Wolfgang Streeck

Buying Time - The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism

Frankfurt Adorno Lecture 2012
(German title: Gekaufte Zeit)
ca. 271 pages
Wolfgang Streeck
Foto: Wolfgang Streeck
© Juergen Bauer

Wolfgang Streeck, born in 1946, is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Research in Cologne and professor of sociology at the University of Cologne.

He has previously held positions in Frankfurt, New York, Münster, and Berlin, and he was professor of sociology and industrial relations at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Wolfgang Streeck is an Honorary Fellow of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics and a member of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences as well as the Academia Europaea.

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Enlightenment par excellence

»Reminds one of Karl Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte«
Jürgen Habermas


The crisis has us all on tenterhooks and creates a pervasive sense of disorientation. Problems so large as to be entirely inscrutable provoke measures that seem like emergency open heart surgery on the entire Western world – carried out without examining the patient’s past medical history. As serious as the situation is, we seem just as incapable of understanding what exactly is going on. And how it could have come to this.

»The financial magic trick of recent decades has finally become too dangerous for us to risk buying time with it once more.«

In his Frankfurt Adorno lecture, Wolfgang Streeck exposes the roots of the current financial, fiscal, and economic crisis, which he situates in the context of a long neoliberal transformation of post-war capitalism stretching back to the 1970s.
With reference to the critical theories advanced at the time, Streeck analyses the way in which the tension between democracy and capitalism has unfolded over the course of the past four decades and the resulting conflicts between states, governments, voters, and the interests of capital. Finally, he shows how the European system of states has been remodelled from one based on taxation, via debt, to one based on consolidation, and he inquires into the prospects for the re-establishment of social and economic stability.

Buying Time shows how at the basis of our contemporary situation lies something which ought to trouble us deeply: the transformation of the relationship between democracy and capitalism, for: »Democracy as we know it is on the way to being separated from capitalism and, in the interests of the latter, being reduced to a combination of the rule of law with public entertainment.«

»Today the solution to the persistent financial and fiscal crisis seems to demand nothing less than a redefinition of the relationship between politics and economics and a fundamental restructuring of the system of states, particularly in Europe.«


Selected Foreign Editions


English edition released by Verso >>

French edition released by Gallimard >>

Italian edition released by Feltrinelli >>

Portuguese edition released by Actual >>

Swedish edition released by Daidalos >>


»Streeck has found a form of sociologically informed crisis narrative that enables us to see more clearly rather than give up in the face of the complexity of the world.« Süddeutsche Zeitung

»A critique of our current situation, the likes of which you have never seen.« Süddeutsche Zeitung

»Wolfgang Streeck issues a warning against the triumph of capitalism over democracy and presents a clear-sighted analysis of the origins of the crisis. […] One can only hope that as many people as possible read this book.« taz

Other publications

Die große Regression/The Great Regression (2017)

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