Production Capitalism vs. Financial Capitalism Symbiosis and Parasitism. An Evolutionary Perspective

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Compiling a bibliography of the relationship between production capitalism and financial capitalism - on how to divert investment from speculation to production - is a complex task. The problem is related to a multitude of other questions of larger or smaller nature. In the more narrow sense of economics it is related to not only finance and manufacturing but also to theories of business cycles, of investment, taxation, growth, stage theories, planning, public goods, infrastructure, value, credit (-creation), debt, rent, money, risk, stability, international banking, globalisation, protection, international politics, power, currency policy, international seniorage, balance of trade, etc. Financial regulations in periods of war are particularly interesting in this regard, since in times of war these regulations tend to focus intensely on production. Finance has often been seen as the ultimate instrument of power in periods both of war and of peace.

Although any definition is subjective, we suggest the following definition of speculation: Speculation is selling and buying for profits detached from real production. This contrasts to the hedging deals in currency trade as a part of a transaction of real products and services.
Under financial capitalism, finance regulates itself and national authorities are more prone to follow the dictates of the financial interests; bankers, fund managers etc. Under industrial capitalism, finance is under the dictates of national political authorities, democratically elected or not, through regulations of various kinds. On the theoretical level this regulation blocks the efficiency of the financial system itself. However, in real terms successful regulations increase the efficiency of the total socio-economic system since the efficiency of production is increased by directing capital away from short term financial investments towards long term investments in productive assets. In other words, regulation may push investments away from pure and sterile financial investments or consumption and into long term “real” productive investments in activities related to production, communication, infrastructure, research, education, and health. From the standpoint of political economy or “nationalist economics” the former type would represent zero-sum investments whereas the latter would represent positive sum investments. This problem is an old one. In order to rescue the Roman Empire from moral decay and physical deterioration, Caesar and Augustus severely restricted speculation, interest and the activities of finance in general, through waves of political reforms, in the 1st Century BC and AD. Louis XI and Henry VII were to follow their example 14 Centuries later, and F.D.Roosevelt another 5 Centuries after that. Today the Asian crisis again raises these same questions.


The classification of literature below is intended to point out important literature in the field concerning the problem of diverting investment from speculation to production, as well as to establish a systematic perspective referring to historical periods. As noted, the categories “financial-“ and “industrial capitalism” are terms that refer to how strong financial affairs are regulated by national political authorities. Using time as the classification criterion therefore points to the changing character of this debate through the past centuries.

The first category is split chronologically in order highlight the fluctuations in the production of literature. The delineation of periods is based on the dominating trend within the global financial system.
The second major category, “new monetary system movements”, could largely be grouped into the chronological section 1918-1945 but constitutes a tradition which stands out by itself and breaks this chronological categorisation. We believe a better perspective of this tradition is gained by separating this tradition from the rest of the literature. The reason is that on several points these movements converge. Not only do they all intend to solve the post WW I economic crisis of instability, unemployment and social misery and strife. They do also propose more or less similar solutions to this prolonged crisis. It turns out that the most famous of these reformers, J.M.Keynes, was more the visible surface of a great wave than the originator of the wave itself. The reformers saw the problem as primarily connected to the monetary system, concerning in particular credit. The titles of three books are revealing of the general intent of the general movement: Robert Eisler’s Stable Money (1932), Brynjolf Bjørseth’s Distribute or Destroy (1934) and Major Douglas’ The Monopoly of Credit (1931). The depression was seen as a kind of constipation of the economy caused by a lack of proper circulation of credit and money as lubricants in the economic machinery. The solution was seen as a politically administrated distribution of these lubricants to the public in general. The differences between the various reformers reflect the different suggestions of how to carry this out in practice.

For practical purposes the literature is classified into different language groups. The subsection Scandinavia is a reflection of the ethnocentricity of this author. The classification into languages is, of course, also a classification in terms of cultural areas. In particular the European continental nations have a different more nationalistic tendency (favouring political control), whereas the Anglo-Saxon countries have a more market-oriented policy (favouring banking control). The latter is the normal and accepted view today. However - from an historical point of view - this is a fairly recent phenomenon, indeed a post WW II and even a post 1970s phenomenon. In particular, the United States followed a much more nationalist policy during periods of the 19th Century and in the 1931-1963 era. This goes for Britain as well in several periods, the last being the partly successful attempt to revive mercantilism a Century ago and to some degree the Labour dominated post-WW II period.
Chronologically, important watersheds in this Century are 1931 and 1971. Before 1931, we find a system dominated by financial capitalism but with important islands of industrial capitalism, for instance in the US, Germany, Russia, and Japan. The years 1931 to 1971 are characterised a period of industrial capitalism, starting with New Deal in the US and ending with the downfall of the Bretton Woods system.
The year 1918 is also chosen as a dividing line since this year to changes the nature of some of the islands of industrial capitalism: Russia, and Germany. Whereas the typical credit policy of production capitalism lost weight in the USA with the assassination of President McKinley in 1901, Japan kept following this policy practically to this day, or perhaps until the late 1980s. The period 1918-1931 is characterised as a period of financial capitalism with an intense debate around the question of the very structure of the financial system itself. Since this debate does not stop in 1931 but continues until WW II, the end of the category is for practical reasons chosen in 1945.
The years 1931-1971 were a period of industrial capitalism under various political regimes. The literature in the period 1931-1940 (1945), however, continues the debate from the preceding years and it therefore convenient to group these sub-periods together.
Literature in the period 1945-1971 is generally dominated by a discussion within the frames of the Bretton Woods system. This focused on the necessity of regulation based on the experience with unregulated markets before the crash of 1929 and the devastating consequences to real production and consumption as well as to international peace.
Increasingly, however, the urge to liberalise markets was to make its way. Internationally this was brought about by actions of the French and British governments, in particular. This led to the establishment of offshore dollar markets outside national control during the 1960s. The downfall of Bretton Woods in 1971 was only the most visible sign of the increased focus on liberalisation. As the period comes closer to the time of writing (1998), the principles of financial capitalism are increasing their influence. Financial capitalism is again on top. Concerning the literature, however, 1982 is chosen as a more appropriate dividing line since the effects of the new international regime took time to manifest themselves. Accordingly, neither did the literature react instantly. A better delineation of categories is reached with the Peso-crisis in Mexico in 1982, since this also more closely corresponds to the first effects of the free-trade, free-capital flow policy of the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions.

