Francesco Boldizzoni


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

Cover Interview of September 16, 2020


Umberto Eco has shown us that a book can have different implications to different readers, often beyond the author’s intentions. This is perhaps inevitable, but I would nevertheless like to take this opportunity to say two or three things about the spirit in which I wrote it and what I think are the main points to take home.

First of all, this is a book written from the left and to remind the left of its responsibilities. There is not the slightest complacency on my part in narrating the misadventures of thinkers who hoped for a world liberated from capitalism and exploitation—a world in which human beings could be truly free—if anything, there is pain. I sometimes receive interview requests from conservative media eager to use the book’s conclusions to back reactionary agendas. Those looking in it for evidence to legitimize the status quo have taken the wrong direction.

My main point is that capitalism has survived so many predictions of its demise not because it is a particularly efficient system, nor because of some magical virtues of the markets, as the cliché would have it, but because it is rooted in the hierarchical and individualistic structure of modern Western societies. These elements—hierarchies and individualism—have taken shape over many centuries and cannot suddenly go away. No matter how much one fights the system, social institutions cannot be ended by acts of will.

The awareness that there are limits to what can be done, but that at the same time the existing order isn’t a fact of nature but a human construction, leads one to abandon both unhelpful feelings of resignation and pointless utopian fantasies and instead take the path of reasonable political change. The political message of the book is, therefore, an invitation to rediscover and practice radical social democracy. Capitalism can be governed by the state and forced to work to the advantage of the many. It is not an easy road, but one that has proved its value in the past and is worth trying again.