A Cultural Problem, an Economic Crisis

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In the past two years, Western society has experienced what many of its leaders have called the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the very least, it has been the worst period of instability that our younger generations have ever seen in their lifetimes. But unlike other financial crises that have largely been triggered by external forces, such as the oil embargoes of the 1970’s, this latest one was a product of our own internal policies and practices; even more so, of our cultural outlooks on the very notion of finance, credit, and debt itself. Specifically, the financial crisis that has just come to pass was the result of the new culture of neo-liberalism and the hyper-individuality and debt-based consumption that it brought with it. What’s worse is that, without an admission of this new culture, or any effort to change it, our current economic system will be regularly plagued with such crises from here on into the future. Before any efforts can be made towards a cultural shift however, we must first understand, at least briefly, the current socio-political ideas that are creating such issues in the modern western market. As Kotz and McDonough put it, “the concept of ‘global neo-liberalism’ best captures the contemporary social reality.” This ‘new social reality’ was, as they put it, a return to older liberalism, and a retreat from the more government-controlled, Keynesian style of the post-war years. With this relaxing of government control or influence over the markets, we saw an emergence of a new individualistic, and privatized outlook on the market system. Neo-liberalism as doctrine, creed, or culture, or whatever you may call it, became almost something of a throwback to the early days of capitalism... ... middle of paper ... ...olitical Economy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001. Dumenil, Gerard and Levy, Dominique. “The economics of US imperialism at the turn of the 21st century,” Review of International Political Economy, 11:4 (2004), pp. 657-676. Retrieved from EBSCO, 21 April 2010. Eichengreen, Barry. “The Last Temptations of Risk,” National Interest, 101 (2009), pp. 8-14. Retrieved from EBSCO, 21 April 2010. McDonough, Terrence, Michael Reich and David M. Kotz, eds. Contemporary Capitalism and Its Crises: Social Structure of Accumulation Theory for the 21st Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Smart, Barry. Economy, Culture and Society: A sociological critique of neo-liberalism. Buckingham: Open University Press, 2003. Westra, Richard, ed. Confronting Global Neoliberalism: Third World Resistance and Development Strategies. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2010.

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