A Crisis of Money: the demise of national capitalism


The crisis of the world economy is not merely financial, a moment in the historical cycle of credit and debt. In what follows I approach the crisis more generally as a moment in the history of money. The removal of political controls over money in recent decades has led to a situation where politics is still mainly national, but the money circuit is global and lawless. The crisis should be seen as the collapse of the money system that the world lived by in the twentieth century. This has been unravelling since the US dollar went off gold in 1971  , a new regime of floating currencies emerged and money derivatives were invented in 1972. As the need for international cooperation intensifies, the disconnect between economy and political institutions undermines effective solutions.
2011/12 is the political consequence of the financial crisis of 2007/8. There is still a tendency to see the potential disaster we are living through in economic rather than political terms. In this respect, neoliberalism’s detractors often reproduce the free market ideology they claim to oppose. The euro is by no means the only symptom of this crisis, but it may well be seen in retrospect as the decisive nail in the coffin of the world economy today. One way of approaching our moment in history is to ask not what is beginning, but what is ending. This is not straightforward.
What is ending is “national capitalism”, the synthesis of nation-states and industrial capitalism. Its main symbol has been national monopoly currency (legal tender or central bank money). It was the institutional attempt to manage money, markets and accumulation through central bureaucracy within a cultural community of national citizens. National capitalism was never the only active principle in world political economy: regional federations, empires and globalization are at least as old or much older...

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