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Late capitalism, or late-stage capitalism, is a term first used in print by German economist
Werner Sombart Werner Sombart (; ; 19 January 1863 – 18 May 1941) was a German economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts ...
around the turn of the 20th century. In the late 2010s, the term began to be used in the United States and Canada to refer to perceived absurdities, contradictions, crises, injustices, and inequality created by modern business development. Later capitalism refers to the historical epoch since 1940, including the
post–World War II economic expansion The post–World War II economic expansion, also known as the postwar economic boom or the Golden Age of Capitalism, was a broad period of worldwide economic expansion An economic expansion is an increase in the level of economic activity ...
called the "golden age of capitalism". The expression already existed for a long time in
continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical region ...

continental Europe
, before it gained popularity in the English-speaking world through the English translation of
Ernest Mandel Ernest Ezra Mandel (; also known by various pseudonyms such as Ernest Germain, Pierre Gousset, Henri Vallin, Walter; (5 April 1923 – 20 July 1995), was a Belgian Marxian economist and a Trotskyist activist and theorist. He fought in the und ...
's book ''Late Capitalism'', published in 1975. The German original edition of Mandel's work was subtitled "an attempt at an explanation", meaning that Mandel tried to provide an orthodox Marxist explanation of the post-war epoch in terms of Marx's theory of the capitalist mode of production. Mandel suggested that important qualitative changes occurred within the capitalist system during and after World War II and that there are limits to capitalist development.


History of the term

The term "late capitalism" was first used by
Werner Sombart Werner Sombart (; ; 19 January 1863 – 18 May 1941) was a German economist An economist is a practitioner in the social sciences, social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts ...
in his magnum opus ''Der Moderne Kapitalismus'', which was published from 1902 through 1927, and subsequent writings; Sombart divided capitalism into different stages: (1) proto-capitalist society from the early middle ages up to 1500 AD, (2) early capitalism in 1500–1800, (3) the heyday of capitalism (''Hochkapitalismus'') from 1800 to the first World War, and (4) late capitalism since then. Sombart's work was never translated into English, but historians sometimes do refer to ''late
bourgeois society Bourgeoisie (; ) is a Polysemy, polysemous French term that can mean: * a sociologically defined social class, especially in contemporary times, referring to people with a certain Cultural capital, cultural and financial capital belonging to ...
'' in contrast to ''early bourgeois society'' in the 17th and 18th century, or ''classical bourgeois society'' in the 19th and early 20th century.
Vladimir Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. ( 1870 – 21 January 1924), better known by his alias Lenin,. was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding head of government The head of government is e ...

Vladimir Lenin
famously declared that there are no "absolutely hopeless situations" for capitalism. The
Communist International The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International, was an international organization founded in 1919 that advocated world communism, headed by the Soviet Union. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "str ...
stated that with the first World War, a new world epoch of wars and revolutions had opened, and it defined
state monopoly capitalism The theory of state monopoly capitalism (also referred as stamocap) was initially a Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism ...
as the highest and final stage of capitalism. The term ''late capitalism'' began to be used by socialists in continental Europe towards the end of the 1930s and in the 1940s, when many economists believed capitalism was doomed. At the end of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, many economists, including
Joseph Schumpeter Joseph Alois Schumpeter (; February 8, 1883 – January 8, 1950) was an Austrian political economist. He was born in Moravia Moravia ( , also , ; cs, Morava ; german: link=no, Mähren ; pl, Morawy ; szl, Morawijo; la, Moravia) is a h ...
and
Paul Samuelson Paul may refer to: *Paul (given name), a given name (includes a list of people with that name) *Paul (surname), a list of people People Christianity *Paul the Apostle (AD 5–67), also known as Saul of Tarsus or Saint Paul, early Christian mis ...

