Thursday, 9 April 2009

Does the Structuration theory help explain the Credit Crunch?

Giddens has often been considered the philosophical mentor of New Labour. And since 1997 has provided an ideological basis for the 'Third Way', a new approach that has ushered in so many successes. So can Giddens' 'Structuration theory' help explain the Global Credit Crunch.
First, the Giddens' structuration can be best explained as a 'Third Way' between the strucuture - agency debate, that is whether action can be best described as coming from the overarching structures or institutions of society or through individual action. According to Giddens, 'Structuration' connects agency and structure by placing them as mutually dependent entities - structure informs agency but agency creates the structure. If this was a an International Relations debate, you could call this constructionist-realism.
So how does this help explain the Credit Crunch? Well, the credit crunch occured due to a lack of regulatory frameworks in a globalised world and an individual emphasis on fatalistic wealth or 'carpe diem' economics.
In the structure aspect, a lack of a strong regulatory framework allowed for dubious economic policies to be pursued. Capital securitisation meant that banks could place projects on the mortgages of individual houses. These mortgages were similarly given to individuals who should not have been given these mortgages but they were because the weak regulatory framework gave easy credit an easy option for those seeking a quick profit. When these asset backed securities did not return the cash that they required due to the increasing interest rates, banks had to default. This created the credit crunch.
The agency aspect of the structuration theory can also add to the explanation of the credit crunch. The individual ethos or culture surrounding banks was to make as much individual wealth as quickly as possible without care or recourse for what might happen in the future. People were more concerned with making money now rather than securing the long term future. It is what i have come to describe carpe diem economics because the purpose of the jobs is to make money now and care little for the future. Individuals were also to blame for the credit crunch because some individuals set in place the ethos for the banking industry.
So, therefore, Giddens structuation theory can help to explain the credit crunch. The credit crunch therefore has sociological and economic reasons.
So, how does this provide a framework for the future. Our banking regulatory framework needs to be both a functioning credit provider to ensure that entrepeneurs, risk takers and businesses get the credit they need to continue creating jobs but they also needs to be an understanding that regulation also means that entrepeneurs and risk takers understand risks, their limitations and the problems that too much loose credit can create.
Individuals need to understand that creating individual wealth pales in comparison to creating wealth of a nation. That is why an agency restructuring needs to take place. Progress can only come about when we lift everybody up, not just a small minority. Hopefully, once the credit crunch takes the place in BBC correspondents history books, economics will take on a more rational approach with an understanding of creating riches now and wealth tomorrow.


  1. In answer to the

  2. That was a little over my head, but what I uderstood of it I agree with. I think the damage done to banks and other financial institutions by the credit crunch will get them to realise the truth that they rely on the stability of the world economy as a whole in order to survive and therefore their short term success should not come at the cost of long term stability and growth.

    @Anonymous: Why no?

  3. Kyle

    In as much as the structure-agency dialetic is at the heart of the whole social porcess, it's pretty uncontroversial to suggest that how individual actions relate to the envrironment around, and how that envrironment aorund then changes because of that action, and onwards ever iteratively, also influenced how the credit crunch developed as it did, and indeed how all boom and bust is reflective of individual reponse to outside 'triggers'.

    I think the more interesting question, and what Giddens (or Putman, or Etzioni) never got because he does not understand the concept of power, is how structure can be used by capital to create self-fulfilling prophecies of the need to boom when it is in capital's interests to boom, and bust when capital needs to readjust.

    The best people I know on this, in terms of international economics are (in the UK) Colin Hay and, more theoretically, Bob Jessop.