A la croisée des chemins: démocratie entre capitalisme et socialisme

Sylvie Constantinou

EMES Conferences Selected Papers Series, ECSP-P12-05.

The opposition between capitalism and socialism that has structured our political universe at least until the end of the Cold War, now seems to have lost its relevance well and truly. It also seems to have lost one of its poles. Socialism is not mentioned anymore, or it has been assimilated to collectivism in the literature that attempts to identify an alternative to capitalism.

We are witnessing the reproduction of a surprising opinion phenomenon that Karl Polanyi identified in the 1930s, when some countries have embarked on the path of totalitarianism, rather than continue the street of democratic socialism: “The people’s hostility towards liberal capitalism has returned with great success against socialism, without any reflection on the non-liberal forms, ie. corporations of capitalism.” (Polanyi 2008: 375).

This spell continues to produce its effects. An economic crisis without precedent awakens the contestation of capitalism in many countries, resulting in the continuation of capitalism in another form, but not by reinforcing one of the hystorical forms alternative to capitalism, socialism. The authoritarian tendencies appear to threaten many democratic regimes, particularly in Europe. Therefore, it seems appropriate to resume the thread of Polanyi’s analysis published in the years of the rise of national socialism in order to find the mark left by the process of evolution to socialism to the point where it stopped and had to give way to totalitarianism.

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