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Neoliberal rationality

News Neoliberalism as Trotskyism for the rich Recommended Links Elite [Dominance] Theory And the Revolt of the Elite Audacioues Oligarchy and Loss of Trust The Iron Law of Oligarchy Animal Farm
Hypernormalization The Great Transformation Groupthink Short Introduction to Lysenkoism Disciplined Minds Belief-coercion in high demand cults What's the matter with Kansas
Ayn Rand and her Objectivism Cult Amorality and criminality of neoliberal elite Neo-fashism The Deep State New American Militarism  Inverted Totalitarism  Totalitarian Decisionism
Neoliberalism and Christianity Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism Anglican Church on danger of neoliberalism Reconciling Human Rights With Total Surveillance Anti-intellectualism The Great Transformation Predator state
Politico-media complex Crowd manipulation Agenda-setting theory Manufacturing Consent Lewis Powell Memo The Essential Rules for Dominating Population Propaganda
Two Party System Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism American Exceptionalism National Security State Skeptic Quotations Humor Etc

Like Marxism before neoliberalism provides its own ethics and its own rationality.  Or may I say irrationality.   It enforces a new fake "economic rationalism", which should displace old, "outdated" and more humane rationality of the New Deal capitalism.

"Neoliberal rationality" is heavily tilted toward viewing people as "homo economicus".  Like Marxism (and Troskyism) it " articulates crucial elements of  the language, practice and subjectivity according to a specific image of the economics" Like Trotskyism before it directly assaults the idea of democratic governance and the rule of the law proving noting erringly similar to the ideas of "proletarian justice",  "proletarian media"  and "permanent revolution". 

It rejects the idea of social solidarity (emphasizing "individual responsibility")  replacing it with class solidarity of top 1% or even 0.1% (Transnational elite unite"). They also pervert the idea of the rule of the law, which animated so much of modernity, hollowing out democratic practices and institutions while at the same time catalyzing radical, brutal forces of the elite dominance, promoting Nietzsche separation of mankind into two caste: Undermensch ("despicables" in Hillary Clinton words) and Ubermensch  ("creative class").

In the book Undoing the Demos Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution   Professor Wendy Brown   shows how close  "neoliberal rationality" is to the rationality which governed communism parties of the USSR and Eastern Block. Here are some quotes from Wendy Brown interview What Exactly Is Neoliberalism  to  Dissent Magazine (Nov 03, 2015):

"... I treat neoliberalism as a governing rationality through which everything is "economized" and in a very specific way: human beings become market actors and nothing but, every field of activity is seen as a market, and every entity (whether public or private, whether person, business, or state) is governed as a firm. Importantly, this is not simply a matter of extending commodification and monetization everywhere-that's the old Marxist depiction of capital's transformation of everyday life. Neoliberalism construes even non-wealth generating spheres-such as learning, dating, or exercising-in market terms, submits them to market metrics, and governs them with market techniques and practices. Above all, it casts people as human capital who must constantly tend to their own present and future value. ..."
"... The most common criticisms of neoliberalism, regarded solely as economic policy rather than as the broader phenomenon of a governing rationality, are that it generates and legitimates extreme inequalities of wealth and life conditions; that it leads to increasingly precarious and disposable populations; that it produces an unprecedented intimacy between capital (especially finance capital) and states, and thus permits domination of political life by capital; that it generates crass and even unethical commercialization of things rightly protected from markets, for example, babies, human organs, or endangered species or wilderness; that it privatizes public goods and thus eliminates shared and egalitarian access to them; and that it subjects states, societies, and individuals to the volatility and havoc of unregulated financial markets. ..."
"... with the neoliberal revolution that homo politicus is finally vanquished as a fundamental feature of being human and of democracy. Democracy requires that citizens be modestly oriented toward self-rule, not simply value enhancement, and that we understand our freedom as resting in such self-rule, not simply in market conduct. When this dimension of being human is extinguished, it takes with it the necessary energies, practices, and culture of democracy, as well as its very intelligibility. ..."
"... For most Marxists, neoliberalism emerges in the 1970s in response to capitalism's falling rate of profit; the shift of global economic gravity to OPEC, Asia, and other sites outside the West; and the dilution of class power generated by unions, redistributive welfare states, large and lazy corporations, and the expectations generated by educated democracies. From this perspective, neoliberalism is simply capitalism on steroids: a state and IMF-backed consolidation of class power aimed at releasing capital from regulatory and national constraints, and defanging all forms of popular solidarities, especially labor. ..."
"... The grains of truth in this analysis don't get at the fundamental transformation of social, cultural, and individual life brought about by neoliberal reason. They don't get at the ways that public institutions and services have not merely been outsourced but thoroughly recast as private goods for individual investment or consumption. And they don't get at the wholesale remaking of workplaces, schools, social life, and individuals. For that story, one has to track the dissemination of neoliberal economization through neoliberalism as a governing form of reason, not just a power grab by capital. There are many vehicles of this dissemination -- law, culture, and above all, the novel political-administrative form we have come to call governance. It is through governance practices that business models and metrics come to irrigate every crevice of society, circulating from investment banks to schools, from corporations to universities, from public agencies to the individual. It is through the replacement of democratic terms of law, participation, and justice with idioms of benchmarks, objectives, and buy-ins that governance dismantles democratic life while appearing only to instill it with "best practices." ..."
"... Progressives generally disparage Citizens United for having flooded the American electoral process with corporate money on the basis of tortured First Amendment reasoning that treats corporations as persons. However, a careful reading of the majority decision also reveals precisely the thoroughgoing economization of the terms and practices of democracy we have been talking about. In the majority opinion, electoral campaigns are cast as "political marketplaces," just as ideas are cast as freely circulating in a market where the only potential interference arises from restrictions on producers and consumers of ideas-who may speak and who may listen or judge. Thus, Justice Kennedy's insistence on the fundamental neoliberal principle that these marketplaces should be unregulated paves the way for overturning a century of campaign finance law aimed at modestly restricting the power of money in politics. Moreover, in the decision, political speech itself is rendered as a kind of capital right, functioning largely to advance the position of its bearer, whether that bearer is human capital, corporate capital, or finance capital. This understanding of political speech replaces the idea of democratic political speech as a vital (if potentially monopolizable and corruptible) medium for public deliberation and persuasion. ..."
"... My point was that democracy is really reduced to a whisper in the Euro-Atlantic nations today. Even Alan Greenspan says that elections don't much matter much because, "thanks to globalization . . . the world is governed by market forces," not elected representatives. ..."

 

Neoliberalism and the end of liberal democracy by Wendy Brown

Reprinted from http://lchc.ucsd.edu/cogn_150/Readings/brown.pdf

It is a commonplace to speak of the present regime in the United States as a neoconservative one, and to cast as a consolidated “neocon” project present efforts to intensify U.S. military capacity, increase U.S. global hegemony, dismantle the welfare state, retrench civil liberties, eliminate the right to abortion and affirmative action, re-Christianize the state, deregulate corporations, gut environmental protections, reverse progressive taxation, reduce education spending while increasing prison budgets, and feather the nests of the rich while criminalizing the poor. I do not contest the existence of a religious-political project known as Neoconservatism or challenge the appropriateness of understanding many of the links between these objectives in terms of a neoconservative agenda. However, I want to think to one side of this agenda in order to consider our current predicament in terms of a neoliberal political rationality, a rationality that exceeds particular positions on particular issues and that undergirds important features of the Clinton decade as well as the Reagan-Bush years. Further, I want to consider the way that this rationality is emerging as governmentality—a mode of governance encompassing but not limited to the state, and one that produces subjects, forms of citizenship and behavior, and a new organization of the social.

Economic Liberalism, Political Liberalism, and What Is the Neo in Neoliberalism

In ordinary parlance, neoliberalism refers to the repudiation of Keynesian welfare state economics and the ascendance of the Chicago School of political economy—von Hayek, Friedman, and others. In popular usage, neoliberalism is equated with a radically free market: maximized competition and free trade achieved through economic deregulation, elimination of tariffs, and a range of monetary and social policies favorable to business and indifferent toward poverty, social deracination, cultural decimation, long-term resource depletion, and environmental destruction. Neoliberalism is most often invoked in relation to the Third World, referring either to NAFTA-like schemes that increase the vulnerability of poor nations to the vicissitudes of globalization or to International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies that, through financing packages attached to “restructuring” requirements, yank the chains of every aspect of Third World existence, including political institutions and social formations.

For progressives, neoliberalism is thus a pejorative not only because it conjures economic policies that sustain or deepen local poverty and the subordination of peripheral to core nations, but also because it is compatible with, and sometimes even productive of, authoritarian, despotic, para-militaristic, and corrupt state forms as well as agents within civil society.

While these referents capture important effects of neoliberalism, they also reduce neoliberalism to a bundle of economic policies with inadvertent political and social consequences: they fail to address the political rationality that both organizes these policies and reaches beyond the market. Moreover, these referents do not capture the neo in neoliberalism, tending instead to treat the contemporary phenomenon as little more than a revival of classical liberal political economy.

Finally, they obscure the specifically political register of neoliberalism in the First World: that is, its powerful erosion of liberal democratic institutions and practices in places like the United States. My concern in this essay is with these neglected dimensions of neoliberalism.

One of the more incisive accounts of neoliberal political rationality comes from a surprising quarter: Michel Foucault is not generally heralded as a theorist of liberalism or of political economy. Yet Foucault’s 1978 and 1979 Collège de France lectures, long unpublished,2 consisted of his critical analysis of two groups of neoliberal economists: the Ordo-liberal school in postwar Germany (so named because its members, originally members of the Freiburg School, published mainly in the journal Ordo) and the Chicago School that arose midcentury in the United States. Thanks to the German sociologist Thomas Lemke, we have an excellent summary and interpretation of Foucault’s lectureson neoliberalism; in what follows I will draw extensively from Lemke’s work.

It may be helpful, before beginning a consideration of neoliberalism as a political rationality, to mark the conventional difference between political and economic liberalism—a difference especially confusing for Americans for whom “liberal” tends to signify a progressive political viewpoint and, in particular, support for the welfare state and other New Deal institutions, along with relatively high levels of political and legal intervention in the social sphere.4 In addition, given the contemporary phenomena of both neoconservatism and neoliberalism, and the association of both with the political right, ours is a time of often bewildering political nomenclature.5 Briefly, then, in economic thought, liberalism contrasts with mercantilism on one side and Keynesianism or socialism on the other; its classical version refers to a maximization of free trade and competition achieved by minimum interference from political institutions. In the history of political thought, while individual liberty remains a touchstone, liberalism signifies an order in which the state exists to secure the freedom of individuals on a formally egalitarian basis. A liberal political order may harbor either liberal or Keynesian economic policies—it may lean in the direction of maximizing liberty (its politically “conservative” tilt) or of maximizing equality (its politically “liberal” tilt), but in contemporary political parlance, it is no more or less a liberal democracy because of one leaning or the other. Indeed, the American convention of referring to advocates of the welfare state as political liberals is especially peculiar, given that American conservatives generally hew more closely to both the classical economic and the political doctrines of liberalism—it turns the meaning of liberalism in the direction of liberality rather than liberty. For our purposes, what is crucial is that the liberalism in what has come to be called neoliberalism refers to liberalism’s economic variant, recuperating selected pre-Keynesian assumptions about the generation of wealth and its distribution, rather than to liberalism as a political doctrine, as a set of political institutions, or as political practices. The neo in neoliberalism, however, establishes these principles on a significantly different analytic basis from those set forth by Adam Smith, as will become clear below. Moreover, neoliberalism is not simply a set of economic policies; it is not only about facilitating free trade, maximizing corporate profits, and challenging welfarism. Rather, neoliberalism carries a social analysis that, when deployed as a form of governmentality, reaches from the soul of the citizen-subject to education policy to practices of empire. Neoliberal rationality, while foregrounding the market, is not only or even primarily focused on the economy; it involves extending and disseminating market values to all institutions and social action, even as the market itself remains a distinctive player.

This essay explores the political implications of neoliberal rationality for liberal democracy—the implications of the political rationality corresponding to, legitimating, and legitimated by the neoliberal turn.

While Lemke, following Foucault, is careful to mark some of the differences between Ordo-liberal thought and its successor and radicalizer, the Chicago School, I will be treating contemporary neoliberal political rationality without attending to these differences in some of its source material. A rich genealogy of neoliberalism as it is currently practiced—one that mapped and contextualized the contributions of the two schools of political economy, traced the ways that rational choice theory differentially adhered and evolved in the various social sciences and their governmental applications, and described the interplay of all these currents with developments in capital over the past half century—would be quite useful. But this essay is not such a genealogy. Rather, my aim is to consider our current political predicament in terms of neoliberal political rationality, whose chief characteristics are enumerated below.

  1. The political sphere, along with every other dimension of contemporary existence, is submitted to an economic rationality; or, put the other way around, not only is the human being configured exhaustively as homo oeconomicus, but all dimensions of human life are cast in terms of a market rationality. While this entails submitting every action and policy to considerations of profitability, equally important is the production of all human and institutional action as rational entrepreneurial action, conducted according to a calculus of utility, benefit, or satisfaction against a microeconomic grid of scarcity, supply and demand, and moral value-neutrality. Neoliberalism does not simply assume that all aspects of social, cultural, and political life can be reduced to such a calculus; rather, it develops institutional practices and rewards for enacting this vision. That is, through discourse and policy promulgating its criteria, neoliberalism produces rational actors and imposes a market rationale for decision making in all spheres. Importantly, then, neoliberalism involves a normative rather than ontological claim about the pervasiveness of economic rationality and it advocates the institution building, policies, and discourse development appropriate to such a claim. Neoliberalism is a constructivist project: it does not presume the ontological givenness of a thoroughgoing economic rationality for all domains of society but rather takes as its task the development, dissemination, and institutionalization of such a rationality. This point is further developed in (2) below. 

  2. In contrast with the notorious laissez-faire and human propensity to “truck and barter” stressed by classical economic liberalism, neoliberalism does not conceive of either the market itself or rational economic behavior as purely natural. Both are constructed—organized by law and political institutions, and requiring political intervention and orchestration. Far from flourishing when left alone, the economy must be directed, buttressed, and protected by law and policy as well as by the dissemination of social norms designed to facilitate competition, free trade, and rational economic action on the part of every member and institution of society. In Lemke’s account, “In the Ordo-liberal scheme, the market does not amount to a natural economic reality, with intrinsic laws that the art of government must bear in mind and respect; instead, the market can be constituted and kept alive only by dint of political interventions. . . . [C]ompetition, too, is not a natural fact. . . . [T]his fundamental economic mechanism can function only if support is forthcoming to bolster a series of conditions, and adherence to the latter must consistently be guaranteed by legal measures” (193). 

