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New Left Review 109, January-February 2018


Geoffrey Ingham

FINANCE AND POWER

‘This book is about how the global financial system works, and in whose interests’, Tony Norfield announces at the start of The City. [1] Tony Norfield, The City: London and the Global Power of Finance Verso: London and New York 2017, £10.99, paperback 304 pp, 978 1 78478 502 4 He also sets out to explain the functions of the Square Mile for British capitalism, its importance to the world market, and why it is wrong to counterpose the financial sector to a more productive ‘real economy’. Norfield’s credentials are based on his own experience. He began a twenty-year career in the City of London’s dealing rooms soon after the Thatcher government’s ‘Big Bang’ deregulation of financial markets in 1986. Unlike the soldier on the battlefield, who may know little about the war he is fighting, Norfield claims that ‘the basic mechanism of finance is clear to anyone who witnesses it from the inside’. Working in the City as a senior economist for Bank of America and Mitsubishi Bank, and as head of foreign-exchange strategy at abn Amro, no doubt helped to confirm the impression that London is at the centre of global finance. Norfield departed abn Amro at the end of 2006, shortly before its ill-fated takeover by a consortium of British, Belgian-Dutch and Spanish rivals. A doctoral dissertation at soas under Ben Fine helped to substantiate a view of the international financial system that had apparently long been refracted through a rather traditional Marxist lens. ‘There was no small irony in my going to work in the City’, he acknowledges. ‘I had decided some years before that organizing society on capitalist principles was a bad idea.’ But as he rather cursorily explains: ‘Needs must.’

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