The artifice for capitalism’s survival will not work forever

Interview with the Greek online journal, Marginalia , October, 2018.

In your most recent book (How will capitalism end?, 2016) you mention that the history of capitalism has been, since the 19th century at least, a history of its crises. However, the various predictions of its end have been proven wrong until now. Today, alongside a widespread consensus on the seriousness of the ongoing crisis, there is a total disagreement on how and if it is going to have an end at all. How can one explain this “Babel”? Does it make sense anymore, after so many false predictions, to ask economists and sociologists to predict the future?

What older theories of capitalist decline, or capitalist end, did not know, and could not know, is how many different forms capitalism as a social and economic system can assume – from liberal to state-administered to neoliberal, or from merchant to industrial to financial, etc. etc. Often enough, these transformations happened in the last minute, forced by crises, powerful countermovements, or, not least, the rise of the state and global warfare in the twentieth century. Still, the basic problem of modern capitalism remains: it is a socio-economic regime that depends on endless growth – endless accumulation of capital – in a finite world. All sorts of tricks have been invented to suspend that problem provisionally and for the time being; but there is no reason to believe that this will always be successful. In any case, giving up on thinking only because the question is difficult is not a good idea. (…)

Continue reading on
Greek version

Billige Tugend

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 14. Oktober 2018, Seite 44.

Didier Eribon lag mit seiner Kritik an Sahra Wagenknecht in diesem Feuilleton falsch: Offene Grenzen sind noch keine Politik. Die Linken brauchen vielmehr einen neuen Internationalismus.

„Sahra Wagenknecht ist mitverantwortlich für das, was in Chemnitz geschehen ist, weil sie die sogenannte Migrantenproblematik zum Bestandteil der linken Agenda gemacht hat (. . .) Wagenknechts Aussage, sie sei gegen das Konzept offener Grenzen, (. . .) suggeriert, dass man mit ihr auch über Grenzzäune, Hunde und Internierungslager reden kann.“ Das ist eine Menge Holz, vor allem von jemand, der sich „in gewisser Weise“ für das „verantwortlich“ erklärt, was Wagenknecht so alles unternimmt. Ich habe, wie andere auch, Eribons „Rückkehr nach Reims“ – als Soziologe war er und ist er mir bis heute nicht aufgefallen – durchaus mit Bewegung gelesen. Hätte ich das Buch zu rezensieren gehabt, hätte ich den Dauertriumphalismus des Autors über seinen eigenen Bildungsaufstieg etwas nervig gefunden; Bildungsaufsteiger gibt es in unserer Generation ja nicht gerade selten. Wichtiger, mir wäre die geradezu ontologische Beschreibung der Arbeiterklasse, jeder Arbeiterklasse und nicht nur der Familie Eribon, als „rassistisch“ merkwürdig und bemerkenswert erschienen. (…)

Weiterlesen [PDF]

Marx’s writing more relevant today than ever

Interview by Jipson John and Jitheesh P.M., Monthly Review Online, December 06, 2018.

Originally published in Frontline, November 09, 2018

In “How will capitalism end?”, your 2014 article for “New Left Review”, you gave a theoretical farewell to capitalism. You identified five disorders to the system, namely, declining growth, oligarchy, starvation of public sphere, corruption and international anarchy that would bring about the end of capitalism. Are you saying that such an end is impending or immediate before us?

I am not saying that. I am saying that those five trends will continue as there is nothing to be seen that can stop them. I am also saying that there is no new society waiting in the wings of history, which will only have to be instituted by the forces of capitalist opposition. Instead, I am expecting a long period of high uncertainty and disorder—an interregnum in which the old order has died while a new order cannot yet be born. Very strange things can happen in such a time, as Antonio Gramsci pointed out in a famous passage of his The Prison Notebooks.

You argue that capitalism will continue to regress and atrophy until at some point it might end. You also add that we do not need to confront capitalism but let its “natural” end come about. Will capitalism end in such a peaceful manner or will it endanger humanity? People such as John Bellamy Foster speak of either socialism or exterminism as the choice before humanity.