    The neoliberal formulation of the state and especially of specific legal arrangements and decisions as the precondition and ongoing condition of the market does not mean that the market is controlled by the state but precisely the opposite. The market is the organizing and regulative principle of the state and society, along three different lines: 

    1. The state openly responds to needs of the market, whether through monetary and fiscal policy, immigration policy, the treatment of criminals, or the structure of public education. In so doing, the state is no longer encumbered by the danger of incurring the legitimation deficits predicted by 1970s social theorists and political economists such as Nicos Poulantzas, Jürgen Habermas, and James O’Connor.6 Rather, neoliberal rationality extended to the state itself indexes the state’s success according to its ability to sustain and foster the market and ties state legitimacy to such success. This is a new form of legitimation, one that “founds a state,” according to Lemke, and contrasts with the Hegelian and French revolutionary notion of the constitutional state as the emergent universal representative of the people. As Lemke describes Foucault’s account of Ordo-liberal thinking, “economic liberty produces the legitimacy for a form of sovereignty limited to guaranteeing economic activity . . . a state that was no longer defined in terms of an historical mission but legitimated itself with reference to economic growth” (196).

    2. The state itself is enfolded and animated by market rationality: that is, not simply profitability but a generalized calculation of cost and benefit becomes the measure of all state practices. Political discourse on all matters is framed in entrepreneurial terms; the state must not simply concern itself with the market but think and behave like a market actor across all of its functions, including law. 7

    3. Putting (a) and (b) together, the health and growth of the economy is the basis of state legitimacy, both because the state is forthrightly responsible for the health of the economy and because of the economic rationality to which state practices have been submitted. Thus, “It’s the economy, stupid” becomes more than a campaign slogan; rather, it expresses the principle of the state’s legitimacy and the basis for state action—from constitutional adjudication and campaign finance reform to welfare and education policy to foreign policy, including warfare and the organization of “homeland security.”
       
  3. The extension of economic rationality to formerly noneconomic domains and institutions reaches individual conduct, or, more precisely, prescribes the citizen-subject of a neoliberal order. Whereas classical liberalism articulated a distinction, and at times even a tension, among the criteria for individual moral, associational, and economic actions (hence the striking differences in tone, subject matter, and even prescriptions between Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and his Theory of Moral Sentiments), neoliberalism normatively constructs and interpellates individuals as entrepreneurial actors in every sphere of life. It figures individuals as rational, calculating creatures whose moral autonomy is measured by their capacity for “self-care”—the ability to provide for their own needs and service their own ambitions. In making the individual fully responsible for her- or himself, neoliberalism equates moral responsibility with rational action; it erases the discrepancy between economic and moral behavior by configuring morality entirely as a matter of rational deliberation about costs, benefits, and consequences. But in so doing, it carries responsibility for the self to new heights: the rationally calculating individual bears full responsibility for the consequences of his or her action no matter how severe the constraints on this action—for example, lack of skills, education, and child care in a period of high unemployment and limited welfare benefits. Correspondingly, a “mismanaged life,” the neoliberal appellation for failure to navigate impediments to prosperity, becomes a new mode of depoliticizing social and economic powers and at the same time reduces political citizenship to an unprecedented degree of passivity and political complacency. The model neoliberal citizen is one who strategizes for her- or himself among various social, political, and economic options, not one who strives with others to alter or organize these options.

    A fully realized neoliberal citizenry would be the opposite of public-minded; indeed, it would barely exist as a public. The body politic ceases to be a body but is rather a group of individual entrepreneurs and consumers . . . which is, of course, exactly how voters are addressed in most American campaign discourse.8 Other evidence for progress in the development of such a citizenry is not far from hand: consider the market rationality permeating universities today, from admissions and recruiting to the relentless consumer mentality of students as they consider university brand names, courses, and services, from faculty raiding and pay scales to promotion criteria.9 Or consider the way in which consequential moral lapses (of a sexual or criminal nature) by politicians, business executives, or church and university administrators are so often apologized for as “mistakes in judgment,” implying that it was the calculation that was wrong, not the act, actor, or rationale.

    The state is not without a project in the making of the neoliberal subject. It attempts to construct prudent subjects through policies that organize such prudence: this is the basis of a range of welfare reforms such as workfare and single-parent penalties, changes in the criminal code such as the “three strikes law,” and educational voucher schemes. Because neoliberalism casts rational action as a norm rather than an ontology, social policy is the means by which the state produces subjects whose compass is set entirely by their rational assessment of the costs and benefits of certain acts, whether those acts pertain to teen pregnancy, tax fraud, or retirement planning. The neoliberal citizen is calculating rather than rule abiding, a Benthamite rather than a Hobbesian. The state is one of many sites framing the calculations leading to social behaviors that keep costs low and productivity high. This mode of governmentality (techniques of governing that exceed express state action and orchestrate the subject’s conduct toward himor herself) convenes a “free” subject who rationally deliberates about alternative courses of action, makes choices, and bears responsibility for the consequences of these choices. In this way, Lemke argues, “the state leads and controls subjects without being responsible for them”; as individual “entrepreneurs” in every aspect of life, subjects become wholly responsible for their well-being and citizenship is reduced to success in this entrepreneurship (201). Neoliberal subjects are controlled through their freedom—not simply, as thinkers from the Frankfurt School through Foucault have argued, because freedom within an order of domination can be an instrument of that domination, but because of neoliberalism’s moralization of the consequences of this freedom. Such control also means that the withdrawal of the state from certain domains, followed by the privatization of certain state functions, does not amount to a dismantling of government but rather constitutes a technique of governing; indeed, it is the signature technique of neoliberal governance, in which rational economic action suffused throughout society replaces express state rule or provision. Neoliberalism shifts “the regulatory competence of the state onto ‘responsible,’ ‘rational’ individuals [with the aim of] encourag[ing] individuals to give their lives a specific entrepreneurial form” (Lemke, 202).

  4. Finally, the suffusion of both the state and the subject with economic rationality has the effect of radically transforming and narrowing the criteria for good social policy vis-à-vis classical liberal democracy. Not only must social policy meet profitability tests, incite and unblock competition, and produce rational subjects, it obeys the entrepreneurial principle of “equal inequality for all” as it “multiples and expands entrepreneurial forms with the body social” (Lemke, 195). This is the principle that links the neoliberal governmentalization of the state with that of the social and the subject.

Taken together, the extension of economic rationality to all aspects of thought and activity, the placement of the state in forthright and direct service to the economy, the rendering of the state tout court as an enterprise organized by market rationality, the production of the moral subject as an entrepreneurial subject, and the construction of social policy according to these criteria might appear as a more intensive rather than fundamentally new form of the saturation of social and political realms by capital. That is, the political rationality of neoliberalism might be read as issuing from a stage of capitalism that simply underscores Marx’s argument that capital penetrates and transforms every aspect of life—remaking everything in its image and reducing every value and activity to its cold rationale. All that would be new here is the flagrant and relentless submission of the state and the individual, the church and the university, morality, sex, marriage, and leisure practices to this rationale. Or better, the only novelty would be the recently achieved hegemony of rational choice theory in the human sciences, self-represented as an independent and objective branch of knowledge rather than an expression of the dominance of capital. Another reading that would figure neoliberalism as continuous with the past would theorize it through Weber’s rationalization thesis rather than Marx’s argument about capital. The extension of market rationality to every sphere, and especially the reduction of moral and political judgment to a cost-benefit calculus, would represent precisely the evisceration of substantive values by instrumental rationality that Weber predicted as the future of a disenchanted world. Thinking and judging are reduced to instrumental calculation in Weber’s “polar night of icy darkness”—there is no morality, no faith, no heroism, indeed no meaning outside the market.

Yet invaluable as Marx’s theory of capital and Weber’s theory of rationalization are in understanding certain aspects of neoliberalism, neither brings into view the historical-institutional rupture it signifies, the form of governmentality it replaces and the form it inaugurates, and hence the modalities of resistance it renders outmoded and those that must be developed if it is to be effectively challenged. Neoliberalism is not an inevitable historical development of capital and instrumental rationality; it is not the unfolding of laws of capital or of instrumental rationality suggested by a Marxist or Weberian analysis but represents instead a new and contingent organization and operation of both. Moreover, neither analysis articulates the shift neoliberalism heralds from relatively differentiated moral, economic, and political rationalities and venues in liberal democratic orders to their discursive and practical integration. Neoliberal governmentality undermines the relative autonomy of certain institutions—law, elections, the police, the public sphere—from one another and from the market, an independence that formerly sustained an interval and a tension between a capitalist political economy and a liberal democratic political system. The implications of this transformation are significant. Herbert Marcuse worried about the loss of a dialectical opposition within capitalism when it “delivers the goods”—that is, when, by the mid–twentieth century, a relatively complacent middle class had taken the place of the hardlaboring impoverished masses Marx depicted as the negating contradiction to the concentrated wealth of capital—but neoliberalism entails the erosion of oppositional political, moral, or subjective claims located outside capitalist rationality yet inside liberal democratic society, that is, the erosion of institutions, venues, and values organized by nonmarket rationalities in democracies. When democratic principles of governance, civil codes, and even religious morality are submitted to economic calculation, when no value or good stands outside of this calculus, then sources of opposition to, and mere modulation of, capitalist rationality disappear. This reminds us that however much a left analysis has identified a liberal political order with legitimating, cloaking, and mystifying the stratifications of society achieved by capitalism (and achieved as well by racial, sexual, and gender superordinations), it is also the case that liberal democratic principles of governance— liberalism as a political doctrine—have functioned as something of an antagonist to these stratifications. As Marx himself argued in “On the Jewish Question,” formal political principles of equality and freedom (with their attendant promises of individual autonomy and dignity) figure an alternative vision of humanity and alternative social and moral referents to those of the capitalist order within which they are asserted. This is the Janus-face or at least Janus-potential of liberal democracy vis-à-vis a capitalist economy: while liberal democracy encodes, reflects, and legitimates capitalist social relations, it simultaneously resists, counters, and tempers them.

Put simply, what liberal democracy has provided over the past two centuries is a modest ethical gap between economy and polity. Even as liberal democracy converges with many capitalist values (property rights, individualism, Hobbesian assumptions underneath all contracts, etc.), the formal distinction it establishes between moral and political principles on the one hand and the economic order on the other has also served to insulate citizens against the ghastliness of life exhaustively ordered by the market and measured by market values. It is this gap that a neoliberal political rationality closes as it submits every aspect of political and social life to economic calculation: asking not, for example, what liberal constitutionalism stands for, what moral or political values it protects and preserves, but rather what efficacy or profitability constitutionalism promotes . . . or interdicts. Liberal democracy cannot be submitted to neoliberal political governmentality and survive.

There is nothing in liberal democracy’s basic institutions or values — from free elections, representative democracy, and individual liberties equally distributed to modest power-sharing or even more substantive political participation — that inherently meets the test of serving economic competitiveness or inherently withstands a cost-benefit analysis. And it is liberal democracy that is going under in the present moment, even as the flag of American “democracy” is being planted everywhere it can find or create soft ground. (That “democracy” is the rubric under which so much antidemocratic imperial and domestic policy is enacted suggests that we are in an interregnum—or, more precisely, that neoliberalism borrows extensively from the old regime to legitimate itself even as it also develops and disseminates new codes of legitimacy. More about this below.) Nor is liberal democracy a temporary casualty of recent events or of a neoconservative agenda. As the foregoing account of neoliberal governmentality suggests, while post-9/11 international and domestic policy may have both hastened and highlighted the erosion of liberal democratic institutions and principles, this erosion is not simply the result of a national security strategy or even of the Bush administration’s unprecedented indifference to the plight of the poor, civil liberties, law valued as principle rather than tactic, or conventional liberal democratic criteria for legitimate foreign policy.10

My argument here is twofold. First, neoliberal rationality has not caused but rather has facilitated the dismantling of democracy during the current national security crisis. Democratic values and institutions are trumped by a cost-benefit and efficiency rationale for practices ranging from government secrecy (even government lying) to the curtailment of civil liberties. Second, the post-9/11 period has brought the ramifications of neoliberal rationality into sharp focus, largely through practices and policies that progressives assail as hypocrisies, lies, or contradictions but that may be better understood as neoliberal policies and actions taking shape under the legitimating cloth of a liberal democratic discourse increasingly void of substance.

The Bush administration’s imperial adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq clearly borrowed extensively from the legitimating rhetoric of democracy. Not only were both wars undertaken as battles for “our way of life” against regimes said to harbor enemies (terrorists) or dangers (weapons of mass destruction) to that way of life, but both violations of national sovereignty were justified by the argument that democracy could and ought to take shape in those places—each nation is said to need liberation from brutal and despotic rule. The standard left criticism of the first justification is that “our way of life” is more seriously threatened by a politics of imperialism and by certain policies of homeland security than by these small nations. But this criticism ignores the extent to which “our way of life” is being figured not in a classically liberal democratic but in a neoliberal idiom: that is, as the ability of the entrepreneurial subject and state to rationally plot means and ends and the ability of the state to secure the conditions, at home and abroad, for a market rationality and subjectivity by removing their impediments (whether Islamic fundamentalism or excessive and arbitrary state sovereignty in the figure of Saddam Hussein). Civil liberties are perfectly expendable within this conception of “our way of life”; unlike property rights, they are largely irrelevant to homo oeconomicus. Their attenuation or elimination does not falsify the project of protecting democracy in its neoliberal mode.

The Left criticized the second justification, that the United States could or ought to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban and Iraq from Hussein, as both hypocritical (the United States had previously funded and otherwise propped up both regimes) and disingenuous (U.S. foreign policy has never rested on the principle of developing democracy and was not serious about the project in these settings). Again, however, translated into neoliberal terms, “democracy,” here or there, does not signify a set of independent political institutions and civic practices comprising equality, freedom, autonomy and the principle of popular sovereignty but rather indicates only a state and subjects organized by market rationality.

