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How Will Capitalism End? Essays on a Failing System

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  542 ratings  ·  93 reviews
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 Wolf
ebook, 272 pages
Published November 1st 2016 by Verso (first published October 1st 2016)
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ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) In Lockdown
Read at your own risk.

"Democratic capitalism was fully established only after the Second World War and then only in the 'Western' parts of the world, North America and Western Europe. There it functioned extraordinarily well for the next two decades so well, in fact, that this period of uninterrupted economic growth still dominates our ideas and expectations of what modern capitalism is, or could and should be. This is in spite of the fact that, in the light of the turbulence that followed, the
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Compulsive Pontification

Streeck's academic thesis is straightforward: Capitalism has adapted successfully to the conditions it itself has created since its formation in the late 18th century. But capitalism now lacks potential responses to future crisis. Economic policy-makers, he believes, have run out of effective economic antibiotics and must simply wait for the next evolved super-bug to strike. Streeck is agnostic about the source of the next crisis - ecological devastation, inadequate consu
"A general logic of crisis" is how capitalism will end. (Shades of Habermas??)

For political economists and all those that strive to think like one, check out this book review if you didn't catch it in LRB. Shared by a political economist friend in Turkey, trained at London School of Economics, and waiting to be pulled from his classroom most any day in Istanbul that is growing more fascist and reactionary every day.
David M
Read. this. book.

Though I do believe it's now too late to vote in the prestigious goodreads' choice awards, this would get my nod for best nonfiction published in 2016.

In a recent interview with the Jacobin, Streeck said that the most pressing task for the left right now is to sober up. Well, this book (particularly the introduction and title essay) certainly has that effect - profoundly sobering, not to say devastating. Before 11-8, I would have found his analysis interesting but somewhat abstr
howl of minerva
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to howl of minerva by: David M
The first essay is 5-star and a must-read. See David M's review and others.

After that it gets a bit repetitive. His euroscepticism raises very valid concerns but he kind of misses the point in that the purpose of the EU is to prevent further intra-European wars, particularly Franco-German.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I came across an excellent quote from Wolfgang Streeck in another capitalism-is-doomed book that I read not long ago, damned if I can remember which one though. Thus his name piqued my interest and I was compelled to borrow ‘How Will Capitalism End?’ when I saw it in the library. The book consists of eleven essays, none as long as the introduction, on three broad topics: capitalism’s incompatibility with democracy, the history of capitalism’s self-destructiveness, and how the discipline of socio ...more
Maru Kun
Jan 17, 2017 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: investment-made
Interesting review by Adam Tooze on this work in the London Review of Books: A General Logic of Crisis.
"...Streeck believes...Capitalism will end not because it faces serious opposition but because over the course of the coming decades and centuries it can be relied on to consume and destroy its own foundations. We should expect ever intensifying stagnation, inequality, the plundering of the public domain, corruption and the escalating risk of major war, all of this accompanied by a pervasive
Dec 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 3-stars
An interesting read that lacks a strong conclusion or takeaway. Yes, Streeck does a great job of showing our path from social democracy to consolidation state via neoliberalism. The chapter that focuses on the incompatibility of capitalism and democracy is the strongest aspect of the book and worth the price of admission alone.

The reason for three stars is his unwillingness to propose a potential solution for the income gap and the mounting obligations of the debt states. He briefly mentions ge
Athan Tolis
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Comfortably the most provocative thing about this book is its title.

Away from that, this collection of twelve essays on the decline of the market economy is very sober and sedate. It’s certainly no call to arms! Neither its content nor its style relate in any way to the sundry cod-revolutionaries who endorse it on the cover; Streeck, a serious sociologist, is nothing like them!

His answer to the question he asks on the cover of the book can be summarized in a rather apologetic “we don’t know for
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Streeck is an exceptionally clear writer, and he makes a cogent case throughout these essays on the ongoing transformation of capitalism ... but into what? Just chaos, it seems.

