as a mode of corporate governance; some use it to refer to the growing dominance of capital market financial systems over bank-based financial systems; some follow Hilferding’s lead and use the term ‘financialization’ to refer to the increasing political and economic power of a particular class grouping: the rentier class; for some financialization represents the explosion of financial trading with a myriad of new financial instruments; finally, for Krippner herself, the term refers to a ‘pattern of accumulation in which profit making occurs increasingly through financial channels rather than through trade and commodity production’ (Krippner 2004: 14). All these definitions capture some aspect of the phenomenon we have called financialization. So here we will cast the net widely and define financialization quite broadly: for us, financialization means the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies. 3

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