Indeed, democracy could even be understood as a code word for availability to this rationality; removal of the Taliban and Baath party pave the way to that availability, and democracy is simply the name of the regime, conforming to neoliberal requirements, that must replace them. When Paul Bremer, the U.S.-appointed interim governor of Iraq, declared on May 26, 2003 (just weeks after the sacking of Baghdad and four days after the UN lifted economic sanctions), that Iraq was “open for business,” he made clear exactly how democracy would take shape in post- Saddam Iraq. Duty-free imported goods poured into the country, finishing off many local Iraqi businesses already damaged by the war. Multinationals tumbled over themselves to get a piece of the action, and foreign direct investment to replace and privatize state industry was described by the corporate executives advising the Bush administration as the “answer to all of Iraq’s problems.”11 The question of democratic institutions, as Bremer made clear by scrapping early plans to form an interim Iraqi government in favor of installing his own team of advisers, was at best secondary to the project of privatizing large portions of the economy and outsourcing the business of policing a society in rubble, chaos, and terror occasioned by the combination of ongoing military skirmishes and armed local gangs.12

It is not news that replacements for the Taliban and the Baath regimes need not be rights-based, formally egalitarian, representative, or otherwise substantively democratic in order to serve the purposes of global capitalism or the particular geopolitical interests of the United States. Nor is it news that the replacements of these regimes need not be administered by the Afghans or Iraqis themselves to satisfy American and global capitalist purposes and interests, though the residues of old-fashioned democracy inside the legitimation project of neoliberalism make even puppet or faux rule by an appointed governing council, or by officials elected in severely compromised election conditions, ideologically preferable to full-fledged directorship by the American occupation. What is striking, however, is the boldness of a raw market approach to political problem solving, the extent to which radical privatization schemes and a flourishing market economy built on foreign investment are offered not simply as the path to democracy but as the name and the measure of democracy in these nations, a naming and measuring first appearing in post-1989 Eastern Europe a decade earlier. Not only are democratic institutions largely irrelevant— and at times even impediments—to neoliberal governmentality, but the success of such governmentality does not depend on the question of whether it is locally administered or externally imposed. Market rationality knows no culture or country, and administrators are, as the economists say, fungible. Indeed, at this juncture in the displacement of liberal democracy by neoliberal governmentality, the question is how much legitimacy neoliberal governance requires from a democratic vocabulary—how much does neoliberalism have to cloak itself in liberal democratic discourse and work with liberal democratic institutions?

This is less a theoretical than a historical-empirical question about how deeply and extensively neoliberal rationality has taken hold as ideology, that is, how much and where neoliberal governance can legitimate itself in its own terms, without borrowing from other discourses. (Neoliberalism can become dominant as governmentality without being dominant as ideology—the former refers to governing practices and the latter to a popular order of belief that may or may not be fully in line with the former, and that may even be a site of resistance to it.) Clearly, a rhetoric of democracy and the shell of liberal democratic institutions remain more important in the imperial heartland than in recently “liberated” or conquered societies with few if any democratic traditions of legitimacy. However, the fact that George W. Bush retains the support of the majority of the American people, despite his open flaunting of democratic principles amid a failing economy and despite, too, evidence that the public justification for invading Iraq relied on cooked intelligence, suggests that neoliberalism has taken deep hold in the homeland. Particularly striking is the number of pundits who have characterized this willful deceit of the people as necessary rather than criminal, as a means to a rational end, thereby reminding us that one of the more dangerous features of neoliberal evisceration of a non-market morality lies in undercutting the basis for judging government actions by any criteria other than expedience.13

Just as neoliberal governmentality reduces the tension historically borne by the state between democratic values and the needs of capital as it openly weds the state to capital and resignifies democracy as ubiquitous entrepreneurialism, so neoliberalism also smooths an old wrinkle in the fabric of liberal democratic foreign policy between domestic political values and international interests. During the cold war, political progressives could use American sanctimony about democracy to condemn international actions that propped up or installed authoritarian regimes and overthrew popularly elected leaders in the Third World. The divergence between strategic international interests and democratic ideology produced a potential legitimation problem for foreign policy, especially as applied to Southeast Asia and Central and Latin America. Neoliberalism, by redefining democracy as thoroughgoing market rationality in state and society, a redefinition abetted by the postcommunist “democratization” process in Eastern Europe, largely eliminates that problem. Certainly human rights talk is ubiquitous in global democracy discourse, but not since Jimmy Carter’s ill-fated efforts to make human rights a substantive dimension of foreign policy have they served as more than window dressing for neoliberal adventures in democracy.

Mourning Liberal Democracy

An assault on liberal democratic values and institutions has been plainly evident in recent events: civil liberties undermined by the USA Patriot Acts and the Total Information Awareness (later renamed Total Terror Awareness) scheme, Oakland police shooting wood and rubber bullets at peaceful antiwar protesters, a proposed Oregon law to punish all civil disobedience as terrorism (replete with twenty five-year jail terms), and McCarthyite deployments of patriotism to suppress ordinary dissent and its iconography. It is evident as well in the staging of aggressive imperial wars and ensuing occupations along with the continued dismantling of the welfare state and the progressive taxation schemes already diluted by the Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations. It has been more subtly apparent in “softer” events, such as the de-funding of public education that led eighty four Oregon school districts to sheer almost a month off the school year in spring 2003 and delivered provisional pink slips to thousands of California teachers at the end of the 2002–03 academic year.14

Or consider the debate about whether antiwar protests constituted unacceptable costs for a financially strapped cities—even many critics of current U.S. foreign policy expressed anger at peaceful civil disobedients over the expense and disruption they caused, implying that the value of public opinion and protest should be measured against its dollar cost.15 Together these phenomena suggest a transformation of American liberal democracy into a political and social form for which we do not yet have a name, a form organized by a combination of neoliberal governmentality and imperial world politics, shaped in the short run by global economic and security crises. They indicate a form in which an imperial agenda is able to take hold precisely because the domestic soil has been loosened for it by neoliberal rationality.

This form is not fascism or totalitarian as we have known them historically, nor are these labels likely to prove helpful in identifying or criticizing it.16 Rather, this is a political condition in which the substance of many of the significant features of constitutional and representative democracy have been gutted, jettisoned, or end-run, even as they continue to be promulgated ideologically, serving as a foil and shield for their undoing and for the doing of death elsewhere. These features include civil liberties equally distributed and protected; a press and other journalistic media minimally free from corporate ownership on one side and state control on the other; uncorrupted and unbought elections; quality public education oriented, inter alia, to producing the literacies relevant to informed and active citizenship; government openness, honesty, and accountability; a judiciary modestly insulated from political and commercial influence; separation of church and state; and a foreign policy guided at least in part by the rationale of protecting these domestic values. None of these constitutive elements of liberal democracy was ever fully realized in its short history—they have always been compromised by a variety of economic and social powers, from white supremacy to capitalism. And liberal democracies in the First World have always required other peoples to pay—politically, socially, and economically—for what these societies have enjoyed; that is, there has always been a colonially and imperially inflected gap between what has been valued in the core and what has been required from the periphery. So it is important to be precise here. Ours is not the first time in which elections have been bought, manipulated, and even engineered by the courts, the first time the press has been slavish to state and corporate power, the first time the United States has launched an aggressive assault on a sovereign nation or threatened the entire world with its own weapons of mass destruction.

What is unprecedented about this time is the extent to which basic principles and institutions of democracy are becoming nothing other than ideological shells concealing their opposite as well as the extent to which these principles and institutions even as values are being abandoned by large parts of the American population. Elements in this transformation include the development of the most secretive government in fifty years (the gutting of the Freedom of Information Act was one of the quiet early accomplishments of the G. W. Bush administration, the “classified” status of its more than 1,000 contracts with Halliburton one of its more recent); the plumping of corporate wealth combined with the reduction of social spending for limiting the economic vulnerability of the poor and middle classes; a bought, consolidated, and muffled press that willingly cooperates in its servitude (emblematic in this regard is the Judith Miller (non)scandal, in which the star New York Times journalist wittingly reported Pentagon propaganda about Iraqi WMDs as journalistically discovered fact); and intensified policing in every corner of American life— airports, university admissions offices, mosques, libraries, workplaces— a policing undertaken both by official agents of the state and by an interpellated citizenry.

A potentially permanent “state of emergency” combined with an infinitely expandable rhetoric of patriotism overtly legitimates undercutting the Bill of Rights and legitimates as well abrogation of conventional democratic principles in setting foreign policy, principles that include respect for nation-state sovereignty and reasoned justifications for war. But behind these rhetorics there is another layer of discourse facilitating the dismantling of liberal democratic institutions and practices: a governmentality of neoliberalism that eviscerates nonmarket morality and thus erodes the root of democracy in principle at the same time that it raises the status of profit and expediency as the criteria for policy making. There is much that is disturbing in the emergence of neoliberal governmentality and a great deal more work to do in theorizing its contribution to the organization and possibilities in current and future political life in the United States. In particular, as I suggested at the outset of this essay, filling in the contemporary political picture would require mapping the convergences and tensions between a (nonpartisan) neoliberal governmentality on the one hand and the specific agendas of Clintonian centrists and Reagan-Bush neoconservatives on the other. It would require exploring the continued efficacy of political rhetorics of morality and principle as neoliberalism voids the substance of and undercuts the need for extramarket morality.

It would require discerning what distinguishes neoliberal governmentality from old-fashioned corporatism and old-fashioned political realism. It would require examining the contradictory political imperatives delivered by the market and set as well by the tensions between nationstate interests and globalized capitalism indifferent to states and sovereignty. And it would require examining the points at which U.S. imperial policies converge with and diverge from or even conflict with neoliberal governmentality.

By way of conclusion, however, I leave aside these questions to reflect briefly on the implications for the Left of neoliberalism’s erosion of liberal democracy. While leftists of the past quarter century were rarely as antagonistic to liberal democracy as the Old Left, neither did we fully embrace it; at times we resented and railed against it, and certainly we harbored an aim to transform it into something else—social democracy or some form of radical democracy. So the Left is losing something it never loved, or at best was highly ambivalent about. We are also losing a site of criticism and political agitation—we criticized liberal democracy not only for its hypocrisy and ideological trickery but also for its institutional and rhetorical embedding of bourgeois, white, masculinist, and heterosexual superordination at the heart of humanism. Whatever loose identity we had as a Left took shape in terms of a differentiation from liberalism’s willful obliviousness to social stratification and injury that were glossed and hence secured by its formal juridical categories of liberty and equality.

Still, liberalism, as Gayatri Spivak once wrote in a very different context, is also that which one “cannot not want” (given the other historical possibilities, given the current historical meaning of its deprivation). Even here, though, the desire is framed as roundabout and against itself, as Spivak’s artful double negative indicates. It indicates a dependency we are not altogether happy about, an organization of desire we wish were otherwise. What might be the psychic/social/intellectual implications for leftists of losing this vexed object of attachment? What are the possible trajectories for a melancholic incorporation of that toward which one is openly ambivalent; or perhaps even hostile, resentful, rebellious?\

Freud posits melancholy as occasioned by ambivalence, though the ambivalence may be more unconsciously sustained than I am suggesting is the case for the Left’s relationship to liberal democracy. More precisely, Freud’s focus in theorizing melancholy is love that does not know or want to avow its hostility, whereas the task before us is to consider hostility that does not know or want to avow its love or dependency. Still, Freud’s thinking about melancholia remains useful here as a theory of loss amid ambivalent attachment and dependence and a theory of identity formation at the site of an ungrievable passion or attachment. It reminds us to consider how left melancholia about liberal democracy would not just be a problematic affect but would constitute a formation of the Left itself.

Incorporating the death of a loathed object to which one was nonetheless attached often takes the form of acting out the loathed qualities of the object. I once had an acquaintance whose muchdespised and abusive father died. While my friend overtly rejoiced at his passing, in the ensuing months she engaged in extraordinary outbursts of verbal and physical abuse toward friends and colleagues, even throwing things at them as she had described her father throwing household objects during her childhood. Another friend buried, after years of illness, a childish, hysterical, histrionic, and demanding mother, one who relentlessly produced herself as a victim amid her own aggressive demands. Relieved as my friend was to have done with this parent, what should emerge over the following year but exactly such tendencies in her own relationships? So this is one danger: that we would act out to keep alive those aspects of the political formation we are losing, that we would take up and perform liberal democracy’s complacencies, cruelties, or duplicities, stage them in our own work and thinking. This behavior would issue in part from the need to preserve the left identity and project that took shape at the site of liberal democracy, and in part from ambivalence about liberal democracy itself. In response to the loss of an object both loved and loathed, in which only the loathing or contempt is avowed, melancholy sustains the loved object, and continues to provide a cover for the love—a continued means of disavowing it—by incorporating and performing the loathsomeness.

There are other ways ambivalently structured loss can take shape as melancholic, including the straightforward possibility of idealizing a lost object as it was never idealized when alive. Straightforward, perhaps, but not simple, for this affect also involves remorse for a past of not loving the object well enough and self-reproach for ever having wished for its death or replacement. As idealization fueled by guilt, this affect also entails heightened aggression toward challenges or challengers to the idealization. In this guilt, anxiety, and defensiveness over the loss of liberal democracy, we would feel compelled to defend basic principles of liberalism or simply defend liberalism as a whole in a liberal way, that is, we would give up being critical of liberalism and, in doing so, give up being left. Freud identifies this surrender of identity upon the death of an ambivalent object as the suicidal wish in melancholia,17 a wish abetted in our case by a more general disorientation about what the Left is or stands for today. Evidence for such a surrender in the present extends from our strikingly unnuanced defenses of free speech, privacy, and other civil liberties to the staging of antiwar protests as “patriotic” through the iconography of the American flag. Often explained as what the Left must do when public discourse moves rightward, such accounts presume a single political continuum, ranged from extreme left to extreme right, in which liberals and conservatives are nothing more than the moderate versions of the extremes (communists and fascists). Not only does the model of the continuum reduce the variety of political possibility in modernity to matters of degree rather than kind, it erases the distinctiveness of a left critique and vision. Just as today’s neoliberals bear little in common with traditional conservatives, so the Left has traditionally stood for a set of values and possibilities qualitatively different from those of welfare state liberals. Times of alliance and spheres of overlap obviously exist, but a continuum does not capture the nature of these convergences and tactical linkages any better than it captures the differences between, for example, a liberal commitment to rights-based equality and a left commitment to emancipating the realm of production, or between a liberal enthusiasm for the welfare state and a left critique of its ideological and regulatory dimensions. So the idea that leftists must automatically defend liberal political values when they are on the ropes, while sensible from a liberal perspective, does not facilitate a left challenge to neoliberalism if the Left still wishes to advocate in the long run for something other than liberal democracy in a capitalist socioeconomic order.

Of course, there are aspects of liberal democracy that the Left has come to value and incorporate into its own vision of the good society—for example, an array of individual liberties that are largely unrelated to the freedom from domination promised by transforming the realm of production. But articulating this renewed left vision differs from defending civil liberties in liberal terms, a defense that itself erases a left project as it consigns it to something outside those terms. Similarly, patriotism and flag-waving are surely at odds with a left formulation of justice, even as love of America, represented through icons other than the flag or through narratives other than “supporting the troops,” might well have a part in this formulation. Finally, not only does defending liberal democracy in liberal terms sacrifice a left vision, but this sacrifice discredits the Left by tacitly reducing it to nothing more than a permanent objection to the existing regime. It renders the Left a party of complaint rather than a party with an alternative political, social, and economic vision.

