Notes for Possibilities for an Afterword for the Paperback Edition of “Slouching Towards Utopia”

Well, it now looks like we won’t have an extra preface or an afterword for the paperback edition of Slouching Towards Utopia: The Economic History of the 20th Century <>. Having the paperback out in time for the Christmas-presents season seems a better idea

But here are thoughts, notes, and sketches for three possible afterwords (or for parts of a possible afterword:

  1. Did the long century really end?

  2. What comes next if it did?

  3. Things I have to apologize for…


In Slouching Towards Utopia <> I argued that the long 20th century came to an end around 2010 in what I now wish I had called a “polycrisis,” but Adam Tooze had not yet created that concept when I put the manuscript to bed.

The two decades after 2000 saw the. return of forms of religious war and terrorism that I had thought humanity had long outgrown. They saw the abandonment by the United States of even the pose of benevolent hegemon, more concerned with system stability and system prosperity than with its degree of predominance. It saw a sharp and apparently permanent slowdown in at least the measured pace of technological growth, as information technology ceased its rise as a share of measured economic activity and Moore’s law no longer delivered as bountifully. It saw the United States lose its perceived place as the trailblazer – the furnace where the future is being forge – of humanity’s struggle to adapt rather than be used by its progressing technology. It saw the abandonment of what I had seen as settled principles of financial regulation. It saw the abandonment of what I had seen as central principles regarding the importance of return to full employment after depression. It saw the rise around the globe of neo-fascist and other movements challenging the “end of history” liberal democratic market capitalist order. And now I would add that it saw the return of major-power war to the world.

More important, perhaps, in the two decades, after 2000 trying to deal with global warming entered the stage as the dominant global problem from hell. And nuclear proliferation has now reached, to make a very bad, pun, critical mass.

This polycrisis meant, I argued, that the Ground Narrative of the Long 20th Century no longer applied.

I have met with substantial pushback on this.

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