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Contribution to Collected Edition

On Fred Block, Varieties of What? Should We Still Be Using the Concept of Capitalism?


Streeck,  Wolfgang
Institutioneller Wandel im gegenwärtigen Kapitalismus, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Streeck, W. (2012). On Fred Block, Varieties of What? Should We Still Be Using the Concept of Capitalism? In J. Go (Ed.), Political Power and Social Theory (pp. 311-321). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000E-EBEE-4
There are good reasons for preferring the concept of capitalism over that of ‘‘market economy.’’ A capitalist economy is one that depends on the commercialization-through-monetarization of ever more social relations. The result is disequilibrium as the normal condition of a society placed under pressure by its ‘‘economy’’ for continuous reorganization in line with a need for ongoing capital accumulation. A capitalist society enlists the possessive individualism of its members as its principal vehicle of social progress, measured as an increase in wealth-as-money. While Polanyian theory has pointed out important features of advanced capitalist societies, there is no need to sacrifice core Marxian concepts for it. Marxian theory helps avoid the trap of political voluntarism, which stipulates a priority of politics in the capitalist political economy or a fundamental difference between ‘‘varieties’’ of capitalism. Moreover, rather than regarding the capitalist economy as by definition ‘‘always embedded,’’ political-economic theory must allow for a self-destructive, and indeed socially destructive, tendency of capitalist political economies to ‘‘disembed’’ themselves by struggling free from social controls and dictating to social life the imperatives of market efficiency and a marketconforming distribution of life chances.