The Great Recession and the Contradictions of Contemporary Capitalism

The Great Recession and the Contradictions of Contemporary Capitalism

New Directions in Modern Economics series

Edited by Riccardo Bellofiore and Giovanna Vertova

The current crisis is one of the great crises punctuating the long history of capitalism, and to be properly understood it is vital to take into account its ongoing structural transformation. This book offers plural perspectives on the Great Recession, placing the analysis of finance, class and gender at the center of the debate. It begins with a comprehensive insight into the crisis, before moving on to focus on debt, asset inflation and financial fragility. Following chapters discuss global imbalances, structural monetary reform and the management of public finance, including a investigation of the Italian experience. The book concludes with novel contributions on the gender dimension of the crisis and the analogies between a nuclear and financial chain reaction.

Chapter 11: What’s gender got to do with the Great Recession? The Italian case

Giovanna Vertova

Subjects: economics and finance, money and banking, post-keynesian economics


What began as a subprime mortgage debacle in the US has become the worst global crisis since the Great Depression, resulting in a widespread destruction of livelihoods and jobs. So a great deal of attention has been focused on understanding the causes of the unfolding crisis, in order to implement policy measures and recovery plans. Many different explanations have been offered by various schools of economic thought (some also in this volume). Most mainstream explanations tend to concentrate on the imperfections of the financial markets (Schiller 2008); on the mistakes of the monetary policy (Taylor 2009); and on the phenomenon of the global saving glut (Bernanke 2013). Heterodox explanations share the view that the crisis is due not only to financial market imperfections, mistakes in monetary policy or exogenous shocks, but also, and more importantly, to the endogenous dynamic of this new phase of capitalist accumulation. Post-Keynesian accounts range from Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis (Wray 2009) to insufficient aggregate demand (Fitoussi and Stiglitz 2009; Barba and Pivetti 2009). Under-consumption is the basis of the Sraffian arguments (Brancaccio and Fontana 2011). Marxists’ explanations span from the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (Kliman 2011) to the limits of monopoly capital (Magdoff and Foster 2009). More eclectic explanations are based on capital asset inflation (Toporowski, Chapter 6 in this volume) or on the novelty of the structure of production and finance in this ‘new’ capitalism (Bellofiore 2013 and Chapter 1 in this volume).

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