The Economic Crisis: Questions and a Few Answers

by Thomas Grillot , 27 December 2011

The economic crisis that has plagued a great part of the world since 2008 remains baffling as ever, all questions and no answers. Why not start by listing the former, and then imagine what the latter could look like?

When did it start?

In the search for the origins of the crisis, globalization has been the usual suspect. Long-haul history is needed here: Martin Albrow encourages us to go past the crises of the post-war era and embrace the larger study of what he calls “the global age,” where “the global has supplanted the modern as an axial motif for our time.” (“Shock, What Shock?”, [07-02-2011])

Antoine Bouët & David Laborde Debucquet, in their examination of the food crisis of 2007 and 2008, draw attention to the ambiguous long-term effects of liberalization, and to one of the least talked about aspect of the crisis, the fact that the food crisis is not yet over, [27-05-2010])

Who is responsible?

In his review of Louis Hyman’s Debtor Nation, historian Nicolas Delalande explores the role of consumer credit in the American Dream and supports Martin Albrow’s approach. If risky credit policies started it all, then the crisis must have been in the works for close to a century: it was in the 1920s that installment credit and mortgages started their rapid rise; the Depression and the Cold War made them an inseparable part of the U.S.’s superpower status (“Get Yourself Into Debt”, [04-10-2011])

Looking at the other end of the social spectrum, Olivier Godechot’s essay examines the salaries of those who have often been regarded as responsible for the crisis: financial managers (“Finance, an Inequality Factor”, [15-04-2011])

What can be done?

Answers to the crisis must be technical, but they cannot be that only. On the contrary, as Martin Albrow and colleagues make clear, the crisis is more than economics ([01-04-2009]). A new culture of responsibility and accountability will have to be developed on a global scale if we are to better anticipate future problems. And citizens will have to make their voices heard, for rulemaking alone cannot be enough to make governments and corporations accountable (“Who Rules the Global Rule Makers?, [03-11-2011]).

Dossier's Articles

by Thomas Grillot, 27 December 2011

Further reading

See also in Books and Ideas: Dossier “The Culture of Poverty

To quote this article :

Thomas Grillot, « The Economic Crisis: Questions and a Few Answers », Books and Ideas , 27 December 2011. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

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