Critical Encounters: Capitalism, Democracy, Ideas

Wolfgang Streeck

October 01, 2020

MPIfG Book


London: Verso, 2020
224 pages
ISBN 978-1-78873-874-3 | hardback
ISBN 978-1-78873-876-7 | eBook

» Publisher's page
Streeck, Wolfgang
Critical Encounters: Capitalism, Democracy, Ideas. London: Verso, 2020.


From the acclaimed author of How Will Capitalism End? comes an omnibus of long-form critical essays engaging with leading economists and thinkers. Critical Encounters draws on Wolfgang Streeck’s inimitable writing for the London Review of Books and New Left Review, among other publications. It opens with treatments of two contrasting historical eras – factory capitalism and financialization – and three of the world’s major economies: the United States, France and Germany. A middle section surveys the hollowing out of Western democracies and reviews Yanis Varoufakis’s “strange but indispensable” memoir of the eurozone crisis.

Delving into the world of ideas, Streeck discusses the work of Quinn Slobodian, Mark Blyth, Jürgen Habermas and Perry Anderson. Finally, he zooms out to compare his home discipline of sociology to natural history, giving a remarkable and non-deterministic reading of Charles Darwin.

In the preface, Streeck reflects on the art (or craft) of book reviewing and the continuing merits of the book form. Critical Encounters also includes a series of “Letters from Europe,” penned as the coronavirus descended upon the Continent.


List of Books under Review


I. Capitalism
1. … the More They Stay the Same
2. The Fourth Power?
3. Chaotic Interregnum
4. Modernizing Class Conflict
5. The German Recipe

II. Democracy
6. The Custard and the Wall
7. The Politics of Depoliticization
8. The Magic Word to End All Confusion
9. Neither Forwards Nor Sideways. Perhaps Back?
10. Scenario for a Wonderful Tomorrow

III. Ideas
11. Fighting the State
12. Wrong Ideas or Real Interests?
13. You Need a Gun
14. What about Capitalism?
15. Two Worlds, Not One

Letters from Europe


Wolfgang Streeck

Wolfgang Streeck is Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. He is a member of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. His books include Buying Time, How Will Capitalism End? and Critical Encounters.


"Streeck insists in the preface to Critical Encounters that it is not 'a theory of anything'. It consists of 15 book reviews […], together with six columns Streeck wrote for a Spanish website within the past 12 months. They cover everything from the history of factories to the theory of evolution. Yet read together, even if they do not exactly add up to a theory, they do provide a compelling and distinctive analysis of the current political moment."

Hans Kundnani: "Review: A murkier Merkel." In The World Today, December 1, 2020

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