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Stockhammer (2009): The finance-dominated accumulation regime, income
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The finance-dominated accumulation regime, income distribution and the present crisis
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The paper discusses the interactions of changes in income distribution and the accumulation dynamics in the post-Fordist accumulation regime in OECD countries, which is characterized by deregulated financial markets. The neoliberal mode of regulation came with a decisive shift in power relations at the expense of labor, which is clearly reflected in the fall of wage shares across OECD economies. The notion of a ″financedominated″ accumulation regime is proposed to highlight that financial developments crucially shape the pattern and the pace of accumulation. Financial globalization has relaxed balance of payment constraints and thereby allowed the build up of big international imbalances. The combination of real wage moderation and financial liberalization has led to different strategies (or at least outcomes) in different countries.

While some countries (like the USA) exhibit a credit-fuelled consumption-driven growth model that comes with large current account deficits, others (like Germany and Japan) show an export-driven growth model with modest consumption growth and large current account surpluses. Overall the finance-dominated accumulation regime is characterized by a mediocre growth performance and by a high degree of fragility.


The polarization of income distribution is closely linked to the international imbalances that underlie the present crisis. The median working class household has experienced stagnant wages in most developed countries. Certainly consumption norms (as spread through mass media) have increased faster than median wages (Cynamon and Fazzari 2009). Combined with a weak investment performance this has led to shortfall of private demand. Effectively (but not necessarily by intention) two different strategies have emerged: In Anglo-Saxon countries the shortfall of disposable income has been compensated by credit and increasing debt levels. The property boom allowed households to take out loans that they could not afford given their income, but that seemed reasonable to banks which assumed that property prices would continue to increase. These countries developed a credit-financed consumption boom that came with current account deficits. The resulting capital inflows again fuelled the property bubble and bubbles in other financial markets.

In the second group of countries median working class household faced a similar stagnation in wages. In these countries private consumption expenditures remained weak. Here net exports played the key components of demand growth. Thus these countries developed an export-led growth model.

The same phenomenon, stagnation in real wages, had different effects in different countries. Moreover, the two growth models rely on each other: the credit-driven consumption model implies current account deficits and thus will only work, if there are surplus countries. Inversely, the export-growth strategy will only work, if there are deficit countries that absorb their exports. The current account imbalances were made possible by financial globalization and the liberalization of capital flows.

This analysis has important policy implications. As wage moderation has been one of the structural causes underlying the present crisis, one condition for re-establishing a viable growth regime, is a change in wage policy. Wages have to increase at least with productivity growth. This would stabilize domestic demand in the surplus countries and allow to avoid a collapse of consumption demand in the deficit countries. A more egalitarian income distribution is not luxury that can be dealt with once the economy has been stabilized, it is an integral art of a sound macroeconomic structure.

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