Paul Samuelson
, believed the end of capitalism could be near, in that the economic problems might be insurmountable. The term was used in the 1960s in Germany and Austria, by Western Marxists writing in the tradition of the
Frankfurt School The Frankfurt School (german: Frankfurter Schule) was a school of social theory and critical philosophy associated with the Institute for Social Research The Institute for Social Research ''Social Research: An International Quarterly'' is a ...
and
Austromarxism Austro-Marxism was a Marxist theoretical current, led by Victor Adler, Otto Bauer, Karl Renner, Max Adler (Marxist), Max Adler and Rudolf Hilferding, members of the SDAPÖ, Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria in Austria-Hungary and the Firs ...
. Leo Michielsen and Andre Gorz popularized the term "neo-capitalism" in France and Belgium, with new analyses of the new post-war capitalism.
Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (; ; born Jackie Élie Derrida; See also . July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004), born in Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Algiers ...
preferred ''
neo-capitalism Neo-capitalism is an economic ideology which blends some elements of capitalism Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for Profit (economics), profit. Central characteri ...
'' to ''post-'' or ''late-capitalism''.
Theodor Adorno Theodor is a masculine given name. It is a German form of TheodoreTheodore may refer to: Places * Theodore, Alabama, United States * Theodore, Australian Capital Territory * Theodore, Queensland, a town in the Shire of Banana, Australia * Th ...
preferred "late capitalism" over "industrial society," which was the theme of the 16th Congress of German Sociologists in 1968. In 1971,
Leo KoflerLeo Kofler (also known by the pseudonyms ''Stanislaw Warynski'' or ''Jules Dévérité''; 26 April 1907 – 29 July 1995) was an Austrian-German Marxist sociologist. He ranks with the Marburg politicologist Wolfgang Abendroth and the Frankfurt school ...
published a book called ''Technologische Rationalität im Spätkapitalismus'' (Technological Rationality in Late Capitalism).
Claus OffeClaus Offe (born 16 March 1940 in Berlin) is a political sociology, political sociologist of Marxism, Marxist orientation. He received his PhD from the Goethe University Frankfurt, University of Frankfurt and his Habilitation at the University of Kon ...
published his essay "Spätkapitalismus – Versuch einer Begriffsbestimmung" (Late capitalism – an attempt at a conceptual definition) in 1972. In 1973,
Jürgen Habermas Jürgen Habermas (, ; ; born 18 June 1929) is a German philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, e ...
published his ''Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus'' (Legitimacy problems in late capitalism). In 1975,
Ernest Mandel Ernest Ezra Mandel (; also known by various pseudonyms such as Ernest Germain, Pierre Gousset, Henri Vallin, Walter; (5 April 1923 – 20 July 1995), was a Belgian Marxian economist and a Trotskyist activist and theorist. He fought in the und ...
published his PhD thesis ''Late Capitalism'' in English at
New Left Books Verso Books (formerly New Left Books) is a publishing house based in London and New York City, founded in 1970 by the staff of ''New Left Review''. Renaming, new brand and logo Verso Books was originally known as New Left Books. The name "Verso" ...
.
Herbert Marcuse Herbert Marcuse (; ; July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a German-American philosophy, philosopher, sociology, sociologist, and political philosophy, political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Born in Berlin, Ma ...
also accepted the term.
Immanuel Wallerstein Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein (; September 28, 1930 – August 31, 2019) was an American sociologist and economic historian An economy (from Greek language, Greek οίκος – "household" and νέμoμαι – "manage") is an area of the P ...
believed that capitalism was in the process of being replaced by another
world systemA world-system is a socioeconomic system, under systems theory, that encompasses part or all of the globe, detailing the aggregate social structure, structural result of the sum of the interactions between polity, polities. World-systems are usually ...
. The American literary critic and cultural theorist
Frederic Jameson Fredric Jameson (born April 14, 1934) is an American literary critic, philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term ''philosopher'' comes from the grc, φιλόσοφος, , translit=philosophos, meaning 'lover of w ...
thought
Rudolf Hilferding Rudolf Hilferding (10 August 1877 – 11 February 1941) was an Austrian-born Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects a ...
's term ''the latest stage of capitalism'' (''jüngster Kapitalismus'') perhaps more prudent and less prophetic-sounding but Jameson often used "late capitalism" in his writings. Hegel's theme of "the end of history" was rekindled by Kojève in his ''Introduction to the Reading of Hegel''. The "
end of history The end of history is a political and philosophical concept that supposes that a particular political, economic, or social system may develop that would constitute the end-point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human gove ...
" is discussed by
Francis Fukuyama Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama (, ; born October 27, 1952) is an American Political science, political scientist, Political economy, political economist, and writer. Fukuyama is known for his book ''The End of History and the Last Man'' (1992), which ...

