The Value of Financialization and the Financialization of Value

Authored by: Brett Christophers , Ben Fine

The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization

Print publication date:  February  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138308213
eBook ISBN: 9781315142876
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315142876-2

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Abstract

BC: Among the most forceful and compelling of the various arguments for the value of the concept of financialization is the thesis that in recent decades, capitalism has changed, and that the financialization concept helpfully captures one of the most significant vectors of this transformation. I am thinking in particular here of the types of definition of financialization offered by Greta Krippner (2005), Till van Treeck (2009) and Costas Lapavitsas (2013), where financialization is understood fundamentally in terms of a shift in the weighting of the capitalist economy toward financial forms of revenue and profit, whether or not those happen to be realized by the financial sector per se. It is striking, however, that some of the most forthright champions of the idea that capitalism has changed in this way – that it has, in a word, been financialized – nonetheless cling to an essentially unchanged (Marxian) understanding of value. 1 Lapavitsas, in my view, is one such; John Bellamy Foster (2008) is clearly another. For these scholars, following Marx, there are essentially two types of labour under capitalism. There is productive labour, which produces value, and thus wealth; and there is unproductive labour, which does not. And the finance sector and the labour embodied within it are, in this schema, fundamentally unproductive. Hence Lapavitsas’ claim, as per the title of his book (Lapavitsas 2013), that finance – and financialization – entails profiting without producing (value), or in other words profiting by extracting value that is exclusively produced elsewhere in the economy. But isn’t this contradictory, or, at the very least, paradoxical? Is it in fact credible that capitalism has been financialized, while capitalist value – capitalism’s sine qua non – has not?

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