Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2012

The Future of Capitalism

Lecturer: Professor Michael Mann,
Department of Sociology,
University of California at Los Angeles

Date: 31 July 2012, 15.30
Location: Auditorium 1, Eilert Sundts hus

This lecture is public and open for all.

No-one can accurately predict the future of capitalism. The most one can do is to give alternative scenarios of what might happen given different conditions, and to try to arrange these in order of probability. Capitalism in Western countries is in crisis, experiencing a serious and prolonged recession, plus doubts about whether it can find another bout of “creative destruction” (Schumpeter’s term), pioneering new industries sufficient to generate recovery and full employment. Prediction is especially difficult here since there is no consensus over policy remedies.

I consider alternative pessimistic and optimistic scenarios of the West, and plump for a middling path between them as the most likely. What is highly probable is the end in the next decade or so of Western, and especially American, dominance, the rise of the “Rest” and the emergence of a more multi-centric capitalism. But what happens in the long-run, say world-systems theorists, when the “spatial fix” of capitalism’s problems reaches the geographic limits of the earth. The likeliest scenario would be the return of a low-growth, almost steady-state capitalism such as existed in centuries before the 20th. The pessimistic scenario here would be the emergence of “2/3 versus 1/3” society across the world. Yet all of these scenarios might be overwhelmed by the two great looming threats to contemporary society: nuclear war and climate change.


Michael Mann is one of the most influential sociologists of recent decades. He is presently a professor at The Department of Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles. His work is in the tradition of comparative historical studies and has had major impact in history, political science, international relations and other social science disciplines. His main work, The Sources of Social Power, provides an all-encompassing account of the history of power from the beginnings of stratified societies to the present day. Volume I was published in 1986. Volume II (1993) covered the rise of classes and nation-states 1860-1914. The last two volumes are now under publication: Volume III covers Global Empire and Revolutions, 1890-1945, and Volume IV, Globalization, analyses the postwar period. Ahead to the last two volumes, Mann published three more specialized studies on 20th century topics of major importance: Incoherent Empire (2003) covers the development of US hegemony up until the Iraq invasion, while Fascists (2004), and The Dark Side of Democracy. Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (2005) deal with crucial historical instances of political violence.


There will be two additional arrangements related to Michael Mann's visit, a seminar on Monday July 30 and a Panel Discussion on August 1.

Read details about the full programme here.

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Published Oct. 10, 2012 1:17 PM - Last modified Sep. 1, 2015 2:11 PM