Article in Analyse & Kritik on the history and limits of the Mittelstand-ideal in debates about democratic capitalism with S. Kohl.


Corporate concentration is currently being discussed as a core reason for the crisis of democratic capitalism. It is seen as a prime mover for wage stagnation and alienation, economic inequalities and discontent with democracy. A tacit coalition of progressive anti-monopoly critiques and small business promoters considers more deconcentrated corporate structures to be a panacea for the crisis of democratic capitalism, arguing that small firms in competition are better for employment, equality and democracy. This paper offers a brief outline of ideas of the anti-monopoly and small business ideal and critically evaluates whether a more deconcentrated economy may live up to these promises. While we agree that the plea for strengthened antitrust enforcement contains relevant and promising prospects for reform, our analysis concludes on a decidedly critical note. In particular, we caution against romanticized notions of the small capitalist firm.