Professor Martin Daunton looks at how the inter-war governments responded to the Great Depression – solutions that are still debated for their relevance to the world we live in since the global financial crisis of 2008. US President Franklin D Roosevelt took office in 1933 at the low point of the depression, and the nations of the world gathered in London to find answers. They failed, for governments were deeply divided on the best approach to the problems facing the world. Was the solution economic nationalism as pursued by Hitler after he become Chancellor in 1933, or a search for a fairer domestic economy and rules-based global order? When asked later in his presidency what was his main achievement, Roosevelt said it was saving capitalism, not so much by stimulating economic growth as by removing political criticism and social unrest that threatened the American system of free enterprise and individual rights. Capitalism was being remade to save it from its critics – an approach with lessons for the present.
This is the first in a series of Gresham lectures, Three Crises of Capitalism: the Great Depression to the Present by Professor Martin Daunton.
Three major crises of capitalism have affected large parts of the world over the last 100 years: the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Oil Shock of the 1970s, and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. Each crisis both undid and remade the economy and many of the fundamental assumptions about the way politics and society should work. Today, the shock of COVID-19 is doing the same. What will the world that emerges look like?
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