Germany’s European Empire

Interview by Loren Balhorn, translation by Zachary Murphy King, Jacobin Magazine, August 2018
First published in German as Das deutsche Imperium europäischer Nation, Ada Magazin, July 2018

Let’s start with a simple question: what is your evaluation of Germany’s grand coalition after its first one hundred days? Is it a necessary evil, or would you have preferred something else?

No, no preferences. Maybe if there were any prospect that the left wing of an SPD [Social Democratic Party] in opposition would find itself forced to engage more with the non-sectarian elements in Die Linke, so that something new might emerge in the intersection where the Left could have something approaching prospects for taking power. But that would have been unlikely to happen even under a “Jamaica” government [i.e., a coalition between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats].

Are you worried about the possibility of new elections, given the ongoing dispute between Angela Merkel and her right-wing coalition partner, Horst Seehofer?

No, not at all. It would make no difference, except that the SPD would fall below fifteen percent, and the Greens would replace the CSU [Christian Socialist Union, the Christian Democrats’ Bavarian affiliate] in a “Merkel V” government. (…)

Continue reading on jacobinmag.com

Das deutsche Imperium europäischer Nation

Interview mit Loren Balhorn, Ada Magazin, Juli 2018

Beginnen wir mit einer einfachen Frage: Wie schätzen Sie die große Koalition nach ihren ersten 100 Tagen ein? Notwendiges Übel, oder wäre Ihnen etwas anderes lieber gewesen?

Nein, keine Präferenzen. Vielleicht wenn Aussicht bestünde, dass eine SPD-Linke in der Opposition sich gezwungen sähe, sich mehr als bisher auf die nicht-sektiererischen Elemente in der Linkspartei einzulassen, so dass in der Schnittstelle etwas Neues entstehen könnte: eine Linke mit so etwas wie einer Machtperspektive. Aber dazu wäre es wohl auch unter einer Jamaika-Regierung nicht gekommen.

Machen Sie sich Sorgen über die Möglichkeit vor Neuwahlen angesichts des andauernden Streits zwischen Merkel und Seehofer?

Nein, überhaupt nicht. Das macht alles keinen Unterschied. Außer dass die SPD unter 15 Prozent fallen würde und die Grünen die CSU in einer Regierung „Merkel V“ ersetzen würden. (…)

Weiterlesen auf adamag.de

One Question: Marx at 200

Interview by Cihan Aksan with John Bailes and leading thinkers,State of Nature, May 7, 2018

Wolfgang Streeck: As a student of sociology in Frankfurt at the end of the 1960s, I encountered Marx early. Unfortunately, however, nobody prevented me from getting in at the wrong end: the first chapters of Capital. This was too abstract for a twenty year-old from the provinces, with a pent-up need for concrete real-world experience.

It was only much later that I returned to Marx, when I was teaching at an American university, UW-Madison. There I became aware of the breathtaking complexity of Marx’s Hegel-trained conceptual apparatus, which surpasses everything that was produced at the time and later in social science, and which is uniquely suited to observe and represent conflicts, dilemmas, or ‘contradictions’ in social life. On this background I realized why the attempt had failed and had to fail to develop a theory (and practice) of the social-democratic governance of ‘modern’ societies with the help of a functionalist sociology and empiricist political science. (…)

Continue reading on stateofnatureblog.com

Other answers by: Ursula Huws, Sven-Eric Liedman, Terrell Carver, Jayati Ghosh, Frigga Haug, Lucia Pradella, Neil Faulkner, Lars T Lih, Esther Leslie, Guilherme Leite Gonçalves, Michael Roberts.

Macron risque d’être le troisième Président consécutif à ne faire qu’un mandat

Interview by Jorge Gomes-Ferreira, L’arène nue, April 24, 2018.

Vous observez beaucoup l’Europe. Après la longue crise politique qui a eu lieu dans votre pays et a amené à la reconduction de la « Grande coalition », après les élections italiennes de mars dernier, où en sommes nous selon vous ?

Nous nous trouvons devant une impasse, devant un équilibre, non pas des forces, mais des faiblesses. Suite aux élections, l’Allemagne n’est plus en mesure de répondre aux attentes de ses partenaires en termes de « réformes », c’est-à-dire en termes de concessions matérielles : l’AfD et le FDP feront tout au Bundestag pour dénoncer ouvertement et avec fracas toute initiative qui irait au-delà du traité de Maastricht ou de ce que permet la Constitution allemande. En Italie, depuis la fin de Renzi, il n’est plus envisageable que le pays poursuive les réformes néo-libérales exigées d’elle jusqu’à maintenant. Cela impliquerait que l’Italie puisse attendre de l’Allemagne un soutien économique en retour, qui ne soit pas que symbolique. (Continuez sur http://l-arene-nue.blogspot.de/)

Are we heading for another economic crash?