The interregnum will be an extremely dangerous period. It is not that we don’t need to confront capitalism. I said we don’t have the collective capacity to do away with it. I wish we did. But capitalism is now a global regime while anti-capitalist politics is inevitably local. That makes it possible to throw sand into the wheels of capitalist development but, I am afraid, not to end it. (…)

Continue reading on

Legado de Merkel es un montón de promesas vacías

Entrevista por Catalina Göpel, La Tercera, 19 de noviembre, 2018.

De visita en Chile para participar de la tercera cátedra Norbert Lechner 2018 “Globalización y la crisis del sistema estatal internacional” organizada por la Universidad Diego Portales, el sociólogo alemán Wolfgang Streeck, del Instituto Max Planck para los Estudios de Sociedades, conversó con La Tercera para abordar -entre otras cosas- los principales desafíos de Europa frente al auge del populismo en ese continente y el fin de la carrera política de la canciller germana Angela Merkel. “Va a culpar de su salida a estos movimientos nacionalistas”, dijo.

¿Qué ha permitido el auge de los movimientos nacionalistas y populistas en Europa?

Cuando la centroizquierda no pudo responder a los problemas actuales, esto puso las esperanzas de la gente en los nacionalismos. Actualmente la globalización socava la capacidad política del Estado Nación y frente a esto los desafíos son también los de encontrar las respuestas a las fuentes de la ansiedad e incertidumbre que experimenta el electorado. Eso quiere decir empleo, seguridad, sistema de pensiones, básicamente los fundamentos del orden de la posguerra. (…)

Continúe en

Linke Politik im Schachmatt?

Gespräch mit Clemens Lukitsch, Grautöne, November, 2018.

Der Soziologe Streeck analysiert einen zunehmend der demokratischen Kontrolle entzogen Kapitalismus. Auf die wirtschaftlichen, folgen die politische Erschütterungen in den westlichen Gesellschaften – der Aufstieg regressiver Parteien in Europa, die Wahl Trumps in den USA. Grautöne fragt Streeck, wie viel Zeit noch „gekauft“ werden kann, bis der Konsens des „demokratischen Kapitalismus“ der Nachkriegszeit in sich zusammenfällt. In dem Gespräch geht es auch darum, welche Projekte eine auf soziale Gerechtigkeit abzielende Verteilungspolitik angehen müsste, was die Bewegung #aufstehen dazu beitragen kann und warum im linken Lager ein scharfer Konflikt zwischen Identitäts- und Verteilungsfragen entbrannt ist.


From Speciation to Specialization

Published in Social Research Vol. 85: No. 3: Fall 2018, 661-685.

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin

For a social scientist, reading Darwin’s origin of species is a simultaneously humbling and reassuring experience. What an achievement! Science and scientific writing at their best. A book that is the product of long thinking, such as we today, haunted by deadlines, can only dream of, and written in a clear, engaging language, immensely readable for even the (educated and interested) layperson. Everything is as simple as possible but no simpler, as allegedly demanded by none less than Albert Einstein himself. And profoundly honest: the open questions, the remaining mysteries carefully exposed, careful attention paid to the difficult spots, and the arguments of the opposition, both real and anticipated, treated with polite respect. (…)

Download [PDF]

Taking Back Control? The Future of Western Democratic Capitalism

Published in Efil Journal of Economic Research, Vol. 1 (2018), No. 3, 30-47

The international state system is in turmoil, due to pressures on its architecture that emanate from capitalist-economic globalization. Large states in particular seem to be losing the capacity to hold their societies together through economic redistribution from prospering to lagging sectors and regions. The results are centrifugal tendencies toward decentralization and secession, as well as toward exit from international organizations. To defend centralized rule, governments of large political units tend to turn authoritarian. Experimentation with small-scale units of governance seems attractive in many places, given the example of successful small countries that have preserved their national sovereignty, like Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland. Small states tend to be more homogeneous, more suitable for democratic self-government, and more capable of specializing on niches in the global economy where they are comparatively safe from head-on competition. (…)

Download [PDF]