Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse
Edited by Timo J. Hämäläinen and Juliet Michaelson
Chapter 6: Buying alone: how the decreasing American happiness turned into the current economic crisis
Capitalism is an unstable economic system. Although it often generates economic growth over the long term, this growth does not take place in a continuous fashion, but rather in a cyclical manner, that is, alternating periods of economic boom and stagnation and, at times, deep recession. Many argue that the crisis that began in the summer of 2007 is one of the typical cyclical crises of capitalism. In its extraordinary dimension it is a 'black swan', an extremely unlikely event. The message implied by these interpretations of the crisis is: we do not need to change things. The party is simply on hold for the moment, because the jukebox is broken. But it will be mended and the dancing will start again, as thrilling and fun as before. The thesis I contend, instead, is that the present crisis is not simply a cyclical one and it does not merely signal the instability of capitalism. It is the entire type of capitalism that became dominant, especially in the US in the last few decades, that is in crisis. My message is: the music is, after all, not that great at this party, even when the jukebox works and, in any case, if we don't change the music, the jukebox will break down over and over again. In fact, the current crisis is the epilogue of the type of capitalism that I have called NEG (negative endogenous growth) capitalism.
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