The advent of economic neoliberalism in the 1980s triggered a shift in the world economy. In the three decades following World War II, now considered a golden age of capitalism, economic growth was high and income inequality decreasing. But in the mid-1970s this social compact was broken as the world economy entered the stagflation crisis, following a decline in the profitability of capital. This crisis opened a new phase of stagnating growth and wages, and unemployment. Interest rates as well as dividend flows rose, and income inequality widened.
Economists Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy show that, despite free market platitudes, neoliberalism was a planned effort by financial interests against the postwar Keynesian compromise. The cluster of neoliberal policies—including privatization, liberalization of world trade, and reduction in state welfare benefits—is an expression of the power of finance in the world economy.
The sequence of events initiated by neoliberalism was not unprecedented. In the late nineteenth century, when economic conditions were similar to those of the 1970s, a structural crisis led to the first financial hegemony culminating in the speculative boom of the late 1920s. The authors argue persuasively for stabilizing the world economy before we run headlong into another economic disaster.