Upward social mobility represented a core promise of life under the "old" West German welfare state, in which millions of skilled workers upgraded their Volkswagens 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. He concludes that although the country has managed to muddle through thus far, simmering tensions beneath the surface nevertheless threaten to undermine the German system’s stability in the years to come.
Recipient of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation 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