Courtesy Reuters

WAVES TO RIPPLES

Western political economy since the Industrial Revolution has been a vibrant world of rapid growth and development, at least for countries in the industrial "core." But it has also been a world of continuing and sometimes enormous fluctuations in economic activity. Business cycles -- expansions and contractions across most sectors of an economy -- have come to be taken as a fact of life. But modern economies operate differently than nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century industrial economies. Changes in technology, ideology, employment, and finance, along with the globalization of production and consumption, have reduced the volatility of economic activity in the industrialized world. For both empirical and theoretical reasons, in advanced industrial economies the waves of the business cycle may be becoming more like ripples.

The dampening of the business cycle will change the global economy and undermine assumptions and arguments that political economists use to understand it. "

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  • Steven Weber is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley and fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
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