The years since the 1970s are unprecedented in terms of their volatility in the price of commodities, currencies, real estate and stocks. There have been 4 waves of financial crises: a large number of banks in three, four or more countries collapsed at about the same time. Each wave was followed by a recession, and the economic slowdown which began in 2008 was the most severe and most global since the great depression of the 1930s.”
Manias, Crashes and Panics – Kindelberger and Aliber
Interestingly enough 1971 was the year when Nixon took the world off the gold standard, which had been in effect since 1944. Fiat-bugs please note.
More to the point, however. Booms and busts have always been normal in a capitalist economy. But in recent years this has been a feature which has been exacerbated by and involves that part of the economy indicated by the acronym FIRE (Finance, Insurance and Real Estate) and its growing importance in the economy in both qualitative and quantitative terms.
Financialisation is a process whereby financial markets, financial institutions, and financial elites gain greater influence over economic policy and economic outcomes. Financialisation transforms the functioning of economic systems at both the macro and micro levels. Its principal impacts are to:
elevate the significance of the financial rent-seeking sector relative to the real value-producing sector
transfer income from the real value-producing sector to the financial sector
increase income inequality and contribute to wage stagnation
Since 1970 this part of the economy has grown from almost nothing to 8% of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This means that one dollar in every ten is associated with finance. In terms of corporate profits finance’s contribution now represents around 40% of all corporate profits in the US. This is a significant figure and, moreover it does not include those overseas earnings of companies whose profits are repatriated to their countries of origin.
Thus, the increasing presence and role of finance in overall economic activity and the increase of profits channelled to the financial sector represent the salient indicators as to what has been termed financialization.