Still, if we are slipping from liberalism to fascism, and if radical democracy or socialism is nowhere on the political horizon, don’t we have to defend liberal democratic institutions and values? Isn’t this the lesson of Weimar? I have labored to suggest that this is not the right diagnosis of our predicament: it does not grasp what is at stake in neoliberal governmentality—which is not fascism—nor on what grounds it might be challenged. Indeed, the left defense of the welfare state in the 1980s, which seemed to stem from precisely such an analysis—“if we can’t have socialism, at least we should preserve welfare state capitalism”—backfired from just such a misdiagnosis. On the one hand, rather than articulating an emancipatory vision that included the eradication rather than regulation of poverty, the Left appeared aligned with big government, big spending, and misplaced compassion for those construed as failing to give their lives proper entrepreneurial shape. On the other hand, the welfare state was dismantled on grounds that had almost nothing to do with the terms of liberal democracy and everything to do with neoliberal economic and political rationality. We are not simply in the throes of a right-wing or conservative positioning within liberal democracy but rather at the threshold of a different political formation, one that conducts and legitimates itself on different grounds from liberal democracy even as it does not immediately divest itself of the name. It is a formation that is developing a domestic imperium correlative with a global one, achieved through a secretive and remarkably agentic state; through corporatized media, schools, and prisons; and through a variety of technologies for intensified local administrative, regulatory, and police powers. It is a formation made possible by the production of citizens as individual entrepreneurial actors across all dimensions of their lives, by the reduction of civil society to a domain for exercising this entrepreneurship, and by the figuration of the state as a firm whose products are rational individual subjects, an expanding economy, national security, and global power.

This formation produces a twofold challenge for the Left. First, it compels us to consider the implications of losing liberal democracy and especially its implications for our own work by learning what the Left has depended on and demanded from liberal democracy, which aspects of it have formed the basis of our critiques of it, rebellions against it, and identity based on differentiation from it. We may also need to mourn liberal democracy, avowing our ambivalent attachment to it, our need for it, our mix of love and hostility toward it. The aim of this work is framed by the second challenge, that of devising intelligent left strategies for challenging the neoliberal political-economic formation now taking shape and an intelligent left countervision to this formation. Ahalf century ago, Marcuse argued that capitalism had eliminated a revolutionary subject (the proletariat) representing the negation of capitalism; consequently, he insisted, the Left had to derive and cultivate anticapitalist principles, possibilities, and agency from capitalism’s constitutive outside. That is, the Left needed to tap the desires— not for wealth or goods but for beauty, love, mental and physical well-being, meaningful work, and peace—manifestly unmet within a capitalist order and to appeal to those desires as the basis for rejecting and replacing the order. No longer could economic contradictions of capitalism inherently fuel opposition to it; rather, opposition had to be founded in an alternative table of values. Today, the problem Marcuse diagnosed has expanded from capitalism to liberal democracy: oppositional consciousness cannot be generated from liberal democracy’s false promises and hypocrisies. The space between liberal democratic ideals and lived realities has ceased to be exploitable, because liberal democracy itself is no longer the most salient discourse of political legitimacy and the good life. Put the other way around, the politically exploitable hollowness in formal promises of freedom and equality has largely vanished to the extent that both freedom and equality have been redefined by neoliberalism. Similarly, revealed connections between political and economic actors—not merely bought politicians but arrangements of mutual profiteering between corporate America and its political elite—do not incite outrage at malfeasance, corruption, or injustice but appear instead as a potentially rational set of linkages between state and economy. Thus, from the “scandal” of Enron to the “scandal” of Vice President Cheney delivering Iraq to Halliburton to clean up and rebuild, there is no scandal. There is only market rationality, a rationality that can encompass even a modest amount of criminality but also treats close state-corporate ties as a potentially positive value—maximizing the aims of each—rather than as a conflict of interest. 18 Similarly, even as the Bush administration fails to come up with WMDs in Iraq and fails to be able to install order let alone democracy there, such deficiencies are irrelevant to the neoliberal criteria for success in that military episode. Indeed, even the scandal of Bush’s installation as president by a politicized Supreme Court in 2000 was more or less ingested by the American people as business as usual, an ingestion that represents a shift from the expectation that the Supreme Court is independent of political influence to one that tacitly accepts its inclusion in the governmentality of neoliberalism. Similarly, John Poindexter, a key figure in the Iran-Contra affair and director of the proposed “Terrorism Information Awareness” program that would have put all Americans under surveillance, continued to have power and legitimacy at the Pentagon until the flap over the scheme to run a futures market on political violence in the Middle East. All three of these projects are instances of neoliberalism’s indifference to democracy; only the last forced Poindexter into retirement.

These examples suggest that not only liberal democratic principles but democratic morality has been largely eviscerated—in neoliberal terms, each of these “scandals” is framed as a matter of miscalculation or political maneuvering rather than by right and wrong, truth or falsehood, institutional propriety or impropriety. Consequently, the Left cannot count on revealed deception, hypocrisies, interlocking directorates, featherbedding, or corruption to stir opposition to the existing regime. It cannot count on the expectation that moral principle undergirds political action or even on consistency as a value by which to judge state practices or aims. Much of the American public appeared indifferent to the fact that both the Afghan and Iraqi regimes targeted by Bush had previously been supported or even built by earlier U.S. foreign policy. It also appeared indifferent to the touting of the “liberation” of Afghan women as one of the great immediate achievements of the overthrow of the Taliban while the overthrow of the Baath regime set into motion an immediately more oppressive regime of gender in Iraq. The inconsistency does not matter much, because political reasons and reasoning that exceed or precede neoliberal criteria have ceased to matter much. This is serious political nihilism, which no mere defense of free speech and privacy, let alone securing the right to gay marriage or an increase in the minimum wage, will reverse.

What remains for the Left, then, is to challenge emerging neoliberal governmentality in Euro-Atlantic states with an alternative vision of the good, one that rejects homo economicus as the norm of the human and rejects this norm’s correlative formations of economy, society, state, and (non)morality. In its barest form, this would be a vision in which justice would center not on maximizing individual wealth or rights but on developing and enhancing the capacity of citizens to share power and hence to collaboratively govern themselves. In such an order, rights and elections would be the background rather than token of democracy; or better, rights would function to safeguard the individual against radical democratic enthusiasms but would not themselves signal the presence or constitute the principle of democracy. Instead, a left vision of justice would focus on practices and institutions of popular power; a modestly egalitarian distribution of wealth and access to institutions; an incessant reckoning with all forms of power—social, economic, political, and even psychic; a long view of the fragility and finitude of nonhuman nature; and the importance of both meaningful activity and hospitable dwellings to human flourishing. However differently others might place the accent marks, none of these values can be derived from neoliberal rationality or meet neoliberal criteria for the good. The drive to develop and promulgate such a counterrationality—a different figuration of human beings, citizenship, economic life, and the political—is critical both to the long labor of fashioning a more just future and to the immediate task of challenging the deadly policies of the imperial American state.


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Old News ;-)

[Nov 30, 2017] The Dog that Didn't Bark, by Israel Shamir - The Unz Review

Notable quotes:
"... Not only the media is supportive of the extortion scheme. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC: "I think that the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman] is doing a great job at transforming the country." President Trump blessed MBS along similar lines. Not a word of condemnation came out of President Putin, either. Even Al Jazeera, though reporting the extortion in a matter-of-fact way, didn't make too much out of it. ..."
"... But the blanket of silence covering the Extortion Racket beats all. Usually, the global media mainstream system propagates and amplifies the news in a game of rebounding agencies that indirectly end up also to maximize headline sales, wrote the Italian journalist Claudio Resta. But in this case, the important and spectacular news made no headlines. In our Society of the Spectacle , failing to exploit the "spectacular" is a waste of the most valuable resource for the media. ..."
"... The Dog that Didn't Bark ..."
Nov 30, 2017 | www.unz.com

Hundreds of other princes and gentlemen were tortured, too, until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten assets, 70% of all they have. As I write, and as you read these lines, the torture goes on, and so far MBS has already milked his victims of hundreds of billions $$ worth of cash and assets.

"An Extortion racket", you'll exclaim. Perhaps MBS watched The Godfather in his impressionable youth and was impressed by efficiency of their methods. However, he has solved, or rather is in the process of solving, the problem of solvency.

Perhaps this is the method to be advised to Trump and Putin, as well as to other leaders? If the neoliberal dogma forbids taxing, if the offshore are sacred, what remains for a diligent leader but a plush five-star hotel and a band of experienced torturers?

But surely, the torturer will be condemned and ostracised by human rights' defenders! Not at all. Not a single voice, neither from liberal left nor from authoritarian right objected to this amazing deed of mass torture and extortion. While the co-owner of Twitter has been subjected to daily beatings, the prime voice of liberal conscience, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, eulogised MBS as the bearer of progress. In an article as panegyric as they come, titled Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring, at Last and subtitled "The crown prince has big plans for his society".

Tom Friedman does not use the word "extortion", saying that [MBS's] "government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail -- the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton -- until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains." No condemnation at all! Can you imagine what he would say if Putin were to arrest his oligarchs "until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains"?

I believe one line in Friedman's eulogy, saying that the Saudis are content with the extortion act: "the mood among Saudis I spoke with was: "Just turn them all upside down, shake the money out of their pockets and don't stop shaking them until it's all out!" Moreover, I am sure the Americans would applaud if their billionaires were to get the MBS treatment. The Russians were mighty pleased when Putin locked up the oligarch Khodorkovsky, and complained that he was the only one to be jailed. They would love to see the whole lot of oligarchs who plundered Russia through manifestly fraudulent, staged auctions under American advisers in Yeltsin's days, to be shaken "until it's all out".

Not only the media is supportive of the extortion scheme. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC: "I think that the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman] is doing a great job at transforming the country." President Trump blessed MBS along similar lines. Not a word of condemnation came out of President Putin, either. Even Al Jazeera, though reporting the extortion in a matter-of-fact way, didn't make too much out of it.

There is a veritable conspiracy around the MBS actions, a conspiracy embracing the media and governments. He kidnapped the Lebanese Prime Minister, placed him under arrest, took away his telephone and watch, forced him to read on TV a resignation letter composed by MBS people, – and the response of the world has been subdued. He bombed Yemen, causing hundreds of thousands to die of cholera and famine, and the world does not give a damn. Do you remember the response when the Russians bombed Aleppo? None of this indignation accompanies MBS's war on Yemen.

But the blanket of silence covering the Extortion Racket beats all. Usually, the global media mainstream system propagates and amplifies the news in a game of rebounding agencies that indirectly end up also to maximize headline sales, wrote the Italian journalist Claudio Resta. But in this case, the important and spectacular news made no headlines. In our Society of the Spectacle , failing to exploit the "spectacular" is a waste of the most valuable resource for the media.

The potential for a great spectacle is all here. The arrest of dignitaries and princes of blood, including the famous Al-Walid bin al-Talal, well-known investor and Bakr bin Laden, brother of the most notorious Osama would normally feed the media for days. Add to it the marvelous setting of the glorious hotel on the verge of the desert. Make it even more dramatic by open rocket fire on the escaping helicopter of Prince Mansour bin Muqrin , killing him and the other dignitaries who tried to flee.

Such a story, so brilliant and spectacular, with the colour and costume of a Middle Eastern monarchy, could sell newspapers for a week at least. But it was followed by deafening silence.

The same media that overwhelms us with the flood of details and opinions in a case of human rights violations in Russia or China in this case shows off an Olympic indifference to the fate of the princes and billionaires, unjustly and arbitrarily arrested and tortured in a country of no constitution or Habeas Corpus. The United Nations joins in the conspiracy of silence.

This is probably the most unusual aspect of the story, reminiscent of The Dog that Didn't Bark by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In that Sherlock Holmes story, a dog did not bark during the night when a race horse was removed from a stable, and that indicated that the thief was the dog's master.

In the case of MBS, the media dog keeps silent. It means that its mighty mega-owner, whom I called The Masters of Discourse, allowed and authorised the racket. We witness a unique media event, bordering with revelation. How could it be that a prince of a third-league state would be allowed the licence to kidnap prime-ministers, kill princes by ground-to-air missiles, keep and torture great businessmen and dignitaries with impunity and the media would keep mum?

Is it fear of the robber barons that the example of MBS extorting billions from his super-rich will be picked up and acted upon in their own lands? Perhaps.

... ... ...

[Nov 30, 2017] The Dog that Didn't Bark, by Israel Shamir - The Unz Review

Nov 30, 2017 | www.unz.com

Hundreds of other princes and gentlemen were tortured, too, until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten assets, 70% of all they have. As I write, and as you read these lines, the torture goes on, and so far MBS has already milked his victims of hundreds of billions $$ worth of cash and assets.

"An Extortion racket", you'll exclaim. Perhaps MBS watched The Godfather in his impressionable youth and was impressed by efficiency of their methods. However, he has solved, or rather is in the process of solving, the problem of solvency.

Perhaps this is the method to be advised to Trump and Putin, as well as to other leaders? If the neoliberal dogma forbids taxing, if the offshore are sacred, what remains for a diligent leader but a plush five-star hotel and a band of experienced torturers?

But surely, the torturer will be condemned and ostracised by human rights' defenders! Not at all. Not a single voice, neither from liberal left nor from authoritarian right objected to this amazing deed of mass torture and extortion. While the co-owner of Twitter has been subjected to daily beatings, the prime voice of liberal conscience, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, eulogised MBS as the bearer of progress. In an article as panegyric as they come, titled Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring, at Last and subtitled "The crown prince has big plans for his society".

Tom Friedman does not use the word "extortion", saying that [MBS's] "government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail -- the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton -- until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains." No condemnation at all! Can you imagine what he would say if Putin were to arrest his oligarchs "until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains"?

I believe one line in Friedman's eulogy, saying that the Saudis are content with the extortion act: "the mood among Saudis I spoke with was: "Just turn them all upside down, shake the money out of their pockets and don't stop shaking them until it's all out!" Moreover, I am sure the Americans would applaud if their billionaires were to get the MBS treatment. The Russians were mighty pleased when Putin locked up the oligarch Khodorkovsky, and complained that he was the only one to be jailed. They would love to see the whole lot of oligarchs who plundered Russia through manifestly fraudulent, staged auctions under American advisers in Yeltsin's days, to be shaken "until it's all out".

Not only the media is supportive of the extortion scheme. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC: "I think that the Crown Prince [Mohammed bin Salman] is doing a great job at transforming the country." President Trump blessed MBS along similar lines. Not a word of condemnation came out of President Putin, either. Even Al Jazeera, though reporting the extortion in a matter-of-fact way, didn't make too much out of it.

There is a veritable conspiracy around the MBS actions, a conspiracy embracing the media and governments. He kidnapped the Lebanese Prime Minister, placed him under arrest, took away his telephone and watch, forced him to read on TV a resignation letter composed by MBS people, – and the response of the world has been subdued. He bombed Yemen, causing hundreds of thousands to die of cholera and famine, and the world does not give a damn. Do you remember the response when the Russians bombed Aleppo? None of this indignation accompanies MBS's war on Yemen.

But the blanket of silence covering the Extortion Racket beats all. Usually, the global media mainstream system propagates and amplifies the news in a game of rebounding agencies that indirectly end up also to maximize headline sales, wrote the Italian journalist Claudio Resta. But in this case, the important and spectacular news made no headlines. In our Society of the Spectacle , failing to exploit the "spectacular" is a waste of the most valuable resource for the media.

