A new NBER working paper by Jagannathan, Kapoor and Schaumburg (ungated version here), argues that global imbalances + institutional failures caused the great recession and that the financial crisis was "just" a symptom.
The failures are:
"The inability of emerging economies to absorb savings through domestic investment and consumption due to inadequate national financial markets and difficulties in enforcing financial contracts through the legal system;
the currency controls motivated by immediate national objectives;
and the inability of the US economy to adjust to the perverse incentives caused by huge money inflows leading to a breakdown of checks and balances at various financial institutions.
The financial crisis in the US was but the first acute symptom that had to be treated. A sustainable recovery will only occur when the natural flow of capital from developed to developing nations is restored."
Interesting paper, not very technical. There is certainly something to the argument, but I am not sure this is anything like the major root cause of our current problems.