Narrating the Crisis: The Great Recession, the "Money Trust," and the Politics of Economic Reform
O'Connor, Alice - University of California, Santa Barbara

2011-03-24 16:13:00-05:00
Ann Arbor, MI - University of Michigan - Tisch Hall Room 1014
Duration: 01:42:26

As the financial meltdown of 2007-08 escalated into worldwide recession, so too did expectations that "the crisis" would be an opportunity for progressive economic reform. Early, mostly journalistic, accounts only reinforced such expectations, with widespread revelations of the predatory lending practices, influence peddling, and reckless risk-taking-with "other people's money"-that had vaulted Wall Street to unprecedented heights of political and economic power, while dragging Main Street to the brink of collapse. Not since the Great depression had the facts of economic crisis aligned so clearly and palpably with the values of progressive reform.

So what happened? Why, two years into the Great recession and with inequality visibly on the rise, are reformers gripped by a sense of lost opportunity, if not outright defeat? Was it, as some commentators have suggested, their failure to provide a compelling narrative of the crisis, and with it to lay the political groundwork for reform?

In this talk, Alice O'Connor brings historical perspective to this and related questions by exploring how earlier generations of reformers, from the "money trust"- busters of the 1910s to the free marketers of 1970s, turned economic crisis into political opportunity with politically mobilizing explanations-and what that tells us about the contemporary politics of economic reform.


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