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The Intellectual Origins of the Global Financial Crisis

Roger Berkowitz

Publication Year: 2012

Commentary on the financial crisis has offered technical analysis, political finger pointing, and myriad economic and political solutions. But rarely do these investigations reach beyond the economic and political causes of the crisis toexplore their underlying intellectual grounds. The essays in this volume delve deeper into the cultural and intellectual foundations, philosophical ideas, political traditions, and economic movements that underlie the greatest financial crisis in nearly a century. Moving beyond traditional economic and political science approaches, these essays engage thinkers from Hannah Arendt to Max Weber and Adam Smith to Michel Foucault.With Arendt as a catalyst, the authors probe the philosophical as well as the cultural origins of the great recession. Orienting the volume is Arendt's argument that past financial crises and also totalitarianism are rooted, at least in part, in the tendency for capital to expand its reach globally without regard to political and moral borders or limits. That politics is made subservient to economics names a cultural transformation that, in the spirit of Arendt, guides these essays in making sense of our present world.Including articles, interviews, and commentary from leading scholars and business executives, this volume offers views that are as diverse as they are timely. By reaching beyond "how" the crisis happened to "why" the crisis happened, the authors re-imagine the recent financial crisis and thus provide fresh thinking about how to respond.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

As world markets crumbled in the fall of 2008, I was teaching a seminar on Hannah Arendt’s book The Origins of Totalitarianism. Th e second main section of Arendt’s exploration of twentieth- century totalitarianism is called “Imperialism.” In it, Arendt...

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Introduction: The Burden of Our Times

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pp. 1-13

An accomplished businessman, one deeply involved in the housing industry, wrote me when I solicited his views on the intellectual causes of the financial crisis. Th e cause of the crisis is really quite simple he said: Cheap money— the combination of low...

Part I: Hannah Arendt and the Burden of Our Times

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pp. 15-47

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1. Can Arendt’s Discussion of Imperialism Help Us Understand the Current Financial Crisis?

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pp. 17-24

In 1898, William Jennings Bryan had been protesting the imperialism of the U.S. annexation of the Philippines. Theodore Roosevelt responded in this manner: “If you were not opposed to the taking of California, you cannot be opposed to the taking...

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2. “No Revolution Required”

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pp. 25-37

In the moment between sleep and waking one sometimes sees, not unconsciously as in a dream but prior to the actual consciousness of thinking, images of intense clarity. After Roger Berkowitz invited me to say a few words about the relevance of Hannah Arendt’s analysis of late nineteenth- century imperialism...

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3. Judging the Financial Crisis

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pp. 39-47

When Hannah Arendt published her book on totalitarianism in En gland, she gave it the title The Burden of Our Time. More than fifty years later, this title sounds like a metaphor for the current world crisis. A fundamental fragility of the financial system...

Part II: Business Values and the Financial Crisis

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pp. 49-102

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4. Capitalism, Ethics, and the Financial Crash

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pp. 51-60

In the wake of financial crashes, most postmortems tend to focus on poorly designed economic or regulatory systems. Explanations of the great crash of 2008 have been no exception, and we are all now familiar with such causes of the meltdown as cheap money...

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5. An Interview with Paul Levy

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pp. 61-71

ROGER BERKOWITZ: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background in business...

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6. An Interview with Vincent Mai

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pp. 73-81

ROGER BERKOWITZ: When you heard from a friend that the Arendt Center was organizing this conference, you made it known you had strong opinions about the intellectual origins of the financial crisis. I appreciate your making time for this...

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7. Brazil as a Model?

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pp. 83-87

The subject of these brief remarks is the film Twelve Hours to Midnight— How Brazil Has Responded to the Global Financial Crisis (October 2009)— a film that premiered at “The Burden of Our Times: The Intellectual Origins of the Global...

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8. An Interview with Raymundo Magliano Filho

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pp. 89-92

CLÁUDIA PERRONE- MOISÉS: Can you talk a little about the importance of Hannah Arendt for your life and work? In par ticular, are there one or two ideas that have played a particularly important role in the evolution of your own thinking...

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9. Round Table: The Burden of Our Times

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pp. 93-102

Over the course of two panels at the Arendt Center’s fall 2009 conference, some speakers were echoing similar ideas or offering counterbalance to other comments made at the conference. I caught up with some of these individuals after...

Part III: The Crisis of Economics

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pp. 103-141

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10. The Roots of the Crisis

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pp. 105-110

The financial crisis itself has made it possible to have a new kind of conversation across the trenches of disciplines— the kind that is taking place in this volume. I do not think it would have been possible to have this sort of conversation five...

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11. Where Keynes Went Wrong

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pp. 111-121

I would like to begin with a few words for the students who were attending when I first offered these remarks. I will be focusing on John Maynard Keynes. He died in 1946— it might seem long...

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12. Managed Money, the “Great Recession,” and Beyond

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pp. 123-132

The worst economic crisis since the 1930s afflicting most developed economies began in 2007 and is still not over. Financial and economic statistics in the United States and around the globe represent a troubling state of affairs. The United States and...

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13. Turning the Economy into a Casino

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pp. 133-141

The events of 2008 are unprecedented in the history of civilization. Never before have so many people been affected so dramatically and has so much economic wealth been destroyed in a matter of weeks, days, and even minutes. Yet today...

Part IV: The Origins of the Financial Crisis from Nationalism to Neoliberalism

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14. Capitalism: Neither Problem nor Solution -- But Temporary Victim of the Financial Crisis

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pp. 145-152

I want to respond to the provocative question raised by the editors with regard to the recent financial crisis: “Is capitalism the problem or the solution?” It is neither the problem nor the solution. Instead, capitalism is the temporary...

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15. Retrieving Chance: Neoliberalism, Finance Capitalism, and the Antinomies of Governmental Reason

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pp. 153-165

Let me begin with a reference to that familiar speech from a fictional icon of American cinema, Mr. Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film, Wall Street. The infamous scene, no doubt screened for scores...

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16. The End of Neoliberalism?

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pp. 167-175

In this essay I want to ask several questions and examine one way of framing the discussion regarding the possible intellectual origins of the current crisis. Those questions and my attempt to frame recent economic events are all a way of asking...

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17. Short-Term Thinking

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pp. 177-189

I would like to start by considering a couple of the accounts of the origin of the financial crisis that have been offered to us in the public sphere. First, let us listen to Alan Greenspan testifying to Congress in October...

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18. Can There Be a People’s Commons? The Significance of Rosa Luxemburg's Accumulation of Capital

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pp. 191-198

In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argues that imperialism, as it arose in the late nineteenth century, had its immediate economic origin in the depression of the 1860s and 1870s. As the economic motor of production and accumulation...

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19. An Economic Epilogue

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pp. 199-203

For many, the Great Recession was characterized by a series of acronyms, marked by intentionally opaque jargon: ABSs—asset- backed securities; CDOs— collateralized debt obligations; and the now infamous CDSs— credit default swaps...


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pp. 205-211


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pp. 213-214


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pp. 215-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250400
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823249602
Print-ISBN-10: 0823249603

Page Count: 225
Illustrations: 20 b/w
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text