Hi, welcome to the inaugural episode of Inflection Point, a brand new podcast out of the UC Berkeley Department of Sociology.
Inflection Point is a show about a very big question: What comes next?
As the name of the podcast would suggest, our show presupposes that we live in a time of transition. For decades, there was, roughly, a thing you could call a global economic order. During the Cold War, of course, there were, broadly speaking, two orders: the one aligned with Soviet-led communism, and the one aligned with U.S.-led capitalism. Back then, that form of capitalism was roughly comparable to today’s European social democratic capitalism: high taxes, a big welfare state, lots of regulation over corporations. Then, as the Cold War receded, that form of capitalism was dismantled and replaced with a rawer, purer kind — one that eschewed restrictions on corporate behavior and shrank the role of the state. Call it market fundamentalism, or neoliberalism.
Since the 2008 financial meltdown, however, neoliberalism has been in crisis. We’ve seen that in the discrediting of free trade as a bipartisan policy objective, in the rising opposition to Wall Street across the political spectrum, in the distrust of elites, in the ascent of Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right.
That doesn’t mean neoliberalism is gone for good, or even that it won’t be ascendant again. On the other hand, it might not. It could be replaced by a different economic order, or myriad economic orders, be they socialist upheavals or right wing ethno-nationalist regimes or something else entirely. That’s the question behind this podcast: what comes next?
Our inaugural episode is a discussion with the renowned Marxist historian and historical-sociologist Robert Brenner, at UCLA. UC Berkeley sociologist Dylan Riley had a long, penetrating conversation with Professor Brenner, and we’ve broken it up into three episodes. In this episode, we hear about Professor Brenner’s personal biography and his political education. In the next two episodes, respectively, we’ll hear about capitalism in the postwar period, and the trajectory that capitalism is on today.
Welcome to Inflection Point.