"For the decline of capitalism to continue, that is to say, no revolutionary alternative is required, and certainly no masterplan of a better society displacing capitalism. Contemporary capitalism is vanishing on its own, collapsing from internal contradictions, and not least as a result of having vanquished its enemies –
Ferhat Culfaz
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. 6 out of 5. Sociologist by training yet excellent analysis of economics and of contemporary capitalism. Structured in a series of essays from past papers, Streeck highlights the dialectic between democracy and capitalism and how capitalism needs counter movements to function and improve. Otherwise it will eat itself. Streeck envisages a decline like the end of the Western Roman Empire to the Dark Ages. His analysis and insight is in the total history style of Braudel.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, politics
The glass is half empty. This is not primarily because of either the contemporary triumph of capitalism or its imminent catastrophic demise but because there is no evident alternative in view. The introduction to this collection of essays is oppressively pessimistic and I was initially reluctant to continue reading. The remainder of the book is more constructive to the extent that it enters into a detailed and interesting analysis of the interactions between politics and economics and it does in ...more
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, politics
Finally got around to reading this after hearing Paul Kennedy interview the author on CBC's Ideas.

Mixed feelings. It's incredibly soporific, but occasionally he busts out a passage like this:

How should we imagine a capitalism which is not dependent, for the sake of social cohesion, on a bloated credit system that promises to underwrite unlimited consumption standards of which everybody knows by now that they are not generalizable? A credit system, for that matter, whose promises seem increasing
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults.
Recommended to Helen by: No-one.
Shelves: sociology
This book consists of long introductory chapter followed by several articles written by Professor Streeck, on the 2008 global financial and its causes & effect in general, and how academic sociologists should re-calibrate their area of research to include the study of capitalism since it is according to Mr. Streeck, at the heart of society today.

I thought the book was brilliant albeit not an easy read - since Mr. Streeck manages to pack so many ideas & references into sometimes lengthy sentences
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Meanwhile an astonishing number of parents, single or coupled, have cheerfully adjusted to a high-pressure way of life somehow combining child-rearing with ever longer hours of ever more demanding and insecure employment. Rather than complaining or rebelling, many seem to take the stress as a test of their personal capacity for permanent improvement, much lie high-performance athletes. Living the contemporary capitalist way of life, parents comply with social expectations that they subject thems ...more
Robert Maisey
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Extremely rigorous, economistic analysis of the post 2008 political landscape, with forensic insights into the intersections of politics, finance, democracy and culture. Although this was published before the democratic earthquakes that saw Donald Trump become president of the USA, Britain leave the EU and the implosion of social democratic parties across the western hemisphere, the shape of all these events are clearly sketched out in this highly prescient text.

Streeck argues that the crisis of
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Well...I think I understand most of what Streeck had to say just by reading the introductory chapter. I say "think" because his writing style is somewhat obtuse, academic, and wordy, so I feel that the book is intended for a more academic audience, or at least one with more knowledge of macroeconomics than I have.

Essentially the book is a set of lectures Streeck gave a few years after the economic collapse of 2008-09, fronted by an introductory chapter that well summarizes his thesis. I entirel
Alistar Flofsky
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An emerging neo-feudal relationship between private wealth and the public sphere
„One might have mentioned declining overall growth rates intensifying distributional conflicts and sharply paring down the willingness of the rich to make concessions to the poor. One could also have spent more time on what I believe is a particularly important aspect of the weakening of states and governments, which is the immense capacity today of rich citizens and corporations to escape taxation by moving income t
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
I checked out this book because the title was intriguing. Unfortunately, the book never addresses the end of capitalism at all, beyond suggesting that it could end. This is actually a series of essays, only marginally related, that cover different aspects of capitalism's failures in America and Europe. The emphasis seems to be on the incompatibility between capitalism and democracy. Even if they had titled the book How Capitalism Fails, which would have been a more appropriate title, it still is ...more
Bookforum Magazine
"It may be that this is the dawn of a true neoliberal tyranny, in the service of an empowered oligarchy–one that will put the eurozone to shame. We don't know yet. What is clear is that the arrangements that have guaranteed capitalism's survival for decades are transforming before our eyes, and our models can't predict what's coming next."