Interview by Cihan Aksan with John Bailes and leading thinkers, State of Nature, January 15, 2018

Wolfgang Streeck: I’m not a prophet. But there is no capitalism without the occasional crash, so if you will we are always heading for one. Inflation in the 1970s was ended by a return to ‘sound money’ in 1980, which begot deindustrialization and high unemployment, which together with tax cuts for the rich begot high public debt. When public debt became too high, fiscal consolidation in the 1990s had to be compensated, for macro-economic as well as political reasons, by capital market deregulation and private household debt, which begot the crash of 2008.

Now, almost a decade later, public debt is higher than ever, so is private debt; the global money volume has been steadily increasing for decades now; and the central banks are producing money as though there was no tomorrow, by buying up all sorts of debt with cash made ‘out of thin air’, which is called Quantitative Easing. While everybody knows that this cannot go on forever, nobody knows how to end it – same with public and private debt, same with the money supply. Something is going to happen, presumably soon, and it is not going to be pleasant. (Read other answers)

Other answers by: Cédric Durand, Susan Newman, David M. Kotz, Minqi Li, Mary Mellor, Andrew Ross, Tim di Muzio, Dario Azzellini, Ying Chen, Richard Murphy, Michael Roberts, Lena Rethel and Heikki Patomäki.

The Future of Capitalism

Podcast about the trajectory of capitalism and democracy, Center for Urban Research and Austerity, January 15, 2018

A talk with Wolfgang Streeck, Professor emeritus of sociology. From 1995 to 2014 he was Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. His latest book is How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System (Verso, 2016).

Drawing widely on classics from Schumpeter, Polanyi and Marx, Streeck offers an account of the lineage of democracy, capitalism and the state since the post-war period, identifying the deeply de-democratising and self-destructive trajectory in contemporary capitalist development. Against liberal received wisdom, Streeck argues that democracy and capitalism are anything but natural partners or easy bedfellows, but have in fact been in constant historical tension. The post-war social democratic settlement represents an unusual “fix” to this tension that was relatively favourable to the popular classes, or “wage dependent”, parts of the population. However, this fix unravelled in the 70’s as the capitalist, or “profit-dependent”, class rediscovered its agency and, with neo-liberal globalisation and financialisation, began to shape a world in its interests.

Streeck argues that these processes are putting in danger not only the existence of democratic politics, which is increasingly circumscribed by the need for states to appease financial markets, but also the future of capitalism itself. Streeck’s vision for what is to come is gloomy. Capitalism continues to erode the social foundations necessary for its own sustenance, as well as the resources needed to collectively construct an alternative order. Institutional and policy fixes to capitalist contradictions are running out. We can expect the result to be the development of an increasingly uncertain and under-institutionalised social order, reminiscent of a Hobbesian state of nature, where individual agency and creativity becomes fundamental to meet basic needs and achieve even minimal goals. Politics offers hope of rupture, but is itself increasingly constrained and defiled by capitalist development and rationality. (Podcast on soundcloud or itunes)

Farewell, neoliberalism

Interview, Kings Review, December 14, 2017

KR: In your recent NLR piece you characterise neoliberalism as “Free-trade agreements […] global governance [..] enabling commodification, and […] the competition state of a new era of capitalist rationalisation“. Do you see any possibility for capitalism to exist without being neoliberal? Can there be good capitalism?

Wolfgang Streeck: Capitalism wasn’t always neoliberal: there was merchant capitalism, industrial capitalism, old-liberal capitalism, Hilferdingian finance capitalism, state-administered New Deal capitalism, you name them. All of them embodied complex historical compromises between classes, nations, social life and the profit-making imperative… Were they “good”? For some they always were, and there were times, in the heydays of the social-democratic class compromise, when wage-earners, too, could perceive capitalism as fair. It didn’t last. We now face rising insecurity, declining growth rates, growing inequality, exploding indebtedness everywhere – a high-risk world run by a tiny oligarchy, or kleptocracy, who are working hard to de-couple their fate from that of the rest of the societies that they have asset-stripped. (Continue on kingsreview.co.uk)