The crisis that is currently unfolding is unlike the recessions we have seen in previous decades and spells the end of an era. To gain an adequate understanding of such a watershed, we need to look at the crisis from a broad perspective. Otherwise we run the risk of merely looking at the symptoms rather than fundamental causes. This article first deals with structural economic imbalances that underpin the current crisis. Next it takes a more broad perspective by placing these imbalances in a social context that requires a reorientation. Finally, the prospects for such a reorientation are considered in the light of historical parallels.