Geopolitical Economy and Class Formation
Geopolitical Economy and Class Formation

Democratic Capitalism in the Last Stages? Capital as Agency in Wolfgang Streeck’s Analysis of the Crisis

Wolfgang Streeck’s Gekaufte Zeit/ Buying Time contains a compelling analysis that points to the origins of the current crisis in the wave of strikes of 1968-69. It caused the capitalist class to try and wrest free from the post-war social (-democratic) contract forced on it by labour. However, not only does Streeck not pay attention to imperialism and war, he also tends to assume that capital-as-agency governed the entire period since, attempting to postpone the full social impact of the crisis in three different ways, restricting democracy as it went along. However, the three periods he distinguishes (inflation, state debt and private debt) were directed by changing coalitions of capitalist interests uniting behind a different concept of control—corporate liberalism and two versions of neoliberalism. This highlights that in 2008, when these remedies all had exhausted themselves, capital-as-agency in command was the bloc of forces led by speculative, money-dealing capital, which in the 1990s had captured the states of the West and steered them onto a path of high-risk, high-reward policies both in the economy proper and in international affairs. This explains why after 2008, solutions to the crisis followed this particular political-economic orientation, with more risk-taking in all areas on the agenda.

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