Author(s): Wolfgang Streeck
The financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 still has the world on tenterhooks. The gravity of the situation is matched by a general paucity of understanding about what is happening and how it started. In this book, based on his 2012 Adorno Lectures given in Frankfurt, Wolfgang Streeck places the crisis in the context of the long neoliberal transformation of postwar capitalism that began in the 1970s. He analyses the subsequent tensions and conflicts involving states, governments, voters and capitalist interests, as expressed in inflation, public debt, and rising private indebtedness. Streeck traces the transformation of the tax state into a debt state, and from there into the consolidation state of today. At the centre of the analysis is the changing relationship between capitalism and democracy, in Europe and elsewhere, and the advancing immunization of the former against the latter. In this new edition, Streeck has added a substantial postface on the reception of the book and the unfolding of the crisis in the Eurozone since 2014.
"In its best parts-when political passion connects with critical exposition of the facts and incisive argument-Streeck's sweeping and empirically founded inquiry reminds one of Karl Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte." - Jurgen Habermas "Streeck's new book, Buying Time, argues that ever since the 1970s, governments in the west have been 'buying time' for the existing social and political order ... a timely corrective." - Larry Elliott, Guardian "Is electoral democracy compatible with the type of economic policies the EU-backed at a distance by Washington and Wall Street - wants to impose? This is the question posed by the Cologne-based sociologist Wolfgang Streeck in Buying Time, a book that is provoking debate in Germany. Streeck argues that since Western economic growth rates began falling in the 1970s, it has been increasingly hard for politicians to square the requirements of profitability and electoral success; attempts to do so ('buying time') have resulted in public spending deficits and private debt. The crisis has brought the conflict of interests between the financial markets and the popular will to a head: investors drive up bond yields at the 'risk' of an election. The outcome in Europe will be either one or the other, capitalist or democratic, Streeck argues; given the balance of forces, the former appears most likely to prevail. Citizens will have nothing at their disposal but words-and cobblestones." - Susan Watkins, London Review of Books "Streeck has here provided an excellent and challenging account of the current state of relations between capitalism and democracy. His concept of a state whose democratic responsibilities to voters are required systematically to be shared with and often trumped by those to creditors takes us a major step forward." - Colin Crouch, author of Coping With Post-Democracy "A superbly provocative work of political economy." - Aditya Chakrabortty, Guardian "Logically organized, well argued, scholarly informed, and rich in theoretical references and statistical series covering nearly six decades." - Robert Boyer, ILR Review
Wolfgang Streeck is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Research in Cologne and Professor of Sociology at the University of Cologne. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics and a member of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences as well as the Academia Europaea.