Buying Time

Buying Time

The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism

Paperback - 2014
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"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"-- Provided by publisher.
"The financial crisis keeps us on edge and creates a diffuse sense of helplessness. Well-nigh unfathomable problems lead to measures that seem like emergency operations on the open heart of the Western world, performed with no knowledge of the patient's clinical history. The gravity of the situation is matched by the paucity of our understanding of it, and of how it came about in the first place. In this book, compiled from his Adorno Lectures given in Frankfurt, Wolfgang Streeck lays bare the roots of the present financial, fiscal and economic crisis, seeing it as part of the long neoliberal transformation of postwar capitalism that began in the 1970s. Linking up with the crisis theories of that decade, he analyses the subsequent tensions and conflicts involving states, governments, voters and capitalist interests--a process in which the defining focus of the European state system has shifted from taxation through debt to budgetary "consolidation." The book then ends by exploring the prospects for a restoration of social and economic stability. Buying Time is a model of enlightenment. It shows that something deeply disturbing underlies the current situation: a metamorphosis of the whole relationship between democracy and capitalism"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Brooklyn, NY : Verso, 2014.
ISBN: 9781781685488
Characteristics: xviii, 220 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm


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May 01, 2017

In this short book, adapted from the author's 2012 Adorno Lectures, Wolfgang Streeck asserts that the Marxist analysis of the crisis threatening capitalist democracy in the 1970s was fundamentally correct, only the crisis was delayed by factors the analysts had not considered. In his view, the critics correctly understood that the pending crisis involved the legitimacy of capitalism and its cultural contradictions with a democratic society, but what they had not grasped was the extent to which it would be the forces of capital which challenged democracy, eroding the postwar welfare state in favor of neoliberal free markets. This was accompanied by an explosion of consumerism driven by easy credit, with private debt supplementing the of public debt. This, in turn, has lead to the rise of a globalized creditor class - what Streeck calls the Marktvolk - whose interests differ markedly from those of the ordinary citizens - the Staatsvolk.

In Streeck's view, the economic crisis which began in 2008 exposed the manifold ways in which capitalism has subverted democracy. Insisting on the distinction between market justice and social justice, Streeck demonstrates how neoliberalism has managed to promote the former over and against the latter, primarily by the delegation of authority to international bodies, especially the European Union, which serve to shield the market from popular political pressure. A correction, if it is to come, must therefore take the form derided by the elites as populism - an assertion of national sovereignty placing the needs of the Staatsvolk over those of the Marktvolk.

Buying Time is a short book that necessarily presents a simplified view of a complicated matter - although this simplification has the virtue of clarity. Streeck's Marxist background causes him to treat the Marktvolk as a self-conscious body, and his analysis overestimates their commitment to laissez faire by treating it as an ideological matter rather than one of practical convenience. He also underestimates the extent to which today's workers are themselves capitalists, especially through their pension plans. Finally, and most obviously, there is the difficulty of the once-failed prophet assuring his listeners that this time he's right. At the same time, whether or not the cultural contradictions of capitalism are now approaching their climax, it would be foolish to disagree with Streeck's thesis that they are more glaring now than ever before.


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