Francis Fukuyama
in the sense that
liberal democracy Liberal democracy, also referred to as Western democracy, is the combination of a liberal Liberal or liberalism may refer to: Politics *a supporter of liberalism, a political and moral philosophy **Liberalism by country *an adherent of a L ...
is the ultimate form of society, which cannot be surpassed by anything that is superior to it, because there does not and cannot exist anything superior. In modern usage, late capitalism often refers to a new mix of high-tech advances, the concentration of (speculative) financial capital,
post-Fordism Post-Fordism is the dominant system of economic production, Consumption (economics), consumption, and associated socio-economic phenomena in most industrialized countries since the late 20th century. It is contrasted with Fordism, the system formula ...
, and a growing
income inequality There are wide varieties of economic inequality, most notably measured using the distribution of incomeIn economics Economics () is the social science that studies how people interact with value; in particular, the Production (econom ...
.


Ernest Mandel

According to the
Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic Socioeconomics (also known as social economics) is the social science that studies how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. In general it analyzes how modern society, societies soci ...
economist
Ernest Mandel Ernest Ezra Mandel (; also known by various pseudonyms such as Ernest Germain, Pierre Gousset, Henri Vallin, Walter; (5 April 1923 – 20 July 1995), was a Belgian Marxian economist and a Trotskyist activist and theorist. He fought in the und ...
, who popularised the term with his 1972 PhD dissertation, late-stage capitalism will be dominated by the machinations—or perhaps better, fluidities—of
financial capital Financial capital (also simply known as capital or equity in finance Finance is a term for the management, creation, and study of money In a 1786 James Gillray caricature, the plentiful money bags handed to King George III are contra ...
; and also by the increasing
commodification Within a capitalist Capitalism is an economic system An economic system, or economic order, is a system of Production (economics), production, allocation of resources, resource allocation and Distribution (economics), distribution of go ...
and
industrialisation Industrialisation ( alternatively spelled industrialization) is the period of social and economic change that transforms a human group from an agrarian society An agrarian society, or agricultural society, is any community whose economy is b ...

industrialisation
of ever more inclusive sectors of human life. Mandel believed that " r from representing a 'post-industrial society', late capitalism ..constitutes ''generalized universal industrialization'' for the first time in history". Up to the mid-1960s, Mandel preferred to use the term "neo-capitalism", which was most often used by intellectuals in Belgium and France around that time. This term drew attention to new characterististics of capitalism, but at the time ultra-leftist Marxists objected to it, because, according to them, it might suggest that capitalism was no longer capitalism, and it might lead to reformist errors rather than the overthrow of capitalism. In his work ''Late Capitalism'', Mandel distinguished three periods in the development of the capitalist mode of production. *''Freely competitive capitalist production'', roughly from 1700 to 1870, through the growth of industrial capital in domestic markets. *The phase of ''monopoly capitalism'', roughly from 1870 to 1940, is characterized by the
imperialist Imperialism is a policy or ideology of extending the rule over peoples and other countries, for extending political and economic access, power and control, often through employing hard power, especially military force, but also soft power In p ...

imperialist
competition for international markets, and the exploitation of
colonial territories
colonial territories
. *The epoch of ''late capitalism'' emerging out of the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, which has as its dominant features the
multinational corporation A multinational company (MNC) is a corporate A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company A company, abbreviated as co., is a Legal personality, legal entity representing an association of people, whethe ...
,
globalized markets and labor
globalized markets and labor
,
mass consumption Consumerism is a and economic order that encourages the acquisition of in ever-increasing amounts. With the , but particularly in the 20th century, led to —the of goods would grow beyond consumer , and so manufacturers turned to and to ...
, and the space of liquid multinational flows of capital. In the tradition of the
orthodox Marxists Orthodox Marxism is the body of Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand Social class, class relations and s ...
, Mandel tried to characterize the nature of the modern epoch as a whole, with reference to the main laws of motion of capitalism specified by Marx. Mandel's aim was to explain the unexpected revival of capitalism after World War II, contrary to leftist prognostications, and the long economic boom which showed the fastest economic growth ever seen in human history. His work has produced a new interest in the theory of long waves in economic development.


