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Review Essay

Capitalism in Crisis

What Went Wrong and What Comes Next

In This Review

Capitalism: A Short History
Capitalism: A Short History
By Jürgen Kocka
Princeton University Press, 2016, 208 pp. Purchase
Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism
Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism
By Wolfgang Streeck
Verso, 2014, 240 pp. Purchase
Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
By Paul Mason
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015, 368 pp. Purchase

Ever since the emergence of mass democracy after World War II, an inherent tension has existed between capitalism and democratic politics; capitalism allocates resources through markets, whereas democracy allocates power through votes. Economists, in particular, have been slow to accept that this tension exists. Instead, they have tended to view markets as a realm beyond the political sphere and to see politics as something that gets in the way of an otherwise self-adjusting system. Yet how democratic politics and capitalism fit together determines today’s world. Politics is not a mistake that gets in the way of markets.

The conflict between capitalism and democracy, and the compromises the two systems have struck with each other over time, has shaped our contemporary political and economic world. In the three decades that followed World War II, democracy set the rules, taming markets with the establishment of protective labor laws, restrictive financial regulations,

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