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Capitalism Should Have Gone on Trial, Not Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff and the Crisis: The Public Trial of Capitalism is not another retelling of the infamous and now incarcerated investment banker cum Ponzi schemer. Rather, in writing the book, Professor Colleen Eren (LaGuardia Community College) was more concerned with society’s reactions to the white-collar criminal, specifically how Bernie Madoff became the fall guy for nearly the entire financial crisis of 2008.

In her research, Eren read more than 15,000 articles on Madoff, interviewed reporters and editors covering the story, and even corresponded with Madoff himself — via emails, letters, and phone calls from prison.

From the news coverage, Eren gleaned that in the media’s and the public’s eye, Madoff represented all of the greed and evil leading to the financial collapse that sent millions of Americans into financial ruin. She argues it was easier to pin any anger or feelings of betrayal on a “monster” like Madoff rather than to confront “our relationship with capitalism.” The fact remains, there existed a history of deregulation dating back to the 1980s, which allowed people like Madoff, as well as the banks that caused the subprime mortgage crisis, to lead people astray.

But while Madoff will likely die in prison, Wall Street was largely left to go back to business as usual. “As long as we continue to make the problems that we have with global capitalism about individuals, the more we’re going to miss the real opportunity to break free of those structural constraints and imagine a future beyond capitalism — because there is no ethical capitalism,” says Eren.

Beyond SUM

Book Cover: 'Bernie Madoff and the Crisis' by Colleen Eren
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Bernie Madoff and the Crisis: The Public Trial of Capitalism
Stanford University Press, 2017

Work By
Colleen Eren (Professor, Sociology)

Colleges and Schools
LaGuardia Community College

Bonus Content
“Is He a Sociopath?” (Stanford University Press Blog)

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