Forgive us our debts

Most analysts divide postwar capitalism into two periods. The first extends from the late 1940s into the 1970s. The end of the second appears to have been announced by the crisis – at first a ‘financial’ crisis, now often a ‘debt’ crisis – that broke out in 2008. The precise boundary between the postwar eras gets drawn differently depending on which feature of the terrain is emphasised. In terms of overall growth rates, it was with the recession of 1973-74 that the surge after the Second World War gave way to deceleration across the wealthy world. Intellectually, Milton Friedman’s Nobel Prize of 1976 signalled the shift from Keynesianism to monetarism; thereafter orthodox economics was more concerned with low inflation than full employment. Politically, the neoliberal turn began later, perhaps with Thatcher’s election in 1979. At any rate, a new kind of socioeconomic arrangement – the Marxian economists Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy propose the name ‘neoliberalism under US hegemony’ – emerged from the turmoil of the 1970s, and is now faltering.