What is particularly striking about the literature is, firstly, the great flood of literature on monetary and financial issues in the period between the world wars, between 1918 and 1935, in particular. Secondly, what is striking is the increasing amount of literature after the debt crisis hit Mexico in 1982 and again after Black October in Wall Street in 1987, Tokyo early 1990s, Mexico 1994, Barings, Schneider, Orange County, Credit Lyonnais etc., all of the early 1990s. The recent 1997-1998 Southeast Asian crisis - in particular in Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, and Malaysia - is sure to leave the same marks in any list of literature on financial and monetary issues. This is a repetition of the flow of literature after any such event throughout history such as the (more or less international) financial crises in 241 BC, 50 BC, 1345 AD, 1637, 1720, 1858, 1873, 1890, 1907,1924,1929 1958, 1973 etc.


After the 1929 crash, a massive bibliography was assembled my Prof. Mitsuzo Masui of Kobe University: A Bibliography of Finance, Kobe University of Commerce, 1935. The work consists of 1.614 pages + an authors' index filling 105 pages.



Early financial literature can be found in the printed catalogues of The Kress Library at Harvard Business School (4 volumes) and of the Goldsmiths Library at the University of London (5 volumes). Both libraries contain economic literature published before 1850. The entries are chronological, and financial literature is listed annually under that heading.

(.?.) (1802). The new pocket Hoyle, containing the games of whist, quadrille…. and speculation: accurately

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Wynne & Scholey, Voortitel: Hoyle’s games of whist… & speculation.

(.?.). (1822). A letter to Lord Liverpool, on the fallacy of considering the late and present extensive shipments of

British-manufactured goods as indicative of any thing else than a spirit of speculation in our merchants,

which will speedily produce ruin to our manufacturers, London: Whittaker

(.?.). (1825). Copy of Bubble Act, 6 Geo. I. C. 18: notes relating to praemunire: draft bill proposed to be

introduced by Mr. Peter Moore for the amendment of the Bubble Act, and for the prevention of frauds in the

establishment of joint stock Companies, [London]: Wilks & Verbeke

(.?.). (1885). Circulating capital: being an inquiry into the fundamental laws of money / an essay by an East

India merchant. – London: Paul, Trench

(.?.). (1913). Speculation on the New York Stock Exchange, September, 1904-March, 1907, Algernon

Ashburner Osborne. New York: Columbia University Press, (Studies in history, economics, and public law

of Columbia University, vol. 56, no. 1; whole no. 137)

Ainsworth, William Harrison. (1868). The south-sea bubble: a tale of the year 1720 Copyright ed. – Leipzig:

Tauchnitz, (ollection of British authors, vol. 989-990)

Alvord, Clarence Walworth. (1917). The Mississippi Valley in British politics: a study of the trade, land

speculation, and experiments in imperialism culminating in the American Revolution. – Cleveland: Arthur H.

Clark company

Andreades, A. (1909). History of the Bank of England, London: P.S.King and Son

Angell, Norman. (1912). The money game: how to play it: a new instrument of economic education, London

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Ashley, William James. (1903). The Tariff problem, London: P.S.King

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Hobson, John A. (1894). The Evolution in Modern Capitalism, London: Walter Scott

Hobson, John A. (1890) The Economics of Distribution, New York: Macmillan

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** Hobson, John A. (1902). Imperialism, A Study, London: Nisbet

Hobson, John A. (1909). The Crisis of Liberalism, (ed. P.F.Clarke), Brighton: Harvester Press

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Hobson, John A. (1911). The Science of Wealth, 4th edn, with preface by R.F.Harrod, Oxford: Home University


Hobson, John A. (1911). An Economic Interpretation of Investment, London: Financial Review of Reviews

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** Keynes, J.M. (1914). War and the Financial System, The Economic Journal, Vol.XXIV, August 1914, pp.460


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