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Elmar Altvater (2005)

Elmar Altvater (born August 24, 1938 in Kamen ; † May 1, 2018 in Berlin ) was a German political scientist , author and professor of political science at the Otto Suhr Institute of the Free University of Berlin . After retiring on September 30, 2004, Altvater was still active in research and teaching at the institute. He was also a member of Attac's scientific advisory board .


After graduating from high school in Kamen in 1959 , Altvater studied economics and sociology at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich until 1963 and received his doctorate in 1968 with his thesis on social production and economic rationality: External effects and central planning in the economic system of socialism . From 1968 to 1970 he was a research assistant at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg . He then moved to the Otto Suhr Institute (OSI) for Political Science at the Free University of Berlin. Here he received a professorship for political economy in 1971 .

Altvater was involved at the OSI in the "Socialist Assistant Cell", a think tank of the 1968 movement in Berlin. He was a co-founder of the Association of Democratic Scientists (BdWi). In 1970 he and others founded the PROKLA Problems of the Class Struggle - magazine for political economy and socialist politics , later magazine for critical social science , of which he was an editorial member until 2008. He made a major contribution to the development of a Marxist political-economic theory. He was active as an SDS member in the 1968 movement and one of the theoretical heads of the Socialist Office in Offenbach.

In addition to questions of development theory, debt and the regulation of markets, he also dealt extensively with the effects of capitalist economies on the environment. Altvater was a renowned critic of “ political economy ” and the author of numerous writings critical of globalization and capitalism. A standard work critical of globalization is his book Limits of Globalization (1996), which he wrote with his partner Birgit Mahnkopf .

Elmar Altvater at the German Evangelical Church Congress 2007 in Cologne

In parallel to his academic work, Altvater was also repeatedly active in social policy. He was a founding member of the Greens , but increasingly distanced himself after the war in Kosovo .

At the beginning of the Taz cooperative project , the daily newspaper publishing cooperative , Altvater was a member of the supervisory board.

He was a member of the Enquête Commission on Globalization of the World Economy - Challenges and Answers (1999–2002) of the German Bundestag. Later he promoted attac (member of the Scientific Advisory Board) and the World Social Forum . A few days before the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in 2007 , Altvater joined the Left . He was a founding member of the Solidarity Modern Institute .

Elmar Altvater died on May 1st, 2018 at the age of 79.


The end of capitalism as we know it

The occasion for his published in 2005 book The end of capitalism as we know it formed one of the Mexican sociologist Pablo Gonzalez Casanova set in 2004 initiated discussion about the "end of capitalism" and the 2005 emerging so-called " locusts debate " in Germany. Altvater did not only want to practice a “radical critique of capitalism” in this work, but - contrary to Francis Fukuyama's thesis of the “end of history” - think “beyond capitalism” and develop alternatives to it.

The author took over from Fernand Braudel the basic assumption that capitalism “cannot perish through an 'endogenous' decline, but only through an 'external shock of extreme violence combined with a credible alternative'.” Altvater noted the current global crisis phenomena Capitalism: growth of the "army of the poor", despite an "immensely increasing wealth of the rich in the world"; increasing scarcity of fossil fuels; Destruction of nature and "dismantling of social standards". The question of alternatives is therefore the order of the day. But real change is not possible without changing the current power structures. Under capitalism, these were based on private property, which legitimized the “forms of appropriation and expropriation, in the economic as well as in the social, cultural, ecological sense”. Altvater, on the other hand, called for a “solar society based on solidarity”, something that has already started in many places. This would mean "the end of capitalism as we know it". If it continues, however, there is a threat of an “empire of barbarism”, the beginnings of which are already recognizable.

Altvater is attributed the first use of the term "Capitalocene", which is used as an alternative to the term Anthropocene .


Altvater published regularly in the weekly newspaper der Freitag and the magazine marx21 .


In 2013 he was awarded the Salzburg State Prize for Future Research.


