Report: Book Launch, Yanis Varoufakis’ The Global Minotaur: America, The True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy

Posted on September 2, 2011


Thursday, September 1st

Bookmarks Bookshop. 1 Bloomsbury Street, London 

In the Greek myths, the sons and daughters of conquered states were sent to feed the Minotaur of the Minoans. The Athenians, the Egyptians; all sent their young sons and daughters to be consumed by King Minos’ bullish monster. In return the Minotaur guaranteed the security, prosperity and growth of his kingdom.

But, according to Varis Varoufakis, Greek academic, economist and Marxist, the Minotaur died in 20o8. “But I don’t want to talk about the Minotaur just yet…just yet”, began Varoufakis.

Instead he marched and mosied his way through a history of 20th-century economics, beginning with the idea of “recycling” productive surpluses – the “part and parcel” of capitalism, he argues. Since capitalism replaced – and reversed – feudalism, becoming a system of funds, distribution and then production, world economics got dangerous for everyone. The desire for profit, the greed, became so great that, as Varoufakis claimed (brilliantly), the capitalist was willing to bend the laws of time to make it happen: “It was as if the entrepreneur, the heroic capitalist, was extending his arm into the future, grabbing future value that had not been generated yet, and bringing it into the present.” You might say such a precarious exercise was doomed from the start.

In the immediate post-war era, Varoufakis claims, “the Americans begins to take seriously the redemptive mission to save capitalism from itself.” But in doing so, against its apocalyptic competition with the Soviet Union, America spread itself too thin. Or too thick. By the time it was funding LBJ’s Great Society reform programme, alongside the dire weight of the Vietnam war effort, America stopped being a surplus nation. It went into deficit.

What followed was a worldwide project to balance everyone else’s books in line with the Americans own – what Paul Volcker, American economist and head of the Federal Reserve from 1979-1987, called the “controlled disintegration of the world economy”. Varoufakis compared this to George Osborne’s present fascination with tightening everyone else’s belts.  We’re all in it together, but some of us are more all in it together than others.

Thus the Minotaur was both invented, and ultimately, consigned to the Underworld. Around it, “handmaidens” supported the monster – Wall Street (and all that brings to mind), the “toxic politics” of neo-liberalism, and toxic economics, taught in universities across the globe since the advent of Reaganomics and Thatcherism in the West. Varoufakis argued that teaching this bent of economics in our universities is in fact damaging to our understanding of the system. A change is needed, actual as well as intellectual, before we can address our present situation properly.

Towards the end of his speech, Varoufakis claimed: “The Left and Right miss the significance of this current juncture. It is not terminal for capitalism, but it has ended the conglomeration of illusions in how we viewed the world. It ended the illusion we had that we had something called free market capitalism.”

Varoufakis spoke for about 40 minutes, and then took questions and discussed free market economics, the Eurozone and Greece for around the same length. The most interesting thing to come out of this was the question: “Where next?” Varoufakis responded: “I’m damned if I know.” He was similarly optimistic about his own country, Greece. One of the audience said they were Greek. “My commiserations”, Varoufakis replied. You begin to understand why when you consider that Greek has experienced 18% decline since its own “savage” cuts. (Under Thatcher, the UK only ever experienced 1% decline.)

Nevertheless, Varoufakis was clear, the Eurozone would collapse, and soon. This would not be the end of capitalism, there would not be a world – or American, European – revolution. So while other commentators predict the date the markets explode, the revolution comes and all that, Varoufakis provides us with his own socio-economic document, calmer, rational, even if a little hardened by experience.

Buy it here:




Posted in: Politics