Financialization: There's Something Happening Here

“Financialization” is the latest, and probably most widely used term by analysts trying to “name” and understand the contemporary rise of finance and its powerful role. The term had been developed long before the crisis of 2008 but, understandably, since the crisis hit, it has become even more popular. This vast and rapidly expanding literature on financialization has a number of important strands. Some of the literature focuses on clarifying the definition of financialization, and assessing whether it is a dominant cause of the ills confronting capitalism or is just a symptom of other, deeper causes; some asks whether financialization is a new “phase” of capitalist development, perhaps a new “mode of accumulation”, or considers whether it is just one among a number of important developments along with “neo-liberalism”, “digitization” and “globalization” that are arising in the contemporary world; other literature is focused on less theoretical and more empirical matters, trying to measure the nature and extent of financialization, however defined, and to describe its institutional and economic dimensions; and still other work is focused on attempting to analyze theoretically and empirically the impact of financialization on important phenomena such as financial crises, productive investment, productivity growth, wages and income distribution; and finally, other parts of the literature are more policy-oriented, trying to grapple with policies and structural changes than can improve the role that finance plays in the economy. There are still many conundrums and open questions about “financialization” which means it will remain a fruitful area for multi-disciplinary research and an important arena for political battles and structural reform for the foreseeable future.

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