New Book

New from Verso: Germany’s Hidden Crisis

3rd Dec 2018

GERMANY’S HIDDEN CRISIS: Social Decline in the Heart of Europe

by Oliver Nachtwey


How neoliberalism is causing a social crisis in Germany

One of the German-speaking world’s leading sociologists lays out
modern Germany’s social and political crisis and its implications for
the future of the European hegemon.

Upward social mobility represented a core promise of life under the
“old” West German welfare state, in which millions of skilled workers
upgraded their VWs to Audis, bought their first homes, and sent their
children to university. Not so in today’s Federal Republic, where the
gears of the so-called “elevator society” have long since ground to a
halt. In the absence of the social mobility of yesterday, widespread
social exhaustion and anxiety have emerged across mainstream society.
Oliver Nachtwey analyses the reasons for this social rupture in
postwar German society and investigates the conflict potential
emerging as a result, concluding that although the country has managed
to muddle through the Eurocrisis largely unscathed thus far, simmering
tensions beneath the surface nevertheless threaten to undermine the
German system’s stability in the years to come.

Nachtwey’s book was recipient of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s 2016
Hans-Matthöfer-Preis for Economic Writing.



“A true masterpiece. Focusing on the case of Germany—which has long
been mispresented and misperceived as a paragon of economic success
and political stability—Oliver Nachtwey offers a detailed account of
the crisis of contemporary capitalism. Moving at the forefront of
leading theories of political economy, the book develops an
empirically grounded synthetic perspective on ‘regressive modernity,’
a concept of which much can be expected for future progress in the
study of capitalist development.”

– Wolfgang Streeck

“A major critical review of Europe’s most important country, its
socio-economics, its politics, and its self-diagnoses.”

– Göran Therborn

“In this comprehensive sociological study, the author assembles
sobering news from Germany, a country the elites of which routinely
pride themselves of presiding over a stable, prosperous, and socially
inclusive society. To which there is even some truth, comparatively
speaking. Yet capitalism thrives on credible promises and on hopes
being redeemed. As elsewhere in the West, German elites are
increasingly distrusted and hopes frustrated, giving rise to virulent
fears and anxieties. As private and public debt, near-stagnation and
growing inequality shape gloomy perceptions, a disjunction occurs
between ongoing technical and economic modernization, on the one hand,
and the notion of ‘progress’ that used to be associated with it. This
is a condition for which Nachtwey coins the term ‘regressive
modernity’. Among its characteristics are a decline of collective
action and public goods production and the ‘de-institutionalization’
of social and economic conflict. Instead of anything resembling
organized class struggle, we see symptoms of diffuse and ‘anomic’
rebelliousness ranging from short-lived ‘occupy’-style mobilizations
to the outbursts of rightist mobs. Nachtwey has written a lucid
analysis highlighting the social causes of our current perplexities.”

– Claus Offe

“It needs at once sociological imagination, an interpretive sense for
statistics and explanatory sharpness to be able to decipher the
anxious and conflict-laden atmosphere in a country that looks
extremely well-ordered, affluent and healthy from the outside. Oliver
Nachtwey, impressively combining these three talents, has managed to
prompt such a necessary change of perspective with regard to
contemporary Germany: In his fascinating study he not only informs us
about how downward mobility, precariousness and polarization have
grown over the last decades in Germany, but also about how people
suffering from these developments fight against the downgrading of
their lives—be it by inventing new forms of protest, be it by joining
nationalist movements. A must to read for everyone interested in the
dark side of the economic wealth of Western countries.”

– Axel Honneth

“Oliver Nachtwey has written an empirically grounded book of great
topicality. He focuses on Germany, but his analysis is of much wider
relevance. Nachtwey reveals that the ‘elevator effect’, which reduces
the significance of social distinctions, is finished. A ‘downward
escalator effect’ now makes class disparities visible again. Growing
insecurity, increasing inequality and swelling precarianization lead
to a renaissance of both left-wing revolts and right-wing

– Marcel van der Linden


Paperback :  November 2018 / 9781786636348 / £16.99 / $26.95 / $35.99 (CAN)

GERMANY’S HIDDEN CRISIS is available to buy on the Verso website at 30% off: