Francesco Boldizzoni


On his book Foretelling the End of Capitalism: Intellectual Misadventures since Karl Marx

Cover Interview of September 16, 2020

A close-up

The first part of the book tells a story of disappointments with our ability to forecast the future of capitalism. This story unfolds in several stages: the Victorian era (Chapter 1), the interwar period (Chapter 2), and the postwar period until the early 1980s (Chapter 3). In the camp of the anticapitalist left, one comes across the betrayed hopes of many old acquaintances, from Karl Marx to Herbert Marcuse. In the conservative and liberal camp, on the other hand, examples range from Friedrich Hayek’s phobia of socialism to Daniel Bell’s moralistic anxieties about the affluent society. In between, one makes more unexpected encounters such as those with John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes.

Chapter 4 continues with an analysis of what has gone wrong with our thinking about the economy and society since the 1990s, a section that could perhaps be of special interest to those who are looking for the roots of the troubled political times we are in. It challenges a number of myths: the myth of the “end of history” and the triumph of the liberal order; the myth that the postindustrial age would erase class conflict and turn workers into high-tech capitalists; the myth that the notions of “left” and “right” have lost their meaning, and so on. The book went to press too early for me to be able to cover the expectations of radical change triggered by the 2020 pandemic, but ample space is devoted to the hopes of seeing capitalism overthrown that followed the global financial crisis at the turn of the 2010s.

To those impatient to reach the book’s conclusions, however, I would suggest focusing on the last two chapters. Chapter 5, a rather disenchanted reflection on the legacy of the Enlightenment, contains the key to all previous chapters. Chapter 6, which I mentioned earlier, seeks on the other hand to answer the questions of what capitalism is, what keeps it alive, and to what extent it can be overcome.