–Jamie Martin on Wolfgang Streeck's How Will Capitalism End? in the Feb/Mar 2017 issue of Bookforum

To read the rest of this review, go to Bookforum:
Belinda Carvalho
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I see the issues in this book all around me. Great analysis of the problems with capitalism and why they aren't being addressed. ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: capitalism
Even if one disagrees with a lot of the books’ claims (as I would do, especially it’s fairly pessimistic outlook), it’s hard not to admit that this is a striking work of bold and thought-provoking theses.

Streeck makes a strong case for a new look at capitalism and its history since the 1970s, an ongoing tug of war and uneasy truce between “social justice” and “market justice” resulting in ever more dramatic crises: first the public spending-fuelled inflation crisis of the 1970s, the public debt
Peter Harrison
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, economics
Wolfgang Streeck may not in fact answer the question that he poses in the title of this book, but it is still a superb read.

It consists of a set of essays and speeches from the German sociologist published previously in New Left Review (and elsewhere) and organised around the theme of the challenges to capitalism. Each is a thoughtful and valuable contribution to the analysis of modern capitalist, it's impact on society, politics, and environment, and what our options for the future might be.

Wolfgang Streeck is a prominent German sociologist of the old school, i.e. unashamedly Marxist. He is also a prominent public intellectual with exceptional scope, one of the few social scientists to still take on economics and economists. This book is a collection of essays on the failures of (neoliberal) capitalism of the past decades. It is dark and devoid of hope, as Streeck, in essence, stands with Marx that capitalism holds within itself its own destruction. Unlike Marx, he doesn't think it ...more
Eric Bottorff
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Putting aside some rather serious misunderstandings about public debt and fiscal crises of the state, Streeck is easily one of the most astute and important thinkers today on the topic of modern capitalism. And his pessimism is, quite frankly, refreshing and warranted.
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Clear writing and thinking on consumption, austerity, culture, and the EU. I don't think he gets sovereign debt quite right, but Streek's assertions re: technical branding of capitalist management are very well received.

A few essays covered some of the same subject matter, making them seem repetitive in collected form.
Jonathan Norton
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Greg Bates
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wolfgang Streeck has acquired prominence in contemporary debates about the future of capitalism as an advocate of the themes advanced by the economic historian cum sociologist, Karl Polyani, most famously set out in his book The Great Transformation.

Polyani argued that capitalism has an inescapable tendency towards instability arising from the conflicts it set up between the principles of the market and that of society in general. Markets require that life is judged by the principle of economic
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39 likes · 19 comments
“For the decline of capitalism to continue, that is to say, no revolutionary alternative is required, and certainly no masterplan of a better society displacing capitalism. Contemporary capitalism is vanishing on its own, collapsing from internal contradictions, and not least as a result of having vanquished its enemies - who, as noted, have often rescued capitalism from itself by forcing it to assume a new form. What comes after capitalism in its final crisis, now underway, is, I suggest, not socialism or some other defined social order, but a lasting interregnum - no new world system equilibrium a la Wallerstein, but a prolonged period of social entropy or disorder (and precisely for this reason a period of uncertainy and indeterminacy). It is an interesting problem for sociological theory whether and how a society can turn for a significant length of time into less than a society, a post-social society as it were, or a society lite, until it may or may not recover and again to become a society in the full meaning of the term.” 7 likes
“Before capitalism will go to hell, then, it will for the foreseeable future hang in limbo, dead or about to die from an overdose of itself but still very much around, as nobody will have the power to move its decaying body out of the way.” 6 likes
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