Did the ‘Real’ Economy Turn Financial? Mapping the Contours of Financialisation in the Non-Financial Corporate Sector

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Abstract

The ‘financialisation’ of the economy is considered a key phenomenon of our time, but we lack large-scale empirical evidence of it. Has financialisation in the non-financial corporate sector really taken off in recent decades? To answer this question, I marshal data on all available publicly traded corporations in the largest 37 countries from 1991 to 2017. While there has been a decline in ‘real’ capital accumulation, I do not find firms are substituting tangible for financial investment. Financial income and financial asset shares have declined over time. Only by one measure–shareholder payouts–is there significant growth. To the extent we do see financialisation behaviour, it is overwhelmingly accounted for by very large and internationalised firms. In light of these findings, I argue that non-financial sector financialisation is connected to changes in the global production process which allows a small number of powerful firms to recycle surplus profits into financial capital.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-831
Number of pages15
JournalNew Political Economy
Volume26
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Financialisation
  • capitalism
  • globalisation
  • investment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

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