Yesterday was the last day of serious work on the manuscript of Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World.
Only proof reading to come. I like the cover design. I hope you do too.
The book is now “in production”, in the hands of teams of people, most of whom I do not know and will never meet. In due course it will be translated into languages I cannot speak or read. Thanks to their labour it is slipping out of my hands. It is becoming an object, a commodity.
It is, needless to say, an ambiguous moment. But it is a relief to have arrived at this point. And it is certainly a moment to say a heartfelt thank you to some of the people who have helped to make this happen.
The book emerged out of teaching a course on the history of the Great Recession and a dialogue with students and teaching fellows. At Yale and Columbia my collaborators included Ted Fertik, Gabe Winant, Nick Mulder, Madeline Woker, David Lerer and Noelle Tutur. This is not an exhaustive list but I am enormously grateful to all those who helped to develop and deliver the course. Nick Monaco, Kevin James Schilling and Ella Plaut Taranto helped bang the manuscript into shape.
In addition, from an early stage, the project benefited from the attention and ferociously intelligent commentary of Ted Fertik, Grey Anderson, Stefan Eich, Anusar Farooqui, Nick Mulder, Hans Knundani and Nick Monaco. Dana Conley, Martin Sandbu, Wolfgang Proissel and Barnaby Raine added their comments to particular sections. The conversations with these readers, particularly over the summer of 2017, were vital in sustaining momentum and giving the project focus. The fact that in the process old friendships from Yale have melded so seamlessly with a new life in New York has been a particular joy. These friends and interlocutors know individually and collectively how much I owe to them. Our conversations stretch back over the best part of a decade.
Even older friends, above all Chris Clark and David Edgerton, served, as always, as indispensable sounding boards.
Directing the European Institute at Columbia has provided me with the opportunity to discuss contemporary European affairs with a remarkable collection of guests. None of the EI’s activities would happen without the work of François Carrel-Billiard who I am privileged to have as a collaborator.
Beyond this intimate group I have been extraordinarily fortunate to discuss the project with audiences in many different academic venues. I am particularly grateful for the hospitality of the Hamburg Stiftung für Sozialgeschichte (Tim Müller and Co), Mark Blyth and the gang at Brown University, a great group of colleagues from history and political science at Stanford, the Eisenberg Institute University of Michigan, the European University Institute, NYU Florence, the New School, the German Historical Institute Paris, the FPLH workshop in London, as part of the Science Po public debt project (Nicolas Delalande and Nicolas Barreyre) and at the NYU Kandersteg workshop (thanks Stef!).
A memorial conference for Francesca Carnevali in Birmingham was a sad occasion to discuss Europe’s banks with our teacher Les Hannah.
You can all imagine how grateful I was to have the chance to present a version of the project to a seminar of the Siemens Stiftung moderated by Knut Borchardt and attended by Jürgen Habermas. Their gracious engagement was a real honor.
Since the fall of 2015 I have engaged with social media as never before. This adventure has more or less coincided with the writing of the book. I feel particularly lucky to have fallen in with a brilliant and deeply informed crowd on twitter and facebook who have changed my understanding of how an intense, real-time debate can develop in the twenty-first century. For the daily stimulation of their company on line I would like to thank (in no particular order): Duncan Weldon, Brad Setser, Martin Sandbu, Daniella Gabor, Robin Wigglesworth, Tom Clark, Danilo Scholz, Adam Posen, Nicolas Véron, Matt C. Klein, Karthik Sankaran, Yakov Feygin, Brad DeLong, Cornel Ban and many, many others.
Kate Marsh built the excellent website that has provided structure to my online intellectual life.
Cowriting pieces with Stefan Eich and Danilo Scholz helped to sharpen parts of the argument, as did the reviews published by New Left Review, LRB and New York Review of Books. A particular thanks to Tom Clark and Prospect for taking a chance on a long essay about wholesale bank funding and swap lines.
Off line it has been great to talk over the project with Perry Mehrling, Clara Mattei, Shahin Vallée, Eric Monnet, Chuck Sabel, Tano Santos, Daniella Gabor Cornel Ban, and Bruce Kogut.
This project marks a departure for me in moving forward in time into the field of contemporary history and back into an intense dialogue with economics. It has reminded me of debts I owe to two teachers.
Alan Milward, my doctoral supervisor, was a brilliant but difficult man. For me, given my personal makeup, the engagement with him was particularly high-risk. But I survived and Milward remains a towering figure. I don’t know whether he would have agreed with my take on the Eurozone crisis, but you cannot think or write about the EU without feeling Alan’s presence.
Wynne Godley was a mentor and teacher of a very different kind. Spontaneously warm and generous in spirit he took me under his cape in my first year at King’s and introduced me, and a group of my contemporaries, to what was, at the time, a highly idiosyncratic brand of economics. In so doing he provided a model of intellectual warmth and vitality. He also confirmed doubts that had been gestating in me about the IS-LM macroeconomic model that was my first great love in economics. Wynne introduced me to the importance of looking beyond the flows and insisting on stock-flow consistency in macro models. I don’t think this book, written almost thirty years later would have been the same without his early influence.
I owe thanks to literally dozens of people. It may in fact be hundreds. It is dizzying when you think about it. But when it comes down to the actual writing, the day to day mechanics of production, the circle narrows.
I am someone who does not write or think principally in “the office”. It happens mostly at home, or anywhere where life takes me. The line between the professional and the domestic, the personal and the public is chronically blurred. It’s a flexible, but tricky balance and in sustaining it, making it productive and agreeable I owe everything to Dana Conley, whose love and support energized and sustained the project from start to finish. To have such a deeply intelligent, engaged, curious, courageous and loving partner, someone so open to me and to my world is a blessing beyond words. It is no formality that this book is dedicated to her. I simply can’t imagine it without her.
Puppy Ruby – a marvelous gift from Dana – added joy, warmth, walks, endless distraction and an entire community of companionship and support. All hail to the gang from the “small dog hill”.
My daughter Edie has jolted dinner table conversation with a burst of political radicalism and sharp insights. When current events were robbing me of my senses she offered precocious wisdom. Her energetic but grounded engagement with the world is a source both of inspiration and encouragement.
There is no doubt that these three forces are the keys to my current happy combination of productivity and emotional stability. The fact that this book has not driven us apart but given us things to talk about and brought us in many ways closer together, is my greatest personal satisfaction in the project.
The fact that I can say all this, is due in large part to the wise counsel of an outstanding psychoanalyst. He shall remain nameless. But everyone should be so lucky.
As Nicolas Véron put it to me once in Washington Square Park, making sense of what has happened since 2008 is a collective project. As a historian, it has been an extraordinary privilege to be included in that urgent collective effort. I hope this book repays the support and encouragement I have received from so many sides. As of today Crashed is on its way into the world. It will be out first week of August 2018. So we shall soon see.