Meltdown by Paul Mason

This analysis of the international economic crisis is useful for understanding the current implosion of ‘business as usual’ politics in the UK. It is written in transparent prose and contains colourful anecdotes to stop it from being read as an ordinary part of the dismal science.

The financial crisis which was illustrated by the bank run at Northern Rock has been subject to various interpretations. The idea that it was caused by excessive state spending has been widely debunked. Mason is unusual in that he explains the economic crisis by using the theories of Hyman Minsky, while coming from a background informed by Marxism. Empirically, the narrative stands up quite well, but the theoretical foundation is somewhat flimsy.

The flimsiness of the conceptual framework is partly revealed by the intemperate attack on Joseph Stiglitz. Stiglitz won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and his work on globalisation has been highly informative. The argument that his analysis of the economic crisis is an attempt to restore the Third Way seems slightly off the mark. Stiglitz has written about the need to transform global capitalism; he has not celebrated it like Tony Blair. And Mason lumps Blair and Stiglitz together. Mason ignores the profound differences between the two thinkers with his dogmatic assertion:

“But his own economics seems shorn of a social and political dimension: whether you choose Foucault, Marx or C. Wright Mills, if you are a critic of the capitalist system you must have some explanation of why it goes on producing power elites.”

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