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How Will Capitalism End?: Essays on a Failing System

The provocative political thinker asks if it will be with a bang or a whimper
After years of ill health, capitalism is now in a critical condition. Growth has given way to stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the money economy has all but evaporated.

In How Will Capitalism End?, the acclaimed analyst of contemporary politics and economics Wolfgang Streeck argues that the world is about to change. The marriage between democracy and capitalism, ill-suited partners brought together in the shadow of World War Two, is coming to an end. The regulatory institutions that once restrained the financial sector’s excesses have collapsed and, after the final victory of capitalism at the end of the Cold War, there is no political agency capable of rolling back the liberalization of the markets.

Ours has become a world defined by declining growth, oligarchic rule, a shrinking public sphere, institutional corruption and international anarchy, and no cure to these ills is at hand.

Reviews

  • “Streeck’s title question—though never answered—opens a window onto the conflict between capitalism and democracy in the neoliberal era. That such a conflict exists is no surprise in Brazil, and still hidden to many in the United States, but a rude and inescapable shock to those who grew up with the comfortable illusions and utopian hopes of post-war Europe.”
  • “Neoliberalism continues to delimit political choice across the globe yet it is clear that the doctrine is in severe crisis. In Wolfgang Streeck’s powerful new book How Will Capitalism End? Streeck demonstrates that the maladies afflicting the world—from secular stagnation to rising violent instability—herald not just the decline of neoliberalism, but what may prove to be the terminal phase of global capitalism.”
  • “At the heart our era’s deepening crisis there lies a touching faith that capitalism, free markets and democracy go hand in hand. Wolfgang Streeck’s new book deconstructs this myth, exposing the deeply illiberal, irrational, anti-humanist tendencies of contemporary capitalism.”
  • “An important and stimulating book. It is especially interesting in the light of fashionable preoccupations with secular stagnation, the march of robots and the lamentable performance of most leading economies since the onset of the financial crisis.”
  • “The most interesting person on the most urgent subject of our times”
  • “Streeck writes devastatingly and cogently … How Will Capitalism End? provides not so much a … forecast as a warning.”
  • “As the economic gloom deepens to the pitch black night of geopolitical crisis, in the economics departments of the world there can still be heard the confident chuckle: "but capitalism always survives". Wolfgang Streeck's book How Will Capitalism End? An extended riff on the possibility of the mainstream economists being wrong. Streeck synthesises the various strands of left crisis theory into a convincing proposal”
  • “Democratic capitalism is in bad shape. The crisis of 2007-09 and subsequent election of Donald Trump demonstrate that. In this book, German sociologist Streeck argues that capitalism is doomed, as many have before. But he does not believe it will be replaced by something better. Instead a new Dark Ages lies ahead.”
  • “This collection will be at the centre of social research for years to come”
  • How Will Capitalism End? offers a powerful prognosis that predicts that the system will suffer a lingering death rather than go out with a bang...there are so many startling formulations of great analytic power in this book that it merits wide circulation in these troubled times.”
  • “The most interesting person around today on the subject of the relationship between democracy and capitalism”
  • “Streeck has become one of Europe's most sophisticated and pessimistic left-wing Euroskeptics...[his] criticism of the eurozone is powerful.”
  • “Not one to embrace the 'voluntaristic illusions' of 'we the people,' Streeck sees such fantasies as part of a deeper structural crisis…Neoliberalism, in fragmenting workers and consumers into desperately precarious personal brands, has made mass organization effectively impossible, while traditional political channels have been systematically choked off. Capitalism, therefore, won’t be overthrown. It will kill itself through its own power to overcome the restraints that bind it.”

Blog

  • Emmanuel Macron, spasm of the system

    First published in Le Monde Diplomatique. Translated by David Broder.



    "I'm going to be very clear..." Probably ignorant of the basic logics of the symptom, Emmanuel Macron seems unable to see how this repetitive way of starting each of his answers betrays the deep desire to cover things up — or rather, to recover them — that animates his whole campaign. "Keep on bathing between vagueness and nothingness" — that is what we should take from each of his promises of clarity. In his defence, we will admit that deferring to the obligation to speak when one's intention is to say nothing at all is one of the curses of this "democracy" that we have still found no satisfactory antidote for. Some will object that most of the candidates end up accommodating to this long and difficult moment — a moment one simply has to go through — and that the campaign-season fib is a well-established genre which should no longer be able to surprise anyone. For Macron, however, the problem takes on unprecedented proportions: not just a matter of slipping across a couple of whoppers, even of the calibre of "my enemy is finance" [as François Hollande claimed before his election in 2012]: rather, his entire campaign, and even his very persona as a candidate, constitute an essentially fraudulent enterprise.

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  • When I Think of France

    First published in Le Monde. Translated by Loren Balhorn.


    via Wikimedia Commons.

    Seen from Germany, it is possible to envy, admire, and feel sorry for France all at the same time. One can envy their freewheeling public debates on topics like “globalisation” and Americanisation, Europeanisation and Germanisation, capitalism, neoliberalism, “competitiveness,” and “structural reforms." This is because, in France, it is still allowed to publicly ask what words like “cosmopolitanism” really mean; what societies have to accept in exchange for this cosmopolitanism, how much thereof a society really needs or wants and, moreover, what sorts of compromises societies must make in a global market characterised by a universalistically diluted form of constitutional patriotism. In Germany, by contrast, those who neglect to drink from society’s daily dose of the cosmopolitan nectar tend to be excommunicated from public discourse. There is no legitimate public discussion of the French questions — not in literature, not in the social sciences, not in the media, and not in the parliament (here, as an institution driven by allegedly eternal and unchanging “Western values," least of all). Such questions are shunned, pushed into the far-right corner. Maybe it has to be this way in Germany, and maybe German expectations that it should be this way in other countries as well are merely an expression of envy.

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  • [Video:] David Harvey and Evgeny Morozov on Trump, neoliberalism, infrastructure, and "the sharing economy"



    On November 14, 2016 — as part of the Barcelona Initiative for Technological Sovereignty (BITS) — David Harvey sat down with Evgeny Morozov to discuss Trump's election and what it means for neoliberalism and infrastructure; as well as technologies of value extraction in contemporary cities.

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Other books by Wolfgang Streeck