The European crisis has provoked widespread critique of capitalist arrangements in most if not all countries in Europe. But to what extent do contemporary social protest and critique indicate a revival of critical capacity? The range of criticisms against the existing capitalist system raised by various social movements is seen as ineffectual and fragmented. Such observations are mirrored in sociological analyses of the critique of capitalism. A distinct type of critique of capitalism has, however, not been explicitly conceptualized. This political critique, denouncing the depoliticization and the erosion of autonomy resulting from capitalist arrangements, indicates the crucial role of the political in formulating common projects. The article will, first, briefly discuss Boltanski and Chiapello’s historical identification of forms of critique of capitalism as well as the contemporary relevance of these. In a second step, it will conceptualize and in a way recuperate a political critique of capitalism. In a third step, it will show that the contours of a critique that explicitly refers to the political is available in the contemporary European context, not least in claims made by movements that pursue a ‘Europe of the Commons’ and an ‘alternative Europe’.
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