The potential for a great spectacle is all here. The arrest of dignitaries and princes of blood, including the famous Al-Walid bin al-Talal, well-known investor and Bakr bin Laden, brother of the most notorious Osama would normally feed the media for days. Add to it the marvelous setting of the glorious hotel on the verge of the desert. Make it even more dramatic by open rocket fire on the escaping helicopter of Prince Mansour bin Muqrin , killing him and the other dignitaries who tried to flee.

Such a story, so brilliant and spectacular, with the colour and costume of a Middle Eastern monarchy, could sell newspapers for a week at least. But it was followed by deafening silence.

The same media that overwhelms us with the flood of details and opinions in a case of human rights violations in Russia or China in this case shows off an Olympic indifference to the fate of the princes and billionaires, unjustly and arbitrarily arrested and tortured in a country of no constitution or Habeas Corpus. The United Nations joins in the conspiracy of silence.

This is probably the most unusual aspect of the story, reminiscent of The Dog that Didn't Bark by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In that Sherlock Holmes story, a dog did not bark during the night when a race horse was removed from a stable, and that indicated that the thief was the dog's master.

In the case of MBS, the media dog keeps silent. It means that its mighty mega-owner, whom I called The Masters of Discourse, allowed and authorised the racket. We witness a unique media event, bordering with revelation. How could it be that a prince of a third-league state would be allowed the licence to kidnap prime-ministers, kill princes by ground-to-air missiles, keep and torture great businessmen and dignitaries with impunity and the media would keep mum?

Is it fear of the robber barons that the example of MBS extorting billions from his super-rich will be picked up and acted upon in their own lands? Perhaps.

... ... ...

[Nov 28, 2017] The Stigmatization of the Unemployed

"This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" . In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels
Notable quotes:
"... In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero ..."
"... That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population. ..."
"... The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is. ..."
Mar 20, 2011 | naked capitalism

Spencer Thomas:

Very good post. Thank you.

Over the past three decades, large parts of our culture here in the US have internalized the lessons of the new Social Darwinism, with a significant body of literature to explain and justify it. Many of us have internalized, without even realizing it, the ideas of "dog eat dog", "every man for himself", "society should be structured like the animal kingdom, where the weak and sick simply die because they cannot compete, and this is healthy", and "everything that happens to you is your own fault. There is no such thing as circumstance that cannot be overcome, and certainly no birth lottery."

The levers pulled by politicians and the Fed put these things into practice, but even if we managed get different (better) politicians or Fed chairmen, ones who weren't steeped in this culture and ideology, we'd still be left with the culture in the population at large, and things like the "unemployed stigma" are likely to die very, very hard. Acceptance of the "just-world phenomenon" here in the US runs deep.

perfect stranger:

"Religion is just as vulnerable to corporate capture as is the government or the academy."

This is rather rhetorical statement, and wrong one. One need to discern spiritual aspect of religion from the religion as a tool.

Religion, as is structured, is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institutions such as Supreme – and non-supreme – Court(s). It is a form of PR of the ruling class for the governing class.

DownSouth:

perfect stranger,

Religion, just like human nature, is not that easy to put in a box.

For every example you can cite where religion "is complicit: in empoverishment, obedience, people's preconditioning, and legislative enabler in the institution," I can point to an example of where religion engendered a liberating, emancipatory and revolutionary spirit.

Examples:

•Early Christianity •Nominalism •Early Protestantism •Gandhi •Martin Luther King

Now granted, there don't seem to be any recent examples of this of any note, unless we consider Chris Hedges a religionist, which I'm not sure we can do. Would it be appropriate to consider Hedges a religionist?

perfect stranger:

Yes, that maybe, just maybe be the case in early stages of forming new religion(s). In case of Christianity old rulers from Rome were trying to save own head/throne and the S.P.Q.R. imperia by adopting new religion.

You use examples of Gandhi and MLK which is highly questionable both were fighters for independence and the second, civil rights. In a word: not members of establishment just as I said there were (probably) seeing the religion as spiritual force not tool of enslavement.

Matt:

This link may provide some context:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosperity_theology

In particular, there seems to be an extremely popular variant of the above where the starting proposition "God makes moral people rich" is improperly converted to "Rich people are more moral" which is then readily negated to "Poor people are immoral" and then expanded to "Poor people are immoral, thus they DESERVE to suffer for it". It's essentially the theological equivalent of dividing by zero

DownSouth:

Rex,

I agree.

Poll after poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans, and a rather significant majority, reject the values, attitudes, beliefs and opinions proselytized by the stealth religion we call "neoclassical economics."

That said, the ranks of the neoliberals are not small. They constitute what Jonathan Schell calls a "mass minority." I suspect the neoliberals have about the same level of popular support that the Nazis did at the time of their takeover of Germany in 1932, or the Bolsheviks had in Russia at the time of their takeover in 1917, which is about 20 or 25% of the total population.

The ranks of the neoliberals are made to appear far greater than they really are because they have all but exclusive access to the nation's megaphone. The Tea Party can muster a handful of people to disrupt a town hall meeting and it gets coast to coast, primetime coverage. But let a million people protest against bank bailouts, and it is ignored. Thus, by manipulation of the media, the mass minority is made to appear to be much larger than it really is.

The politicians love this, because as they carry water for their pet corporations, they can point to the Tea Partiers and say: "See what a huge upwelling of popular support I am responding to."

JTFaraday:

Well, if that's true, then the unemployed are employable but the mass mediated mentality would like them to believe they are literally and inherently unemployable so that they underestimate and under-sell themselves.

This is as much to the benefit of those who would like to pick up "damaged goods" on the cheap as those who promote the unemployment problem as one that inheres in prospective employees rather than one that is a byproduct of a bad job market lest someone be tempted to think we should address it politically.

That's where I see this blame the unemployed finger pointing really getting traction these days.

attempter:

I apologize for the fact that I only read the first few paragraphs of this before quitting in disgust.

I just can no longer abide the notion that "labor" can ever be seen by human beings as a "cost" at all. We really need to refuse to even tolerate that way of phrasing things. Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist. These are facts, and we should refuse to let argument range beyond them.

The only purpose of civilization is to provide a better way of living and for all people. This includes the right and full opportunity to work and manage for oneself and/or as a cooperative group. If civilization doesn't do that, we're better off without it.

psychohistorian:

I am one of those long term unemployed.

I suppose my biggest employment claim would be as some sort of IT techie, with numerous supply chain systems and component design, development, implementation, interfaces with other systems and ongoing support. CCNP certification and a history of techiedom going back to WEYCOS.

I have a patent (6,209,954) in my name and 12+ years of beating my head against the wall in an industry that buys compliance with the "there is no problem here, move on now" approach.

Hell, I was a junior woodchuck program administrator back in the early 70's working for the Office of the Governor of the state of Washington on CETA PSE or Public Service Employment. The office of the Governor ran the PSE program for 32 of the 39 counties in the state that were not big enough to run their own. I helped organize the project approval process in all those counties to hire folk at ( if memory serves me max of $833/mo.) to fix and expand parks and provide social and other government services as defined projects with end dates. If we didn't have the anti-public congress and other government leadership we have this could be a current component in a rational labor policy but I digress.

I have experience in the construction trades mostly as carpenter but some electrical, plumbing, HVAC, etc. also.

So, of course there is some sort of character flaw that is keeping me and all those others from employment ..right. I may have more of an excuse than others, have paid into SS for 45 years but still would work if it was available ..taking work away from other who may need it more .why set up a society where we have to compete as such for mere existence???????

One more face to this rant. We need government by the people and for the people which we do not have now. Good, public focused, not corporate focused government is bigger than any entities that exist under its jurisdiction and is kept updated by required public participation in elections and potentially other things like military, peace corps, etc. in exchange for advanced education. I say this as someone who has worked at various levels in both the public and private sectors there are ignorant and misguided folks everywhere. At least with ongoing active participation there is a chance that government would, once constructed, be able to evolve as needed within public focus .IMO.

Ishmael:

Some people would say I have been unemployed for 10 years. In 2000 after losing the last of my four CFO gigs for public companies I found it necessary to start consulting. This has lead to two of my three biggest winning years. I am usually consulting on cutting edge area of my profession and many times have large staffs reporting to me that I bring on board to get jobs done. For several years I subcontacted to a large international consulting firm to clean up projects which went wrong. Let me give some insight here.

  1. First, most good positions have gate keepers who are professional recruiters. It is near impossible to get by them and if you are unemployed they will hardly talk to you. One time talking to a recruiter at Korn Fery I was interviewing for a job I have done several times in an industry I have worked in several times. She made a statement that I had never worked at a well known company. I just about fell out of my chair laughing. At one time I was a senior level executive for the largest consulting firm in the world and lived on three continents and worked with companies on six. In addition, I had held senior positions for 2 fortune 500 firms and was the CFO for a company with $4.5 billion in revenue. I am well known at several PE firms and the founder of one of the largest mentioned in a meeting that one of his great mistakes was not investing in a very successful LBO (return of in excess of 20 multiple to investors in 18 months) I was the CFO for. In a word most recruiters are incompetent.
  2. Second, most CEO's any more are just insecure politicians. One time during an interview I had a CEO asked me to talk about some accomplishments. I was not paying to much attention as I rattled off accomplishments and the CEO went nuclear and started yelling at me that he did not know where I thought I was going with this job but the only position above the CFO job was his and he was not going anywhere. I assured him I was only interested in the CFO position and not his, but I knew the job was over. Twice feed back that I got from recruiters which they took at criticism was the "client said I seemed very assured of myself."
  3. Third, government, banking, business and the top MBA schools are based upon lying to move forward. I remember a top human resource executive telling me right before Enron, MCI and Sarbanes Oxley that I needed to learn to be more flexible. My response was that flexibility would get me an orange jump suit. Don't get me wrong, I have a wide grey zone, but it use to be in business the looked for people who could identify problems early and resolve them. Now days I see far more of a demand for people who can come up with PR spins to hide them. An attorney/treasurer consultant who partnered with me on a number of consulting jobs told me some one called me "not very charming." He said he asked what that meant, and the person who said that said, "Ish walks into a meeting and within 10 minutes he is asking about the 10,000 pound guerilla sitting in the room that no one wants to talk about." CEO do not want any challenges in their organization.
  4. Fourth, three above has lead to the hiring of very young and inexperienced people at senior levels. These people are insecure and do not want more senior and experienced people above them and than has resulted in people older than 45 not finding positions.
  5. Fifth, people are considered expendable and are fired for the lamest reasons anymore. A partner at one of the larger and more prestigious recruiting firms one time told me, "If you have a good consulting business, just stick with it. Our average placement does not last 18 months any more." Another well known recruiter in S. Cal. one time commented to me, "Your average consulting gig runs longer than our average placement."

With all of that said, I have a hard time understanding such statements as "@attempter "Workers create all wealth. Parasites have no right to exist." What does that mean? Every worker creates wealth. There is no difference in people. Sounds like communism to me. I make a good living and my net worth has grown working for myself. I have never had a consulting gig terminated by the client but I have terminated several. Usually, I am brought in to fix what several other people have failed at. I deliver basically intellectual properties to companies. Does that mean I am not a worker. I do not usually lift anything heavy or move equipment but I tell people what and where to do it so does that make me a parasite.

Those people who think everyone is equal and everyone deserves equal pay are fools or lazy. My rate is high, but what usually starts as short term projects usually run 6 months or more because companies find I can do so much more than what most of their staff can do and I am not a threat.

I would again like to have a senior challenging role at a decent size company but due to the reasons above will probably never get one. However, you can never tell. I am currently consulting for a midsize very profitable company (grew 400% last year) where I am twice the age of most people there, but everyone speaks to me with respect so you can never tell.

Lidia:

Ishmael, you're quite right. When I showed my Italian husband's resume to try and "network" in the US, my IT friends assumed he was lying about his skills and work history.

Contemporaneously, in Italy it is impossible to get a job because of incentives to hire "youth". Age discrimination is not illegal, so it's quite common to see ads that ask for a programmer under 30 with 5 years of experience in COBOL (the purple squirrel).

Hosswire

Some good points about the foolishness of recruiters, but a great deal of that foolishness is forced by the clients themselves. I used to be a recruiter myself, including at Korn Ferry in Southern California. I described the recruiting industry as "yet more proof that God hates poor people" because my job was to ignore resumes from people seeking jobs and instead "source" aka "poach" people who already had good jobs by dangling a higher salary in front of them. I didn't do it because I disparaged the unemployed, or because I could not do the basic analysis to show that a candidate had analogous or transferrable skills to the opening.

I did it because the client, as Yves said, wanted people who were literally in the same job description already. My theory is that the client wanted to have their ass covered in case the hire didn't work out, by being able to say that they looked perfect "on paper." The lesson I learned for myself and my friends looking for jobs was simple, if morally dubious. Basically, that if prospective employers are going to judge you based on a single piece of paper take full advantage of the fact that you get to write that piece of paper yourself.

Ishmael:

Hosswire - I agree with your comment. There are poor recruiters like the one I sited but in general it is the clients fault. Fear of failure. All hires have at least a 50% chance of going sideways on you. Most companies do not even have the ability to look at a resume nor to interview. I did not mean to same nasty things about recruiters, and I even do it sometimes but mine.

I look at failure in a different light than most companies. You need to be continually experimenting and changing to survive as a company and there will be some failures. The goal is to control the cost of failures while looking for the big pay off on a winner.

Mannwich:

As a former recruiter and HR "professional" (I use that term very loosely for obvious reasons), I can honestly say that you nailed it. Most big companies looking for mid to high level white collar "talent" will almost always take the perceived safest route by hiring those who look the best ON PAPER and in a suit and lack any real interviewing skills to find the real stars. What's almost comical is that companies almost always want to see the most linear resume possible because they want to see "job stability" (e.g. a CYA document in case the person fails in that job) when in many cases nobody cares about the long range view of the company anyway. My question was why should the candidate or employee care about the long range view if the employer clearly doesn't?

Ishmael:

Manwhich another on point comment. Sometimes either interviewing for a job or consulting with a CEO it starts getting to the absurd. I see all the time the requirement for stability in a persons background. Hello, where have they been the last 15 years. In addition, the higher up you go the more likely you will be terminated sometime and that is especially true if you are hired from outside the orgnanization. Companies want loyalty from an employee but offer none in return.

The average tenure for a CFO anymore is something around 18 months. I have been a first party participant (more than once) where I went through an endless recruiting process for a company (lasting more than 6 months) they final hire some one and that person is with the company for 3 months and then resigns (of course we all know it is through mutual agreement).

Ishmael:

Birch:

The real problem has become and maybe this is what you are referring to is the "Crony Capitalism." We have lost control of our financial situation. Basically, PE is not the gods of the universe that everyone thinks they are. However, every bankers secret wet dream is to become a private equity guy. Accordingly, bankers make ridiculous loans to PE because if you say no to them then you can not play in their sand box any more. Since the govt will not let the banks go bankrupt like they should then this charade continues inslaving everyone.

