Capitalism on Edge

How Fighting Precarity Can Achieve Radical Change Without Crisis or Utopia

Albena Azmanova’s new book Capitalism on Edge puts precarity at the root of such social pathologies as the rise of populism and the inability of liberal democracies to effectively manage crises. The author observes that, while we have been discussing the crisis of capitalism in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown, neoliberal capitalism has mutated into a new form, “precarity capitalism”, marked by the massification of political, economic and psychological insecurity. Precarity, rather than inequality, is what ails the 99 per cent, she claims. This has weakened Western societies despite their scientific might, material affluence and political sophistication. This raises the stakes for progressive politics: fighting precarity, not just inequality, becomes a priority. A new path of reform opens: replacing the growth-and-redistribution formula with fighting precarity renders social justice compatible with environmental justice. Ultimately, this allows radical progressive change without the crutch of crisis, revolution or utopia. Since its publication in January 2020 this analysis has attracted significant policy interest as the Coronavirus pandemic has borne out its prescience. The book now informs policy discussions within the European Parliament’s Independent Commission for Sustainable Equality as well as debates on the European Greens’ social justice agenda.

The book was published in Columbia University Press’s series ‘New Directions in Critical Theory” in January 2020; the German translation came out in March 2021 with Edition Konturen. Book review by James Galbraith, “The Pandemic and Capitalism,” Democracy journal (8/04/2020).

Albena Azmanova: Anti-Capital for the XXIst Century

Albena Azmanova is Associate Professor in Political and Social Thought at the University of Kent's Brussels School of International Studies. She has worked as a policy advisor for a number of international organisations and is an IWM Visiting Fellow from March - April 2021.

Comment by Wolfgang Merkel, Prof. em. of Political Science at Humboldt University Berlin and former IWM Visiting Fellow

Moderation by Ludger Hagedorn, IWM Permanent Fellow