Crash Course on rentier and monopoly capitalism A series on the urgency of changing our global economy

Event dates:

For every product you buy on Amazon, 40% of the price goes directly to Amazon. At the same time, just three private equity firms own 90% of the companies on the New York Stock Exchange. Why compete, when you can own the market? Why produce when you can lay back and collect monopoly rents?

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We delve into the rise of so-called Rentier Capitalism and the dynamics of monopoly power fueling it. We take a step back and see how we got here; what we can learn from the rise and fall of an earlier era of monopoly capitalism. We will uncover the current key institutional frameworks and actors. We investigate prominent investment funds as well as Big Tech and Big Pharma.

We all know how that game of monopoly ends: winner takes all. But in the real world, there is hope: the hegemony of this system is being challenged. New battle lines are being drawn as the interests of different sectors of capital diverge. Consumers and workers are fighting back.

We face multiple existential crises and need to re-evaluate our existing economic systems. If these corporate behemoths continue to hold sway, they are potentially jeopardising the future of our planet. So, we will ask: how to bring them down? How to break them up?

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#1 Enshittification: The Rise and Fall of Big Tech — with Cory Doctorow

In this first Crash Course episode of the new series, we invite writer-activist Cory Doctorow to explore the rise of Rentier and Monopoly Capitalism in the tech sector. Is the platform economy in the last phase of what he calls Enshittification?

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#2 Asset Managers and the Rise of Rentier Capitalism — with Brett Christophers

Embark on a journey encompassing Brett Christophers' latest three books in this Crash Course Episode. He provides a comprehensive overview of the ascent of rentier capitalism, observed in diverse forms across political economies, and hones in on the pivotal role of asset managers in value extraction and shaping a rentier economy.

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#3 Rentierism and Big Pharma — with Nick Dearden

In this episode we do a deep dive into the realm of Big Pharma. As with Big Tech, this industry epitomises large-scale rentier income extraction by corporations. Despite the industry's assertions that the costs associated with drug research and development justify high prices, the stark reality of profit margins unveils a different narrative.

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#4 Monopoly Power and EU Competition Policy — with Angela Wigger

During the pandemic and its aftermath, the world witnessed a revival of new narratives and strategies related to industrial policy in a geopolitically competitive environment. We invite Angela Wigger to reflect on the history of competition policy in the EU and provide a deeper understanding of the latest “come-back” of EU industrial policy. She will explain how EU competition policy is enshrined in the shift towards a neoliberal order since the 1980s. Angela will provide a perspective on contemporary competition policy since the financial crisis, reflecting on the role of political institutions like the European Commission.

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Speakers and panelists

  • Cory Doctorow

    Author, activist and journalist

  • Brett Christophers

    Uppsala University

  • Nick Dearden

    Global Justice Now

  • Angela Wigger

    Radboud University

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