This country as well as many others has a large percentage of its assets tied up in over priced deals that the bankers/governments will not let collapse while the blood sucking vampires suck the life out of the assets.

On the other hand, govt is not the answer. Govt is too large and accomplishes too little.

kevin de bruxelles:

The harsh reality is that, at least in the first few rounds, companies kick to the curb their weakest links and perceived slackers. Therefore when it comes time to hire again, they are loath to go sloppy seconds on what they perceive to be some other company's rejects. They would much rather hire someone who survived the layoffs working in a similar position in a similar company. Of course the hiring company is going to have to pay for this privilege. Although not totally reliable, the fact that someone survived the layoffs provides a form social proof for their workplace abilities.

On the macro level, labor has been under attack for thirty years by off shoring and third world immigration. It is no surprise that since the working classes have been severely undermined that the middle classes would start to feel some pressure. By mass immigration and off-shoring are strongly supported by both parties. Only when the pain gets strong enough will enough people rebel and these two policies will be overturned. We still have a few years to go before this happens.

davver:

Let's say I run a factory. I produce cars and it requires very skilled work. Skilled welding, skilled machinists. Now I introduce some robotic welders and an assembly line system. The plants productivity improves and the jobs actually get easier. They require less skill, in fact I've simplified each task to something any idiot can do. Would wages go up or down? Are the workers really contributing to that increase in productivity or is it the machines and methods I created?

Lets say you think laying off or cutting the wages of my existing workers is wrong. What happens when a new entrant into the business employs a smaller workforce and lower wages, which they can do using the same technology? The new workers don't feel like they were cut down in any way, they are just happy to have a job. Before they couldn't get a job at the old plant because they lacked the skill, but now they can work in the new plant because the work is genuinely easier. Won't I go out of business?

Escariot:

I am 54 and have a ton of peers who are former white collar workers and professionals (project managers, architects, lighting designers, wholesalers and sales reps for industrial and construction materials and equipment) now out of work going on three years. Now I say out of work, I mean out of our trained and experienced fields.

We now work two or three gigs (waiting tables, mowing lawns, doing free lance, working in tourism, truck driving, moving company and fedex ups workers) and work HARD, for much much less than we did, and we are seeing the few jobs that are coming back on line going to younger workers. It is just the reality. And for most of us the descent has not been graceful, so our credit is a wreck, which also breeds a whole other level of issues as now it is common for the credit record to be a deal breaker for employment, housing, etc.

Strangely I don't sense a lot of anger or bitterness as much as humility. And gratitude for ANY work that comes our way. Health insurance? Retirement accounts? not so much.

Mickey Marzick:

Yves and I have disagreed on how extensive the postwar "pact" between management and labor was in this country. But if you drew a line from say, Trenton-Patterson, NJ to Cincinatti, OH to Minneapolis, MN, north and east of it where blue collar manufacturing in steel, rubber, auto, machinery, etc., predominated, this "pact" may have existed but ONLY because physical plant and production were concentrated there and workers could STOP production.

Outside of these heavy industrial pockets, unions were not always viewed favorably. As one moved into the rural hinterlands surrounding them there was jealously and/or outright hostility. Elsewhere, especially in the South "unions" were the exception not the rule. The differences between NE Ohio before 1975 – line from Youngstown to Toledo – and the rest of the state exemplified this pattern. Even today, the NE counties of Ohio are traditional Democratic strongholds with the rest of the state largely Republican. And I suspect this pattern existed elsewhere. But it is changing too

In any case, the demonization of the unemployed is just one notch above the vicious demonization of the poor that has always existed in this country. It's a constant reminder for those still working that you could be next – cast out into the darkness – because you "failed" or worse yet, SINNED. This internalization of the "inner cop" reinforces the dominant ideology in two ways. First, it makes any resistance by individuals still employed less likely. Second, it pits those still working against those who aren't, both of which work against the formation of any significant class consciousness amongst working people. The "oppressed" very often internalize the value system of the oppressor.

As a nation of immigrants ETHNICITY may have more explanatory power than CLASS. For increasingly, it would appear that the dominant ethnic group – suburban, white, European Americans – have thrown their lot in with corporate America. Scared of the prospect of downward social mobility and constantly reminded of URBAN America – the other America – this group is trapped with nowhere to else to go.

It's the divide and conquer strategy employed by ruling elites in this country since its founding [Federalist #10] with the Know Nothings, blaming the Irish [NINA - no Irish need apply] and playing off each successive wave of immigrants against the next. Only when the forces of production became concentrated in the urban industrial enclaves of the North was this strategy less effective. And even then internal immigration by Blacks to the North in search of employment blunted the formation of class consciousness among white ethnic industrial workers.

Wherever the postwar "pact of domination" between unions and management held sway, once physical plant was relocated elsewhere [SOUTH] and eventually offshored, unemployment began to trend upwards. First it was the "rustbelt" now it's a nationwide phenomenon. Needless to say, the "pact" between labor and management has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

White, suburban America has hitched its wagon to that of the corporate horse. Demonization of the unemployed coupled with demonization of the poor only serve to terrorize this ethnic group into acquiescence. And as the workplace becomes a multicultural matrix this ethnic group is constantly reminded of its perilous state. Until this increasingly atomized ethnic group breaks with corporate America once and for all, it's unlikely that the most debilitating scourge of all working people – UNEMPLOYMENT – will be addressed.

Make no mistake about it, involuntary UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLYEMT is a form of terrorism and its demonization is terrorism in action. This "quiet violence" is psychological and the intimidation wrought by unemployment and/or the threat of it is intended to dehumanize individuals subjected to it. Much like spousal abuse, the emotional and psychological effects are experienced way before any physical violence. It's the inner cop that makes overt repression unnecessary. We terrorize ourselves into submission without even knowing it because we accept it or come to tolerate it. So long as we accept "unemployment" as an inevitable consequence of progress, as something unfortunate but inevitable, we will continue to travel down the road to serfdom where ARBEIT MACHT FREI!

FULL and GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT are the ultimate labor power.

Eric:

It's delicate since direct age discrimination is illegal, but when circumstances permit separating older workers they have a very tough time getting back into the workforce in an era of high health care inflation. Older folks consume more health care and if you are hiring from a huge surplus of available workers it isn't hard to steer around the more experienced. And nobody gets younger, so when you don't get job A and go for job B 2 weeks later you, you're older still!

James:

Yves said- "This overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills"

In the IT job markets such postings are often called purple squirrels. The HR departments require the applicant to be expert in a dozen programming languages. This is an excuse to hire a foreigner on a temp h1-b or other visa.

Most people aren't aware that this model dominates the sciences. Politicians scream we have a shortage of scientists, yet it seems we only have a shortage of cheap easily exploitable labor. The economist recently pointed out the glut of scientists that currently exists in the USA.

http://www.economist.com/node/17723223

This understates the problem. The majority of PhD recipients wander through years of postdocs only to end up eventually changing fields. My observation is that the top ten schools in biochem/chemistry/physics/ biology produce enough scientists to satisfy the national demand.

The exemption from h1-b visa caps for academic institutions exacerbates the problem, providing academics with almost unlimited access to labor.

The pharmaceutical sector has been decimated over the last ten years with tens of thousands of scientists/ factory workers looking for re-training in a dwindling pool of jobs (most of which will deem you overqualified.)

http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/03/03/a_postdocs_lament.php

Abe, NYC:

I wonder how the demonization of the unemployed can be so strong even in the face of close to 10% unemployment/20% underemployment. It's easy and tempting to demonize an abstract young buck or Cadillac-driving welfare queen, but when a family member or a close friend loses a job, or your kids are stuck at your place because they can't find one, shouldn't that alter your perceptions? Of course the tendency will be to blame it all on the government, but there has to be a limit to that in hard-hit places like Ohio, Colorado, or Arizona. And yet, the dynamics aren't changing or even getting worse. Maybe Wisconsin marks a turning point, I certainly hope it does

damien:

It's more than just stupid recruiting, this stigma. Having got out when the getting was good, years ago, I know that any corporate functionary would be insane to hire me now. Socialization wears off, the deformation process reverses, and the ritual and shibboleths become a joke. Even before I bailed I became a huge pain in the ass as economic exigency receded, every bosses nightmare. I suffered fools less gladly and did the right thing out of sheer anarchic malice.

You really can't maintain corporate culture without existential fear – not just, "Uh oh, I'm gonna get fired," fear, but a visceral feeling that you do not exist without a job. In properly indoctrinated workers that feeling is divorced from economic necessity. So anyone who's survived outside a while is bound to be suspect. That's a sign of economic security, and security of any sort undermines social control.

youniquelikeme:

You hit the proverbial nail with that reply. (Although, sorry, doing the right thing should not be done out of malice) The real fit has to be in the corporate yes-man culture (malleable ass kisser) to be suited for any executive position and beyond that it is the willingness to be manipulated and drained to be able to keep a job in lower echelon.

This is the new age of evolution in the work place. The class wars will make it more of an eventual revolution, but it is coming. The unemployment rate (the actual one, not the Government one) globalization and off shore hiring are not sustainable for much longer.

Something has to give, but it is more likely to snap then to come easily. People who are made to be repressed and down and out eventually find the courage to fight back and by then, it is usually not with words.

down and out in Slicon Valley:

This is the response I got from a recruiter:

"I'm going to be overly honest with you. My firm doesn't allow me to submit any candidate who hasn't worked in 6-12 months or more. Recruiting brokers are probably all similar in that way . You are going to have to go through a connection/relationship you have with a colleague, co-worker, past manager or friend to get your next job .that's my advice for you. Best of luck "

I'm 56 years old with MSEE. Gained 20+ years of experience at the best of the best (TRW, Nortel, Microsoft), have been issued a patent. Where do I sign up to gain skills required to find a job now?

Litton Graft :

"Best of the Best?" I know you're down now, but looking back at these Gov'mint contractors you've enjoyed the best socialism money can by.

Nortel/TRW bills/(ed) the Guvmint at 2x, 3x your salary, you can ride this for decades. At the same time the Inc is attached to the Guvmint ATM localities/counties are giving them a red carpet of total freedom from taxation. Double subsidies.

I've worked many years at the big boy bandits, and there is no delusion in my mind that almost anyone, can do what I do and get paid 100K+. I've never understood the mindset of some folks who work in the Wermacht Inc: "Well, someone has to do this work" or worse "What we do, no one else can do" The reason no one else "can do it" is that they are not allowed to. So, we steal from the poor to build fighter jets, write code or network an agency.

Hosswire:

I used to work as a recruiter and can tell you that I only parroted the things my clients told me. I wanted to get you hired, because I was lazy and didn't want to have to talk to someone else next.

So what do you do? To place you that recruiter needs to see on a piece of paper that you are currently working? Maybe get an email or phone call from someone who will vouch for your employment history. That should not be that hard to make happen.

Francois T :

The "bizarre way that companies now spec jobs" is essentially a coded way for mediocre managers to say without saying so explicitly that "we can afford to be extremely picky, and by God, we shall do so no matter what, because we can!"

Of course, when comes the time to hire back because, oh disaster! business is picking up again, (I'm barely caricaturing here; some managers become despondent when they realize that workers regain a bit of the higher ground; loss of power does that to lesser beings) the same idiots who designed those "overly narrow hiring spec then leads to absurd, widespread complaint that companies can't find people with the right skills" are thrown into a tailspin of despair and misery. Instead of figuring out something as simple as "if demand is better, so will our business", they can't see anything else than the (eeeek!) cost of hiring workers. Unable to break their mental corset of penny-pincher, they fail to realize that lack of qualified workers will prevent them to execute well to begin with.

And guess what: qualified workers cost money, qualified workers urgently needed cost much more.

This managerial attitude must be another factor that explain why entrepreneurship and the formation of small businesses is on the decline in the US (contrary to the confabulations of the US officialdumb and the chattering class) while rising in Europe and India/China.

Kit:

If you are 55-60, worked as a professional (i.e., engineering say) and are now unemployed you are dead meat. Sorry to be blunt but thats the way it is in the US today. Let me repeat that : Dead Meat.

I was terminated at age 59, found absolutely NOTHING even though my qualifications were outstanding. Fortunately, my company had an old style pension plan which I was able to qualify for (at age 62 without reduced benefits). So for the next 2+ years my wife and I survived on unemployment insurance, severance, accumulated vacation pay and odd jobs. Not nice – actually, a living hell.

At age 62, I applied for my pension, early social security, sold our old house (at a good profit) just before the RE crash, moved back to our home state. Then my wife qualified for social security also. Our total income is now well above the US median.

Today, someone looking at us would think we were the typical corporate retiree. We surely don't let on any differently but the experience (to get to this point) almost killed us.

I sympathize very strongly with the millions caught in this unemployment death spiral. I wish I had an answer but I just don't. We were very lucky to survive intact.

Ming:

Thank you Yves for your excellent post, and for bringing to light this crucial issue.

Thank you to all the bloggers, who add to the richness of the this discussion.

I wonder if you could comment on this Yves, and correct me if I am wrong I believe that the power of labor was sapped by the massive available supply of global labor. The favorable economic policies enacted by China (both official and unofficial), and trade negotiations between the US government and the Chinese government were critical to creating the massive supply of labor.

Thank you. No rush of course.

Nexus:

There are some odd comments and notions here that are used to support dogma and positions of prejudice. The world can be viewed in a number of ways. Firstly from a highly individualised and personal perspective – that is what has happened to me and here are my experiences. Or alternatively the world can be viewed from a broader societal perspective.

In the context of labour there has always been an unequal confrontation between those that control capital and those that offer their labour, contrary to some of the views exposed here – Marx was a first and foremost a political economist. The political economist seeks to understand the interplay of production, supply, the state and institutions like the media. Modern day economics branched off from political economy and has little value in explaining the real world as the complexity of the world has been reduced to a simplistic rationalistic model of human behaviour underpinned by other equally simplistic notions of 'supply and demand', which are in turn represented by mathematical models, which in themselves are complex but merely represent what is a simplistic view of the way the world operates. This dogmatic thinking has avoided the need to create an underpinning epistemology. This in turn underpins the notion of free choice and individualism which in itself is an illusion as it ignores the operation of the modern state and the exercise of power and influence within society.

It was stated in one of the comments that the use of capital (machines, robotics, CAD design, etc.) de-skills. This is hardly the case as skills rise for those that remain and support highly automated/continuous production factories. This is symptomatic of the owners of capital wanting to extract the maximum value for labour and this is done via the substitution of labour for capital making the labour that remains to run factories highly productive thus eliminating low skill jobs that have been picked up via services (people move into non productive low skilled occupations warehousing and retail distribution, fast food outlets, etc). Of course the worker does not realise the additional value of his or her labour as this is expropriated for the shareholders (including management as shareholders).

