Crisis and Critique of Social Sciences

Sociologica, 3/2016

Conversation with Riccardo Emilio Chesta

Retracing Wolfgang Streeck’s scientific path, the following interview illustrates some key nodes in critical political economy to finally focus on the general state of contemporary sociology. As a specific stream of a scientific niche, critical political economy addresses indeed relevant questions to both empirical research and sociological theory. Rooted in the so called “critical theory”, Streeck explains how every analysis of the institutional frameworks of contemporary capitalism cannot be detached from a historically grounded and a theoretically informed macro-sociological research. This peculiar articulation allows moreover to investigate the relations between social sciences research on diversity of capitalism and its political salience for democratic capitalism. Moving from personal experiences until general assessments on the state of the discipline, the interview finally aims to shed light on the practice of sociology as a Weberian Beruf – a professional and intellectual craft – and to elucidate its possibilities and limitations in the working and living conditions of contemporary academia.

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« Marx n’avait pas prévu Keynes »

Interview publié dans le magazine Books, Janvier/Février 2017, pp. 28-30

Que pouvons-nous encore ­apprendre de Karl Marx ?

D’abord que notre société est une société historique, qui s’inscrit dans un flux d’événements. Et ­ensuite que ce flux d’événements ­s’ordonne de façon structurelle, que l’évolution de la société obéit donc à une logique qu’il nous faut comprendre pour pouvoir inter­préter ce qui se passe. Cette logique est difficile à reconstruire, mais elle dyna­mise de façon extra­ordinaire la théorie et l’expérience historique. (…)

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Interview: Capitalism Breeds Reckless Consumption and Starves the Public Sphere, December 11, 2016

You cite the end of WWII as the time that capitalism and democracy became intractably enmeshed. How did it come to be that Western democracies came to assert that freedom could not exist without capitalism?

The way I would put it is that they became temporarily reconciled through Keynes‘ discovery that economic growth can be stimulated by redistribution from the wealthy to the poor. But „intractably enmeshed“ they were precisely not, as we have seen in recent decades when they were extricated from one another in the course of the neoliberal revolution. The pattern that emerged was what I call Hayekian statism: a strong state preventing democratic-egalitarian interference with markets, to allow the market to do its work — redistribute according to market rules, i.e., from the bottom to the top. Weiterlesen

Sociólogo alemán explica cómo la concentración de la riqueza minó la democracia y el Estado de Bienestar

Interview, CIPER Chile, August 23, 2016

El Estado de Bienestar retrocede en el mundo, dice Streeck. Y cree que ya no están las condiciones para reconstruirlo, como parecen pedir los miles que marcharon contra las AFP. El retroceso, dice, se debe a que durante los últimos 40 años los más ricos horadaron las finanzas públicas reduciendo sus impuestos. Las democracias desfinanciadas se volvieron deudoras y renunciaron a defender el bienestar por temor a que los capitales huyeran. Incluso perdieron sentido, pues “si un Estado no tiene otra opción que seguir las instrucciones de los inversionistas, no hace diferencia quién es elegido ni cómo”. (…) Continue

„Order is an exception, not the rule“

Interview, Revue de la régulation, July 29, 2016

What kind of topics and scholars exerted the heaviest influence on you in your formative years both in Germany (Frankfurt) and the US (New York Columbia University)?

I cannot claim that my intellectual development was straightforward. Also, I always was an intellectual omnivore, and I was and remained for a long time unable to make up my mind on whether I was more interested in social science or in the practice of politics. In Frankfurt it took me a while to find my first set of topics, which was political organizations, interest associations, in particular trade unions, and industrial sociology, especially the study of worker participation and co-determination. Apart from this, I read social theory, in particular Marx, Weber and Parsons, and attended classes taught by Adorno, Habermas, Offe and others. I also spent a lot of time, with hindsight perhaps too much time, in radical politics, at least as much in the Social-Democratic Party and in IG Metall as on campus. (…) Continue