Tuesday, September 08, 2015

You Know You Don't Like It But Do You Know What It Is?

I don't like neoliberalism. I think that, like most simplistic "purist" ideas, it has run its course and, rather than delivering its grandiose promises, it has inflicted some serious parasitic outcomes that endanger our society.

What was initially sold as "free market capitalism" has morphed into "free market fundamentalism," a belief-based ideology that has acquired political and social dimensions that are often problematical.  The idea that laissez faire capitalism will deliver solutions to all our woes, answers that government could never match, is patently untrue.

The decline of national sovereignty, the collapse of the middle class yielding to the ascendancy of the precariat, the rise of inequality (economic, social and, yes, political) and so much more are all in whole or in part attributable to neoliberalism and the hold it has taken on Western nations.

One thing I do know is that as the major crisis of this century, climate change, looms free market capitalism is not going to offer us the solutions we need. It has already shown its hand, disaster capitalism, a mechanism for extracting residual wealth from the weak and vulnerable.

Most of us perceive the label "neoliberal" to be pejorative yet very few of us have much understanding of what it means.  Which is why I was delighted to stumble upon a series of brief podcasts presented by the New Economics Foundation, "A Beginner's Guide to Neoliberalism."  The six part series offers a
concise guide to understand neoliberalism, how it came to be, how deeply it has become integrated into our government and the challenges it presents to all of us.


Toby said...

In practice, neoliberalism stands for corporate welfare.

Kirbycairo said...

Thanks for this post. As I have written in my own blog, the paradigmatic shift represented by Neo-Liberalism, the part of it that often gets overlooked, is the way it shifts the predominant models of social and economic success away from the individual, the entrepreneurial, and even the family, to the idea that the Corporation is the central socioeconomic institution of success and status. The social complexity of this paradigm shift is what makes Neo-Liberalism so difficult to fight. For the most part people don't even realize that they have begun to operate in a new socioeconomic paradigm, and that when operating within it, it begins to change and reset many of the so-called lifeworld assumptions that allow us to operate with in society. Thus when someone says "lowering corporate taxes is good," they are not saying it because they have weighed the evidence and found it to be the policy which will create the most generalized prosperity. They are much like, say, a member of the Aztec community who would say "the Sun is a god." That is to say they are simply parroting a non-rational, universalized assumption that is central to their social being. In our case these assumptions are used to bolster the centrality of the corporate model to every element of social behaviour. Where everything conforms to this model (from schools to hospitals to NGOs to large corporations themselves,) statements that paradigmatically question it are not simply seen as subversive, but as downright crazy.

Anonymous said...

Anyong said....Kirby, you have said what Neo-Liberalism definitely is. Very difficult to fight unless more people become aware of it.

The Mound of Sound said...

We were seduced into accepting neoliberalism as our governments' default operating mode by a host of groundless promises and grandiose visions of ease and prosperity. It was all a belief-based ideology, much like Reagan's "trickle down" theory, "Voodoo Economics."

Bit by bit, deal by deal, we bargained away essential incidents of our national sovereignty some of which were integral to building our once great middle class and the social cohesion that sprung from it.

Unfortunately we cannot bargain our way back out of what we bargained ourselves into. It has to be taken back and at no small cost and pain. It's similar to any addiction withdrawal.

None of our leaders has the courage to address this. This is why I repeatedly refer to them as grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard. Those aren't the calibre of people who will lead us out of the grip of corporatism and illiberal democracy.

A lot of New Dems proclaim Mulcair different because he's talked about increasing corporate taxes. That is inconsequential to the issue of neoliberalism, free market fundamentalism.

We have a NDP leader who embraces Thatcherism, something that entails overlooking the damage Thatcher caused Britain including the squandering of her nation's North Sea oil wealth.

Sad, really.