The issue of the US is that since the end of WW2 it is not the industrialists that have called the shots and made investments it is the financial calculus of the investment banker (Finance Capital). Other comments have tried to ignore the existence of the elites in society – I would suggest that you read C.W.Mills – The Power Elites as an analysis of how power is exercised in the US – it is not through the will of the people.

For Finance capital investments are not made on the basis of value add, or contribution through product innovation and the exchange of goods but on basis of the lowest cost inputs. Consequently, the 'elites' that make investment decisions, as they control all forms of capital seek to gain access to the cheapest cost inputs. The reality is that the US worker (a pool of 150m) is now part of a global labour pool of a couple of billion that now includes India and China. This means that the elites, US transnational corporations for instance, can access both cheaper labour pools, relocate capital and avoid worker protection (health and safety is not a concern). The strategies of moving factories via off-shoring (over 40,000 US factories closed or relocated) and out-sourcing/in-sourcing labour is also a representations of this.

The consequence for the US is that the need for domestic labour has diminished and been substituted by cheap labour to extract the arbitrage between US labour rates and those of Chinese and Indians. Ironically, in this context capital has become too successful as the mode of consumption in the US shifted from workers that were notionally the people that created the goods, earned wages and then purchased the goods they created to a new model where the worker was substituted by the consumer underpinned by cheap debt and low cost imports – it is illustrative to note that real wages have not increased in the US since the early 1970's while at the same time debt has steadily increased to underpin the illusion of wealth – the 'borrow today and pay tomorrow' mode of capitalist operation. This model of operation is now broken. The labour force is now being demonized as there is a now surplus of labour and a need to drive down labour rates through changes in legislation and austerity programs to meet those of the emerging Chinese and Indian middle class so workers rights need to be broken. Once this is done a process of in-source may take place as US labour costs will be on par with overseas labour pools.

It is ironic that during the Regan administration a number of strategic thinkers saw the threat from emerging economies and the danger of Finance Capital and created 'Project Socrates' that would have sought to re-orientate the US economy from one that was based on the rationale of Finance Capital to one that focused in productive innovation which entailed an alignment of capital investment, research and training to product innovative goods. Of course this was ignored and the rest is history. The race to the lowest input cost is ultimately self defeating as it is clear that the economy de-industrialises through labour and capital changes and living standards collapse. The elites – bankers, US transnational corporations, media, industrial military complex and the politicians don't care as they make money either way and this way you get other people overseas to work cheap for you.

S P:

Neoliberal orthodoxy treats unemployment as well as wage supression as a necessary means to fight "inflation." If there was too much power in the hands of organized labor, inflationary pressures would spiral out of control as supply of goods cannot keep up with demand.

It also treats the printing press as a necessary means to fight "deflation."

So our present scenario: widespread unemployment along with QE to infinity, food stamps for all, is exactly what you'd expect.

The problem with this orthodoxy is that it assumes unlimited growth on a planet with finite resources, particularly oil and energy. Growth is not going to solve unemployment or wages, because we are bumping up against limits to growth.

There are only two solutions. One is tax the rich and capital gains, slow growth, and reinvest the surplus into jobs/skills programs, mostly to maintain existing infrastructure or build new energy infrastructure. Even liberals like Krugman skirt around this, because they aren't willing to accept that we have the reached the end of growth and we need radical redistribution measures.

The other solution is genuine classical liberalism / libertarianism, along the lines of Austrian thought. Return to sound money, and let the deflation naturally take care of the imbalances. Yes, it would be wrenching, but it would likely be wrenching for everybody, making it fair in a universal sense.

Neither of these options is palatable to the elite classes, the financiers of Wall Street, or the leeches and bureaucrats of D.C.

So this whole experiment called America will fail.

[Oct 09, 2017] Amazon.com Empire of Illusion The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges published this book eight years ago and the things he predicted have sadly been realized
Notable quotes:
"... his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall. ..."
"... He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes. ..."
"... One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs. ..."
"... Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country. ..."
"... The chapter involving the porn trade that is run by large corporations such as AT&T and GM (the car maker, for crying out loud) was an especially dark, profanity-laced depiction of the abuse and moral decay of American society . ..."
"... He is correct in his belief that the continual barrage of psuedo-events and puffery disguised as news (especially television) has conditioned most of Americans to be non-critical thinkers. ..."
"... Entertainment, consumption and the dangerous illusion that the U.S. is the best in the world at everything are childish mindsets. ..."
"... The are the puppet masters." As extreme as that is, he is more credible when he says, "Commodities and celebrity culture define what it means to belong, how we recognize our place in society, and how we conduct our lives." I say 'credible' because popular and mass culture's influence are creating a world where substance is replaced by questionable style. ..."
"... Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. ..."
"... Visibility has replaced substance and accomplishment; packaging over product, sizzle not steak. Chris Rojek calls this "the cult of distraction" where society is consumed by the vacuous and the vapid rather than striving for self-awareness, accomplishment and contribution ("Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology."). Hedges builds on Rojek's descriptor by suggesting we are living in a "culture of illusion" which impoverishes language, makes us childlike, and is basically dumbing us all down. ..."
"... Today's delusionary and corrupted officials, corporate and government, are reminiscent of the narratives penned by Charles Dickens. Alexander Hamilton referred to the masses as a "great beast" to be kept from the powers of government. ..."
"... Edmund Burke used propaganda to control "elements of society". Walter Lippmann advised that "the public must be kept in its place". Yet, many Americans just don't get it. ..."
"... Divide and conquer is the mantra--rich vs. poor; black vs. white. According to Norm Chomsky's writings, "In 1934, William Shepard argued that government should be in the hands of `aristocracy and intellectual power' while the `ignorant, and the uninformed and the antisocial element' must not be permitted to control elections...." ..."
"... The appalling statistics and opinions outlined in the book demonstrate the public ignorance of the American culture; the depth and extent of the corporatocracy and the related economic malaise; and, the impact substandard schools have on their lives. ..."
"... This idea was recently usurped by the U.S. Supreme Court where representative government is called to question, rendering "our" consent irrelevant. Every voting election is an illusion. Each election, at the local and national level, voters never seemingly "miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" to eliminate irresponsible and unresponsive officials. ..."
"... Walt Kelly's quote "We have met the enemy and he is us" prevails! ..."
"... It's also hard to follow at times as Hedges attempts to stress the connections between pop culture and social, political. and economic policy. Nor is Hedges a particularly stylish writer (a sense of humor would help). ..."
"... The stomach-turning chapter on trends in porn and their relationship to the torture of prisoners of war is a particularly sharp piece of analysis, and all of the other chapters do eventually convince (and depress). ..."
Oct 09, 2017 | www.amazon.com

H. I. on May 13, 2011

This Book Explains EVERYTHING!!!!!

Hedges cogently and systematically dismantles the most pernicious cultural delusions of our era and lays bare the pitiful truths that they attempt to mask. This book is a deprogramming manual that trims away the folly and noise from our troubled society so that the reader can focus on the most pressing matters of our time.

Despite the dark reality Hedges excavates, his screed is a liberating tonic against the crazy-making double-speak and the lies Americans are sold by our country's elite in order to distract us from the true threat and nature of the Corporate State, from the cult of celebrity, to how our nation's Universities have been hijacked to serve the interests, not of the public, but of our corporate overlords. It explains the self-same conditions in all aspects of our society and culture that we now must face, the ever-shrinking flame of enlightenment being exchanged for the illusory shadows on a cave wall.

As a twenty-something caught in the death-throes of American Empire and culture, I have struggled to anticipate where our country and our world are heading, why, and what sort of life I can expect to build for myself. Hedges presents the reader with the depressing, yet undeniable truth of the forces that have coalesced to shape the world in which we now find ourselves. The light he casts is searing and relentless. He fearlessly and incisively calls us out on the obvious farce our democracy has become, how we got here, and highlights the rapidly closing window in which we have to do something to correct it. It is a revelation, and yet he merely states the obvious. The empire has no clothes.

One of the most powerful aspects of this book was in regard to how our Universities are run these days. I may be in the minority, but I experienced a life-changing disillusionment when I gained entrance to a prestigious "elite" University. Instead of drawing the best and the brightest, or being a place where scholarship was valued, where students were taught critical thinking skills, the University I attended was nothing more than an expensive diploma mill for the children of the wealthy. In the eyes of the University, students were not minds to be empowered and developed, but walking dollar signs.

Instead of critical thinking, students were taught to OBEY, not to question authority, and then handed a piece of paper admitting them to the ruling class that is destroying America without a moral compass. Selfishness, deceit, disregard for the common good, and a win-at-all-costs attitude were rewarded. Empathy, curiosity, dissent, and an honest, intellectually rigorous evaluation of ourselves and our world were punished. Obviously I am not the only one to whom this was cause to fear for the future of our country.

Five stars is not enough. Ever since I began reading Empire of Illusion, I have insisted friends and family pick up a copy, too. Everyone in America should read this incredibly important book.

The truth shall set us free.

By Franklin the Mouse on February 5, 2012

Dream Weavers

Mr. Hedges is in one heck of a foul mood. His raging against the evolving of American democracy into an oligarchy is accurate, but relentlessly depressing. The author focuses on some of our most horrid characteristics: celebrity worship; "pro" wrestling; the brutal porn industry; Jerry Springer-like shows; the military-industrial complex; the moral void of elite colleges such as Yale, Harvard, Berkeley and Princeton; optimistic-ladened pop psychology; and political/corporate conformity.

Mr. Hedges grim assessment put me in a seriously foul mood. The chapter involving the porn trade that is run by large corporations such as AT&T and GM (the car maker, for crying out loud) was an especially dark, profanity-laced depiction of the abuse and moral decay of American society .

He is correct in his belief that the continual barrage of psuedo-events and puffery disguised as news (especially television) has conditioned most of Americans to be non-critical thinkers.

Entertainment, consumption and the dangerous illusion that the U.S. is the best in the world at everything are childish mindsets.

The oddest part of Mr. Hedges' book is the ending. The last three pages take such an unexpectedly hard turn from "all is lost" to "love will conquer," I practically got whiplash. Overall, the author should be commended for trying to bring our attention to what ails our country and challenging readers to wake up from their child-like illusions.

Now, time for me to go run a nice, warm bath and where did I put those razor blades?...

By Walter E. Kurtz on September 25, 2011
Amazing book

I must say I was captivated by the author's passion, eloquence and insight. This is not an academic essay. True, there are few statistics here and there and quotes from such and such person, but this is not like one of those books that read like a longer version of an academic research paper. The book is more of author's personal observations about American society. Perhaps that is where its power comes from.

Some might dismiss the book as nothing more than an opinion piece, but how many great books and works out there are opinion pieces enhanced with supporting facts and statistics?

The book is divided into five chapters. Chapter one is about celebrity worship and how far people are willing to humiliate themselves and sacrifice their dignity for their five minutes of fame. But this is not just about those who are willing to make idiots out of themselves just to appear on television. This is about how the fascination with the world of rich and famous distracts the society from the important issues and problems and how it creates unhealthy and destructive desire to pursue wealth and fame. And even for those few who do achieve it, their lives are far from the bliss and happiness shown in movies. More than one celebrity had cursed her life.

Chapter two deals with porn. It offers gutwrenching, vomit inducing descriptions of lives and conditions in the porn industry. But the damage porn does goes far beyond those working in the "industry". Porn destroys the love, intimacy and beauty of sex. Porn reduces sex to an act of male dominance, power and even violence. Unfortunately, many men, and even women, buy into that and think that the sex seen in porn is normal and this is how things should be.

After reading this chapter, I will never look at porn the same way again. In fact, I probably will never look at porn at all.

Chapter three is about education. It focuses mostly on college level education and how in the past few decades it had increasingly changed focus from teaching students how to be responsible citizens and good human beings to how to be successful, profit seeking, career obsessed corporate/government drones. The students are taught that making money and career building are the only thing that matters. This results in professionals who put greed and selfishness above everything else and mindlessly serve a system that destroys the society and the whole planet. And when they are faced with problems (like the current economic crisis) and evidence that the system is broken, rather than rethink their paradigm and consider that perhaps they were wrong, they retreat further into old thinking in search of ways to reinforce the (broken) system and keep it going.
Chapter four is my favorite. It is about positive thinking. As someone who lives with a family member who feeds me positive thinking crap at breakfast, lunch and supper, I enjoyed this chapter very much. For those rare lucky few who do not know what positive thinking is, it can be broadly defined as a belief that whatever happens to us in life, it happens because we "attracted" it to ourselves. Think about it as karma that affects us not in the next life, but in this one. The movement believes that our conscious and unconscious thoughts affect reality. By assuming happy, positive outlook on life, we can affect reality and make good things happen to us.

Followers of positive thinking are encouraged/required to purge all negative emotions, never question the bad things that happen to them and focus on thinking happy thoughts. Positive thinking is currently promoted by corporations and to lesser extent governments to keep employees in line. They are rendered docile and obedient, don't make waves (like fight for better pay and working conditions) and, when fired, take it calmly with a smile and never question corporate culture.

Chapter five is about American politics and how the government and the politicians had sold themselves out to corporations and business. It is about imperialism and how the government helps the corporations loot the country while foreign wars are started under the pretext of defense and patriotism, but their real purpose is to loot the foreign lands and fill the coffers of war profiteers. If allowed to continue, this system will result in totalitarianism and ecological apocalypse.

I have some objections with this chapter. While I completely agree about the current state of American politics, the author makes a claim that this is a relatively recent development dating roughly to the Vietnam War. Before that, especially in the 1950s, things were much better. Or at least they were for the white men. (The author does admit that 1950s were not all that great to blacks, women or homosexuals.)

While things might have gotten very bad in the last few decades, politicians and governments have always been more at the service of Big Money rather than the common people.

And Vietnam was not the first imperialistic American war. What about the conquest of Cuba and Philippines at the turn of the 20th century? And about all those American "adventures" in South America in the 19th century. And what about the westward expansion and extermination of Native Americans that started the moment the first colonists set their foot on the continent?

But this is a minor issue. My biggest issue with the book is that it is a powerful denunciation, but it does not offer much in terms of suggestions on how to fix the problems it is decrying. Criticizing is good and necessary, but offering solutions is even more important. You can criticize all you want, but if you cannot suggest something better, then the old system will stay in place.

The author does write at the end a powerful, tear inducing essay on how love conquers all and that no totalitarian regime, no matter how powerful and oppressive, had ever managed to crush hope, love and the human spirit. Love, in the end, conquers all.

That is absolutely true. But what does it mean in practice? That we must keep loving and doing good? Of course we must, but some concrete, practical examples of what to do would be welcome.

By Richard Joltes on July 18, 2016
An excellent and sobering view at the decline of reason and literacy in modern society

This is an absolutely superb work that documents how our society has been subverted by spectacle, glitz, celebrity, and the obsession with "fame" at the expense of reality, literacy, reason, and actual ability. Hedges lays it all out in a very clear and thought provoking style, using real world examples like pro wrestling and celebrity oriented programming to showcase how severely our society has declined from a forward thinking, literate one into a mass of tribes obsessed with stardom and money.

