Review of Crashed

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On September 15, 2008, the storied New York investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed. The next day, markets around the world seized. Since then, many have blamed the United States for the credit conflagration. But in the end, the US Federal Reserve rescued the global economy, writes history professor Adam Tooze in this clear, rigorously detailed and exhaustive text. That action and the geopolitical changes it wrought have led to an interdependent but “multipolar” financial system that, Tooze argues, makes the prospects for coordinated crisis responses all the more unlikely. This impressive work offers readers an overarching and sometimes alarming perspective on the world’s financial future.

About the Author

Adam Tooze is a history professor at Columbia University. He is the author of The Wages of Destruction and The Deluge.


Financial Crises in a Global Age

The day after investment bank Lehman Brothers failed, Tooze recounts in detail, the US Federal Reserve developed emergency plans to prop up the world’s banks with billions of dollars. The Fed set out to stem the impact of a disaster that might not have been limited to financial institutions like Lehman Brothers but that could have engulfed businesses and markets around the globe. 

That day – September 16, 2008 – the UN General Assembly met in New York City. Tooze details how UN speakers suggested that the crisis derived from poor “global governance” and from the United States’ singular position as the dominant power. Europeans pointed out that the world was no longer “unipolar” or even “bipolar” but was in fact “multipolar” and should be managed as such. At a moment when US foreign policy failures were legion and the country’s preeminent position was in question, the financial crisis of 2008 provided a stark reminder of the changes in the world’s power structure. The ready-made explanation for the crisis was that it issued directly from US budget and trade deficits, and from the nation’s reliance on foreign funding, especially from China.

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