Fredric Jameson

Fredric Jameson Fredric Jameson (born April 14, 1934) is an American literary critic Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, whi ...
borrowed Mandel's vision as a basis for his widely cited ''
Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism ''Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism'' is a 1991 book by Fredric Jameson, in which the author offers a critique of modernism , Solomon Guggenheim Museum 1946–1959 Modernism is both a philosophy, philosophical movement ...
.'' Jameson's
postmodernity Postmodernity (post-modernity or the postmodern condition) is the economic or cultural state or condition of society which is said to exist ''after'' modernity. Some schools of thought hold that modernity ended in the late 20th century – in the ...
involves a new mode of cultural production (developments in literature, film, fine art, video, social theory, etc.) which differs markedly from the preceding era of
Modernism Modernism is both a philosophical movement A philosophical movement refers to the phenomenon defined by a group of philosophers A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and ...
, particularly in its treatment of subject position, temporality and narrative. In the modernist era, the dominant ideology was that society could be re-engineered on the basis of scientific and technical knowledge, and on the basis of a popular consensus about the meaning of progress. From the second half of the 20th century, however, modernism was gradually eclipsed by postmodernism, which is skeptical about social engineering and features a lack of consensus about the meaning of progress. In the wake of rapid technological and social change, all the old certainties have broken down. This begins to destabilize every part of life, making almost everything malleable, changeable, transient and impermanent. Jameson argues that "every position on postmodernism today — whether apologia or stigmatization — is also...''necessarily'' an implicitly or explicitly political stance on the nature of multinational capitalism today". A section of Jameson's analysis has been reproduced on the
Marxists Internet Archive Marxists Internet Archive (also known as MIA or Marxists.org) is a non-profit online encyclopedia An online encyclopedia, also called an Internet encyclopedia, or a digital encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia ...

Marxists Internet Archive
. Jameson regards the late capitalist stage as a new and previously unparalleled development with a global reach — whether defined as a multinational or informational capitalism. At the same time, late capitalism diverges from Marx's prognosis for the final stage of capitalism.


Modern usage of the phrase and further evolution

According to a 2017 article in ''
The Atlantic ''The Atlantic'' is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher. It was founded in 1857 in Boston, as ''The Atlantic Monthly'', a literary and cultural magazine that published leading writers' commentary on education, the abolition of sl ...

The Atlantic
'', the term "late capitalism" is again in vogue to describe modern business culture, although with a semantic change or an ironic twist. "Late capitalism" has become a catch-all term for various phenomena that express capitalism's distortions of human life, and it is often used in critique and satire. This usage also conveys a sense that contemporary capitalism cannot go on like it does forever, because the problems created by business are getting too large and unmanageable. The phrase “late stage capitalism” is used commonly as a critique of the fascistic qualities that emerge in the later stages of capitalism. Capitalism to many may seem to be free of this exploitation if not taken to the extremes of “late capitalism”. A competing viewpoint is that “Capitalism, in its orthodoxy, is a system that relies on authoritative, controlling, and exploitative relationships, most notably between that of capitalists and workers”, and that this is not something that emerges out of a devolving system but rather is present in the framework of the system itself.


In popular culture

A character in
Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded ...
's 2013 novel ''
Bleeding Edge ''Bleeding Edge'' is a novel by American author Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly ...
'' states "late capitalism is a on a global scale...getting the suckers to believe it's all gonna go on forever."
Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the "Genius Grant", is a prize awarded ...
, ''
Bleeding Edge ''Bleeding Edge'' is a novel by American author Thomas Pynchon Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. ( , ; born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist. A MacArthur Fellow The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly ...
'' (2013) p. 163


See also


References


Further reading

* Jacques Derrida, ''
Specters of Marx ''Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International'' (french: Spectres de Marx: l'état de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale) is a 1993 book by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida ...
'' (1994)
Chris Harman : Mandel’s Late Capitalism (July 1978)
* Fredric Jameson, "Culture and Finance Capitalism" ''Critical Inquiry'' 24 (1997) pp. 246–65 *

* Immanuel Wallerstein. The Essential Wallerstein (New York: The New Press, 2000), World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004).


External links


Youtube late capitalism FAQ video
by ''
The Atlantic ''The Atlantic'' is an American magazine and multi-platform publisher. It was founded in 1857 in Boston, as ''The Atlantic Monthly'', a literary and cultural magazine that published leading writers' commentary on education, the abolition of sl ...

The Atlantic
'' {{DEFAULTSORT:Late Capitalism Capitalism Economic ideologies Marxian economics