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New Left Review 100, July-August 2016


michel aglietta

AMERICA’S SLOWDOWN

Robert Gordon’s Rise and Fall of American Growth offers a vast narrative, encompassing some 150 years of us economic history since 1870, with prospective views up to 2040 or so. [1] Robert Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The us Standard of Living since the Civil War, Princeton University Press: Princeton 2016. The conclusion is that low per capita growth is here to stay, with dire consequences for worsening inequalities in income distribution and other headwinds. It demands to be taken seriously. It should be noted at the outset that the very long-run view that Gordon provides may serve to underestimate the impact of the 2008 financial crisis—indeed, finance is nearly absent from the book. However, the trend decline in productivity growth that it detects from the late 1970s is concomitant with what has been labelled ‘the financialization of the firm’, a transformation in corporate governance that is itself linked to financial liberalization and globalization. Furthermore, the long-run slowdown in productivity since the late 1970s or early 1980s is not specific to the us; it plagues all large advanced economies.

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