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Capsule Review

Democratic Capitalism at the Crossroads: Technological Change and the Future of Politics

In This Review

Democratic Capitalism at the Crossroads: Technological Change and the Future of Politics
Democratic Capitalism at the Crossroads: Technological Change and the Future of Politics
By Carles Boix
Princeton University Press, 2019, 272 pp. Purchase

Beginning in the 1980s, Boix argues, revolutions in communications and the globalization of trade and production undermined the old class compromises at the heart of Western liberal democracy. Highly educated professionals have seen their incomes soar, and previously well-paid manufacturing workers, the old backbone of the middle class, are now struggling to survive. Boix places this crisis in perspective, illuminating the fraught relationship among technology, capitalism, and democracy over the last two centuries. The book focuses on watershed moments, starting with the birth of the Industrial Revolution in cities such as Manchester, where low factory wages, poor living conditions for workers, and rising wealth for owners brought political struggles over state protection and the extent of democracy. The golden age of capitalism and democracy emerged in the early twentieth century in places such as Detroit, where new technologies of mass production raised labor productivity, boosted wages, brought down inequality, and enabled vibrant liberal democracies. Today, another technological revolution is generating radical income inequality and destabilizing political life. Yet Boix rejects technological and economic determinism. Industrial societies, he believes, can still regain control of the future.

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