Thursday, December 13, 2018

“Late Capitalism” May Be Earlier Than You Think

By Walter Olson

“Late Capitalism,” with its implication of a system due to come to an end, is such an irritatingly pretentious trope. Noah Rothman at Commentary traces some of its recent appearances in complaints that “range from lamentations over long work weeks and the commodification of blood donations to violent fantasies about the prospect of an inter-class shooting war in America,” those examples being taken from Vice News alone. Last year Annie Lowrey traced the lefty roots of the phrase (Werner Sombart and Frankfurt School via Frederic Jameson) and noted that “late capitalism” has become a popular wording in places like The New Yorker and The Atlantic, the outlet in which she was writing. 

It’s definitely not the sort of phrase that’s novel any more, its circulation having taken off in the 1970s per Google Ngram. My theory is that by now it’s been Late Capitalism for so long that we’ve moved on to the insomniac Late Late and Late Late Late versions. Then you glance outside and what do you know? It’s Capitalism Dawn.
The above originally appeared at

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