Organized Capitalism

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The term organized capitalism was coined by the social democratic politician and Marxist theorist Rudolf Hilferding in 1915. Until 1933, the theory of organized capitalism determined the understanding of society of German social democracy and was a theoretical basis for turning away from the orthodox Marxist tradition and turning to reformism and democratic socialism .

Background at Hilferding

Before 1910

In the first years of the new century, as a member of the Socialist Student Union and later as editor of Vorwärts , Hilferding fought for Marxism , for example vehemently defending Karl Marx's theory of values against internal party criticism and supporting Karl Kautsky . However, during these years his opposition to Rosa Luxemburg developed .

Finance Capital , 1910

Hilferding's main theoretical work, The Finance Capital from 1910, can be seen as an attempt to adapt Marx's capital to the realities of the new era and to update it.

According to Hilferding's analysis, the entire financial and industrial power of society would concentrate in the formation of a general cartel, which he described in antagonistic form as a consciously regulated society . The general cartel would consciously regulate the entire capitalist production and could thus practically overcome the anarchy of the capitalist mode of production on its own. However, Hilferding still assigned the working class , which he no longer understood conceptually too closely and, for example, saw connected with the formation of a new class of employees, the task of taking power in the state by force if necessary.


After the split in the SPD, Hilferding joined the left minority in the USPD and became editor-in-chief of the party newspaper Freiheit, founded in November 1918 .

Organized capitalism, 1915/1924

Reformism and Democratic Socialism

With the theory of organized capitalism, which he formulated in various party congress speeches (especially in 1915 and 1924) as well as in essays and articles, Hilferding and with him the German social democracy finally turned away from the revolutionary attitude towards reformism. In the final version of this theory, he tried to explain organized capitalism as a peaceful, non-violent transition stage to democratic socialism (which was also conceptually coined during this period). A revolutionary resolution of the social contradictions was therefore rejected. Together with Hilferding, the minority of the now split USPD united with the majority socialists at the Nuremberg party congress in 1922 ; in 1923 Hilferding became Minister of Finance .

Some theses of the theory of organized capitalism

  • Socialism can be achieved through parliamentary democracy .
  • State power remains neutral in the class struggle.
  • Organized capitalism brings about a time of pacifist realism, a time without imperialist wars.
  • constructive socialism through evolutionary process.

Kiel Party Congress of the SPD from 1927

In the party conference report “The tasks of social democracy in the republic” he defined organized capitalism as “the fundamental replacement of the capitalist principle of free competition by the socialist principle of planned production”. A programmatic draft resolution drafted by him was approved by the party congress. Siegfried Marck wrote sarcastically in 1931 that Hilferding had finally become the “theoretician of coalition politics in capitalist stabilization” .

Critique of the organization's political economy

In an approach developed by Klaus Türk and others, the phenomenon of organization is elementary. This is how all strategically important decisions are made in organizations in modern society. Think e.g. B. to a pension or health reform, the conclusion of collective agreements or taking up gainful employment. Therefore, in the opinion of K. Türk, “Das Kapital” should be rewritten by Karl Marx. The first chapter would not be devoted to the goods, but rather to the organization.

Disorganized capitalism

In their analyzes , sociologists such as Claus Offe , Scott Lash and John Urry have diagnosed the end of neocorporatism in the developed capitalist countries of the West as the “end of organized capitalism”. For the emerging neoliberal regime, Offe coined the term “disorganized capitalism”.

Sources and literature

  • Hilferding, Rudolf (1910): The finance capital. A study on the recent development of capitalism , 1st edition Vienna.
  • Hilferding published some of his essays and articles under the pseudonym Richard Kern. An extensive, structured list of his works, printed speeches, essays and articles as well as an overall analysis of Rudolf Hilferding's teaching can be found in Wilfried Gottschalch (1962): Structural Changes in Society and Political Action in the Teaching of Rudolf Hilferding . Sociological Treatises, Volume 3, Berlin.
  • Lash, Scott / John Urry: The End of Organized Capitalism . Polity Press, London 1987
  • Offe, Claus: Disorganized Capitalism. Contemporary Transformation of Work and Politics . Polity Press, London 1985
  • Sandleben, Günther (2003): Political Economy & State. On the critique of the theory of finance capital, Hamburg
  • Stolz, H.-J. / K. Türk (1992): "Organization as the embodiment of domination - social-theoretical and macro-sociological aspects of organizational sociology". In: Franz Lehner / Josef Schmid (Hrsg.): Technology - Work - Company - Society . Contributions from industrial sociology and organizational research, Opladen.
  • Winkler, HA (Ed.) (1974): Organized Capitalism. Requirements u. Beginnings . Goettingen.