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On the Content of Banking in Contemporary Capitalism

Paulo L dos Santos

Discussion Papers from Research on Money and Finance

Abstract: This paper considers the character and social content of banking in contemporary capitalism. Based on a survey of the operations of nine leading international banks, it documents the marked differences between contemporary banking and the traditional business of taking, making loans to enterprises, and making profits from the difference in interest rates between them. Notably, the operations of the world’s top banking organisations are shown to centre on various forms of credit to individual wage earners and on mediating access to financial markets by corporations and, increasingly, individuals. In order to characterise the social content of such activities the paper seeks to apply, and where necessary extend, existing Marxist analyses of banking, capital markets, and their relationship to capitalist accumulation. This includes advancing a number of elements of a distinctive Marxist interpretation of capital‐market operations to theorise financial market mediation relations between banks, corporations, and the mass of retail savers. The analysis pursued helps identify the distinctive and exploitative content of the relations banks maintain with ordinary wage earners through consumer and mortgage lending, as well as through the provision of pension‐related saving services.

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