  • The world currency crisis . 1969. (Translations: Japanese, Swedish)
  • Social production and economic rationality. External Effects and Central Planning in the Economic System of Socialism . 1969.
  • with Freerk Huisken (Ed.): Materials on the Political Economy of the Education Sector . Erlangen 1971, ISBN 3-920531-08-6 .
  • with Jürgen Hoffmann and Willi Semmler: From economic miracle to economic crisis . Berlin (West) 1979.
  • with Kurt Hübner and Michael Stanger: Alternative Economic Policy Beyond Keynesianism - Economic Policy Options of the Unions in Western Europe. 1983, ISBN 3-531-11620-7 .
  • Constraint on the world market. Debt crisis, blocked industrialization, ecological threat - the case of Brazil . 1987.
  • The future of the market. An essay about the regulation of money and nature after the failure of "real existing socialism" . Münster 1991, ISBN 3-924550-68-9 .
  • The price of prosperity or environmental pillage and new world (dis) order . Westfälisches Dampfboot Verlag, Münster 1992, ISBN 3-924550-72-7 .
  • Chernobyl and sunburn or: The meaning of physical categories in the social sciences. Reply to the criticism by Wolfgang Hein. In: Periphery. No. 54, 1994, pp. 101-112.
  • with Birgit Mahnkopf : The Limits of Globalization. Economy, ecology and politics in world society . Münster 1996, ISBN 3-929586-75-4 . (4th completely revised and expanded edition 1999, 7th edition. 2007)
  • What does that mean and to what end do we criticize capitalism? Farewell lecture at the Free University of Berlin; Printed in: Blätter für German and international politics , April 2006.
  • with Frigga Haug , Oskar Negt u. a .: Turbo capitalism . Society in transition into the 21st century. VSA-Verlag, Hamburg 1997.
  • with Rolf Hecker , Michael Heinrich and Petra Schaper-Rinkel : Kapital.doc - Das Kapital (Vol. I) by Marx in diagrams with comments . Westfälisches Dampfboot Verlag, Münster 1999.
  • with Birgit Mahnkopf: Globalization of Insecurity - Working in the Shadows, Dirty Money and Informal Politics . Münster 2002, ISBN 3-89691-513-4 .
  • with Birgit Mahnkopf: Competition for the Empire - The future of the European Union in the globalized world . Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-89691-652-5 .
  • Privatization and Corruption: Criminology of Globalization, Neoliberalism and the Financial Crisis . Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-939594-02-4 .
  • The protection of the future . In: Friday . June 10, 2009.
  • The big crash: or the crisis of the century in business and finance, in politics and nature . Westfälisches Dampfboot Verlag, Münster 2010, ISBN 978-3-89691-785-0 .
  • with Samir Armin , Colin Crouch and many more: Exit: With links out of the crisis . Blätter Verlag, 2011, ISBN 978-3-98049-256-0 .
  • Rediscover Marx. The light blue ribbon for an introduction to the Critique of Political Economy . VSA Verlag, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-89965-499-8 .
  • Harbingers of an icy time . In: Friday . March 5, 2012.
  • with Ulrich Beck , Peter Bofinger and many more: Democracy or Capitalism ?. Blätter Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-98049-257-7 .
  • Rediscover Engels. The light blue ribbon as an introduction to the "dialectic of nature" and the critique of accumulation and growth . VSA Verlag, Hamburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-89965-643-5 .
  • In the old capitalism with new energies against climate change? , in: Solar Age 3/2015.
  • The end of capitalism as we know it. A radical criticism of capitalism. Verlag Westfälisches Dampfboot, 2018, ISBN 978-3-89691-627-3 (8th edition; first 2005).


Web links

Commons : Elmar Altvater  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. BdWi mourns the loss of Prof. Dr. Elmar Altvater (1938 - 2018). Retrieved June 3, 2018 .
  2. "The taz of the coming generation" . ( taz.de [accessed on May 4, 2018]). "The taz of the coming generation" ( Memento of the original from May 4, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / blogs.taz.de
  3. taz cooperative: 25 years of taz cooperative. Retrieved May 3, 2018 .
  4. ^ Institute Solidarity Modern: Founding members
  5. Elmar Altvater , rosalux.de, published and accessed on May 2, 2018
  6. ^ Willi Winkler: Obituary. Elmar Altvater has died. In: SZ.de, May 2, 2018. Retrieved May 3, 2018
  7. p. 10.
  8. P. 13. Altvater quotes Fernand Braudel: Social history of the 15th to 18th centuries. Departure to the world economy . 1986, p. 702.
  9. p. 13f.
  10. p. 19.
  11. p. 14.
  12. ^ Christian Schwägerl: The Anthropocene: The Human Era and How It Shapes Our Planet . 2011, p. 65 .
  13. Landeskorrespondenz - Landeskorrespondenz detailed view. Retrieved January 10, 2018 .