The paper includes the “Introduction” and “Dire Straits” (first and fourth chapters) of the book manuscript “Democratic Capitalism at a Crossroads?”. The introductory chapter summarizes the book’s exploration of the relationship between industrial capitalism (as it has evolved through three main periods: the first industrial revolution centered in Manchester; the Detroit model of capitalism: and Silicon Valley capitalism) and democracy. “Dire Straits” examines how, by disrupting the employment and wage patterns that prevailed during the twentieth century, Silicon Valley capitalism has jeopardized the liberal postwar consensus. A generalized pattern of attachment to parties and trade unions and of deference toward political elites during the postwar period gave way to a growing sense of mistrust and political alienation – mostly among the American and European working class. Political mistrust eventually spilled over into actual political behavior. Electoral participation in Europe plummeted after 1980. By the early 2010s, almost one out of every three Europeans – most of them clustered within low-income strata and young cohorts – abstained in national elections. In due time, new “populist” parties reconfigured the electoral space, attracting a growing number of abstainers and breaking the structure and dynamics of political competition in place since the end of World War Two.
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