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Abstract

Since the first acute episode of financial crisis in autumn 2008, the world has manifestly changed in dramatic ways that reinforce skepticism and challenge the old assumptions of political economy. Hence this Article about central banks, whose pivotal role in post-crisis capitalism has not been adequately politically or theoretically addressed in any existing literature and can now be opened up by a conjunctural analysis that recognises uncertainty and mutability. There are several reasons why this is an intellectually and politically interesting task. Central banks have become an object of controversy and public attention after being pivotally involved in crisis management, which has since 2010 increasingly involved nonstandard monetary-policy crisis measures applied on a heroic scale. For example, in December 2011 and February 2012, Mario Draghi offered one trillion euros of cheap credit to European banks. This is a kind of role reversal for the bankers and a bouleversement of an institution that had been recently reinvented in a technocratic paradigm. After the 1980s, central bankers became respected econocrats whose technical practice was inflation targeting via shortterm interest-rate variation with freedom from political interference (or democratic accountability) justified by claims of technical mastery and neutrality. This Article that explores these issues is organized in a relatively straightforward way. Part II provides a brief overview of the scientization of central banking and the recent return to improvization. Then, Part III focuses on the peculiarity of a new conjuncture where the central banks have gone long on no growth capitalism. Part IV provides an overview of mainstream verdicts for and against quantitative easing, while Part V presents our analysis of the distributive issues.