Financialization: A New Chapter in the History of Capitalism?

Country: USA

City: Washington

Abstr. due: 31.12.2014

Dates: 12.06.15 — 13.06.15

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: German Historical Institute


The term “financialization” is understood by most authors to refer to the shift since 1970 from industrial to finance capitalism, a shift that had profound social and political repercussions.. Over the past few decades traditional industrial economies became dominated by financial capitalism.  Financial services now constitute a large and increasing share of output in the world’s most advanced industrial nations.  Financial institutions have grown to enormous size, magnified by various mechanisms of financial leverage. Capital markets have gained the ability to influence and limit national economic priorities.  ,Financialization also influences corporate behavior in a profound way. Companies are increasingly seen, and managed as, portfolios – similar to portfolios composed of financial securities. Financial management of corporate assets argues for a process of continual restructuring, rather than organic growth of technological or social units with their own identity. As financial markets and financial management gained greater weight in corporate affairs, they pushed back technological or social agendas. Certain stakeholders such as workers, local communities and unions lost out to shareholders, who became of paramount importance. Despite all these trends and new developments, the interplay between an ever more dominant capital market and the economies and societies of the Western World and beyond has not been sufficiently investigated. 

Financialization is also commonly described as a process whereby financial markets, financial institutions, and financial elites gain greater influence over economic policies. We can see an increasing impact of financialization on public debt caused by loans given by commercial banks and the rising share of private bondholders rather than public debtors since the 1970s.

This workshop seeks to summarize the state-of-the-art of research on financialization and aims to develop a trans-disciplinary research agenda for the future. It will address the question of  whether the concept of financialization might be a suitable analytical category for the history of capitalism since the 1970s. Though this conference emphasizes history, it is open to scholars from all disciplines. Junior scholars are especially encouraged to apply. We welcome case studies, comparative analyses, and theoretical reflections. Submissions may address but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Financialization of the Modern Corporation: In what instances, and in what ways, has financialization led to the emergence of a new regime of accumulation, with shareholder value orientation as a new guiding principle for corporate behavior.  Has this new regimed caused a reduction in investment in tangible assets (crowding out)
  • Innovation Cycles and Crisis: What were the intended and unintended consequences of the invention of financial instruments and techniques? How have the volatility of asset prices and the accumulation of debt heightened systemic risk in financialized capitalism, making it prone to reoccurring crisis?
  • Financial Markets and the State: How have financial institutions been shaped by local and national conditions, regulatory regimes, legal institutions, and/or political culture? How does financialization alter the underlying logic of the industrial economy and the inner workings of democratic societies, and how has financialization influenced fiscal policies?
  • Varieties of Capitalism and Political Changes: How does financialization shape political identities and organized interests, the politics of the welfare state and national models of capitalism?
  • Local Manifestations of Financialization: Did financialization lead to an unequal distribution of gains, risks and losses among investors, financial institutions, tax payers, and a uneven distribution of financial power among social classes?
  • Mediation, Interpretation, and Identity: How did the social sciences, media (magazines, books), and popular culture (TV series, songs, novels) address and interpret financialization and related processes and developments?

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