From the Demise of Social Democracy to the ‘End of Capitalism’

The Intellectual Trajectory of Wolfgang Streeck

In: Historical Materialism
Jerome Roos London School of Economics

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Over the past decade, Wolfgang Streeck has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in the debate on the crisis of democratic capitalism. This article provides a critical appraisal of Streeck’s recent writings in light of his wider intellectual trajectory, tracing the evolutions and continuities in his work over time; highlighting its important contributions to our understanding of the present crisis; and presenting a fourfold critique of his latest book on the end of capitalism. The main argument is that Streeck’s work, while very valuable for its elucidation of the dynamics behind the demise of social democracy, ultimately remains plagued by a corporatist residue that keeps him from drawing his increasingly radical critique of capitalism to its logical conclusions. As a result, Streeck’s embrace of an exceedingly catastrophist worldview, devoid of any emancipatory potential, has tempted him to veer dangerously close to the welfare chauvinism of the nationalist right.

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