Even better is that the author's style is approachable and non judgemental. This isn't an academic talking down to the masses, but a very solid reporter presenting findings in an accurate, logical style.

Every American should read this, and then consider whether to buy that glossy celebrity oriented magazine or watch that "I want to be a millionaire" show. The lifestyle and choices being promoted by the media, credit card companies, and by the celebrity culture in general, are toxic and a danger to our society's future.

By Jeffrey Swystun on June 29, 2011
What does the contemporary self want?

The various ills impacting society graphically painted by Chris Hedges are attributed to a lack of literacy. However, it is much more complex, layered, and inter-related. By examining literacy, love, wisdom, happiness, and the current state of America, the author sets out to convince the reader that our world is intellectually crumbling. He picks aspects of our society that clearly offer questionable value: professional wrestling, the pornographic film industry (which is provided in bizarre repetitive graphic detail), gambling, conspicuous consumption, and biased news reporting to name a few.

The front of the end of the book was the most compelling. Especially when Hedges strays into near conspiracy with comments such as this: "Those who manipulate the shadows that dominate our lives are the agents, publicists, marketing departments, promoters, script writers, television and movie producers, advertisers, video technicians, photographers, bodyguards, wardrobe consultants, fitness trainers, pollsters, public announcers, and television news personalities who create the vast stage for illusion. The are the puppet masters." As extreme as that is, he is more credible when he says, "Commodities and celebrity culture define what it means to belong, how we recognize our place in society, and how we conduct our lives." I say 'credible' because popular and mass culture's influence are creating a world where substance is replaced by questionable style.

What resonated most in the book is a passage taken from William Deresiewicz's essay The End of Solitude: "What does the contemporary self want? The camera has created a culture of celebrity; the computer is creating a culture of connectivity. As the two technologies converge -- broadband tipping the Web from text to image, social-networking sites spreading the mesh of interconnection ever wider -- the two cultures betray a common impulse.

Celebrity and connectivity are both ways of becoming known. This is what the contemporary self wants. It wants to be recognized, wants to be connected: It wants to be visible. If not to the millions, on Survivor or Oprah, then to the hundreds, on Twitter or Facebook. This is the quality that validates us, this is how we become real to ourselves -- by being seen by others. The great contemporary terror is anonymity. If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, and in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility."

Visibility has replaced substance and accomplishment; packaging over product, sizzle not steak. Chris Rojek calls this "the cult of distraction" where society is consumed by the vacuous and the vapid rather than striving for self-awareness, accomplishment and contribution ("Propaganda has become a substitute for ideas and ideology."). Hedges builds on Rojek's descriptor by suggesting we are living in a "culture of illusion" which impoverishes language, makes us childlike, and is basically dumbing us all down.

This is definitely a provocative contribution and damning analysis of our society that would be a great choice for a book club. It would promote lively debate as conclusions and solutions are not easily reached.

By S. Arch on July 10, 2011
A book that needs to be read, even if it's only half true.

Empire of Illusion might be the most depressing book I've ever read. Why? Because it predicts the collapse of America and almost every word of it rings true.

I don't know if there's really anything new here; many of the ideas Hedges puts forth have been floating around in the neglected dark corners of our national discourse, but Hedges drags them all out into the daylight. Just about every social/cultural/economic/political ill you can think of is mentioned at some point in the text and laid at the feet of the villains whose insatiable greed has destroyed this once-great country. Hedges is bold. He predicts nothing less than the end of America. Indeed, he claims America has already ended. The American Dream is nothing more than an illusion being propped up by wealthy elites obsessed with power and the preservation of their lifestyle, a blind academia that has forgotten how to critique authority, and a government that is nothing more than the puppet of corporations. Meanwhile, mindless entertainments and a compliant news media divert and mislead the working and middle classes so they don't even notice that they are being raped to death by the power-elite and the corporations.

(Don't misunderstand. This is no crack-pot conspiracy theory. It's not about secret quasi-mystical cabals attempting world domination. Rather, Hedges paints a credible picture of our culture in a state of moral and intellectual decay, and leaders corrupted by power and greed who have ceased to act in the public interest.)

At times Hedges seems to be ranting and accusing without providing evidence or examples to substantiate his claims. But that might only be because his claims have already been substantiated individually elsewhere, and Hedges's purpose here is a kind of grand synthesis of many critical ideas. Indeed, an exhaustive analysis of all the issues he brings forth would require volumes rather than a single book. In any case, I challenge anyone to read this book, look around honestly at what's happening in America, and conclude that Hedges is wrong.

One final note: this book is not for the squeamish. The chapter about pornography is brutally explicit. Still, I think it is an important book, and it would be good if a lot more people would read it, discuss it, and thereby become dis-illusioned.

By Bruce E. McLeod Jr. on February 11, 2012
Thorough and illuminating

Chris Hedges book, "Empire of Illusion" is a stinging assessment and vivid indictment of America's political and educational systems; a well-told story. I agree with his views but wonder how they can be reversed or transformed given the economic hegemony of the corporations and the weight of the entrenched political parties. Very few solutions were provided.

Corporations will continue to have a presence and set standards within the halls of educational and governmental institutions with impunity. Limited monetary measures, other than governmental, exist for public educational institutions, both secondary and post-secondary. Historically, Roman and Greek political elitists operated in a similar manner and may have set standards for today's plutocracy. Plebeian societies were helpless and powerless, with few options, to enact change against the political establishment. Given the current conditions, America is on a downward spiral to chaos.

His book is a clarion call for action. Parents and teachers have warned repeatedly that too much emphasis is placed on athletic programs at the expense of academics. Educational panels, books and other experts have done little to reform the system and its intransigent administrators.

Today's delusionary and corrupted officials, corporate and government, are reminiscent of the narratives penned by Charles Dickens. Alexander Hamilton referred to the masses as a "great beast" to be kept from the powers of government.

Edmund Burke used propaganda to control "elements of society". Walter Lippmann advised that "the public must be kept in its place". Yet, many Americans just don't get it.

They continue to be hood-winked by politicians using uncontested "sound bites" and "racially-coded" phrases to persuade voters.

Divide and conquer is the mantra--rich vs. poor; black vs. white. According to Norm Chomsky's writings, "In 1934, William Shepard argued that government should be in the hands of `aristocracy and intellectual power' while the `ignorant, and the uninformed and the antisocial element' must not be permitted to control elections...."

The appalling statistics and opinions outlined in the book demonstrate the public ignorance of the American culture; the depth and extent of the corporatocracy and the related economic malaise; and, the impact substandard schools have on their lives. This is further exemplified by Jay Leno's version of "Jaywalking". On the streets, he randomly selects passersby to interview, which seems to validate much of these charges.

We are all culpable. We are further susceptible to illusions. John Locke said, "Government receives its just powers from the consent of the governed".

This idea was recently usurped by the U.S. Supreme Court where representative government is called to question, rendering "our" consent irrelevant. Every voting election is an illusion. Each election, at the local and national level, voters never seemingly "miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" to eliminate irresponsible and unresponsive officials.

Walt Kelly's quote "We have met the enemy and he is us" prevails!

By Richard Steiger on January 14, 2012
Powerful in spite of itself

There are many flaws with Hedges' book. For one thing, he is given to writing sermons (his father was a minister), hurling down denunciations in the manner of the prophet Amos. The book also tends to be repetitious, as Hedges makes the same general statements over and over. It's also hard to follow at times as Hedges attempts to stress the connections between pop culture and social, political. and economic policy. Nor is Hedges a particularly stylish writer (a sense of humor would help).

His last-second "happy ending" (something like: we're all doomed, but eventually, somewhere down the line, love will prevail beacuse it's ultimately the strongest power on earth) is, to say the least, unconvincing.

SO why am I recommending this book? Because in spite of its flaws (and maybe even because of them), this is a powerful depiction of the state of American society. The book does get to you in its somewhat clumsy way.

The stomach-turning chapter on trends in porn and their relationship to the torture of prisoners of war is a particularly sharp piece of analysis, and all of the other chapters do eventually convince (and depress).

This book will not exactly cheer you up, but at least it will give you an understanding of where we are (and where we're heading).

[Oct 08, 2017] On the history and grand duplicity of neoliberalism

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Generally speaking, neoliberalism is a set of social, cultural, and political-economic forces that puts competition at the center of social life. According to neoliberalism, government's charge is not the care and security of citizens, but rather the promotion of market competition. In the neoliberal imagination, public social infrastructures (such as social security, unemployment benefits, public education) are believed to squash entrepreneurialism and individualism and breed dependency and bureaucracy. ..."
"... Gramsci's question is still pressing: How and why do ordinary working folks come to accept a system where wealth is produced by their collective labors and energies but appropriated individually by only a few at the top? The theory of hegemony suggests that the answer to this question is not simply a matter of direct exploitation and control by the capitalist class. Rather, hegemony posits that power is maintained through ongoing, ever-shifting cultural processes of winning the consent of the governed, that is, ordinary people like you and me. ..."
"... As Figure 1.1 shows, neoliberal hegemony works to erase this line between public and private and to create an entire society -- in fact, an entire world -- based on private, market competition. In this way, neoliberalism represents a radical reinvention of liberalism and thus of the horizons of hegemonic struggle. Crucially, within neoliberalism, the state's function does not go away; rather, it is deconstructed and reconstructed tow ard the new' end of expanding private markets. ..."
"... At this point, neoliberalism was still swimming upstream, as the postwar era ushered in a new' conjuncture that David Harvey calls embedded liberalism. ..."
"... Embedded liberalism was premised on a "class compromise" between the interests of workers and those of capitalists. In the name of peace, general prosperity, and global capitalism, a hegemonic consensus emerged "that the state should focus on full employment, economic growth, and the welfare of its citizens, and that state power should be freely deployed, alongside of or, if necessary, intervening in or even substituting for market processes to achieve these ends." 4 ..."
"... Neoliberalism developed largely as a coordinated political response to the hegemony of embedded liberalism. As Harvey explains, it was a project "to disembed capital from these constraints." 6 Indeed, the struggle for neoliberal hegemony waged a robust and successful class war on the "compromise" of embedded liberalism by developing, promoting, and implementing a new version of individual-liberty liberalism. ..."
"... As the system of embedded liberalism was taking root and establishing its dominance in national and international affairs, neoliberals were working on the ground: creating think tanks, forging political alliances, and infiltrating universities. During this second phase, neoliberalism emerged as a "thought collective": a "multilevel, multiphase, multi-sector approach to the building of political capacity to incubate, critique, and promulgate ideas." 7 ..."
"... The Neoliberal Thought Collective, as Philip Mirowski coined it, was a vertically integrated network of organizations and people focused on radically shifting the [concensus. ] ..."
Oct 08, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Quote from the book is courtesy of Amazon preview of the book Neoliberalism (Key Ideas in Media & Cultural Studies)

Generally speaking, neoliberalism is a set of social, cultural, and political-economic forces that puts competition at the center of social life. According to neoliberalism, government's charge is not the care and security of citizens, but rather the promotion of market competition. In the neoliberal imagination, public social infrastructures (such as social security, unemployment benefits, public education) are believed to squash entrepreneurialism and individualism and breed dependency and bureaucracy.

Competition, on the other hand, is heralded to ensure efficiency and incite creativity. Spurred by competition, individuals, organizations, companies, and even the government itself, will seek to optimize and innovate, creating a truly free social world where the best people and ideas come out on top. Put a little differently, neoliberalism aims to create a market-based society, where there are only competing private enterprises.

Since the late 1970s, neoliberal ideas have increasingly guided the policies and practices of governments and other social institutions, and as a result, we have come to live in competition with ourselves, others, and our social world.

...In a neoliberal society, the capitalist market is no longer imagined as a distinct arena where goods are valued and exchanged; rather, the market is, or ideally should be, the basis for all human activities.

...We are necessarily interdependent beings, vulnerable and connected to one another, as our lives are supported and made possible by a number of infrastructures (e.g., schools, roads and bridges, communication) that bring us into relation with one another.

We need each other. We need social cooperation and a commitment to a common, collective good if we are all going to make it in this world.

Neoliberalism and its diffusion of competition throughout society make the infrastructures that undergird our lives profoundly unstable, while simultaneously diminishing our senses of interdependence and social connection. As we will see, living in competition paradoxically undercuts what enables our lives -- that is, our social connections and infrastructures -- while telling us to assume more and more responsibility through self-enclosed individualism, thereby squashing our capacities for coming together, trusting and caring for each other, and organizing for social change.

... ... ...

In a culture composed ot anxious, sell-enclosed individuals, where market competition defines all of social life, we need now, more than ever, to see the social constructedness of our identities, worlds, and everyday lives. For neoliberalism's culture of living in competition is so entrenched that only a cultural studies perspective can produce the forms of knowledge we need to imagine and build new worlds. Indeed, a cultural studies perspective understands that possibilities of resistance and transformation are everywhere. As Grossberg puts it,

power is never able to totalize itself. There are always fissures and fault lines that may become the active sites of change. Power never quite accomplishes everything it might like to everywhere, and there is always the possibility of changing the structures and organization of power.7

See, here's the thing; there's a gigantic paradox at the heart of neoliberal culture. On one hand, as we will see, neoliberalism presents itself as a totalizing situation where resistance and transformation seem impossible, as living in competition has come to define all aspects of our lives. On the other hand, though, neoliberalism's power over our lives is incredibly tenuous; for, as mentioned earlier, I am convinced that most of us are yearning for a vastly different world, one that is built upon and nurtures our interdependencies and shared vulnerabilities, not self-enclosed individualism and living in competition.

... ... ...

1 should note that, within academia, neoliberalism is a controversial term. Scholars continue to debate its usefulness. On one hand, for some, neoliberalism is a buzzword, a catchphrase; it is a term that is so often repeated and invoked that it has lost its meaning. According to these critiques, neoliberalism is presented as a scary monster that is everywhere and nowhere all at once. It has come to figure as shorthand for everything that is evil in our world, and as a result, it ends up teaching us very little about what specifically is wrong, how exactly we got here, and what actually can be done to change course. Thus, many scholars advocate not using the term at all. On the other hand, other scholars prefer not to use the term because they argue that it is misleading. For them, neoliberalism is simply an advanced form of liberal capitalism. There's nothing really new or neo here, so why overstate and confuse things with the prefix?

However, despite these critiques, I hang onto the term neoliberalism. My wager in doing so is that writing this book as a critical study of neoliberal culture gives us a way to map our current conjuncture. It allows us to hold together the "specific ensemble of social, cultural, and economic forces" at work in our world and, thus, to locate our lives in interrelation with those of others. Indeed, I have found during my work with students over the years that studying neoliberalism enables us to see our interconnectedness and the new ways of living that sensing our interconnectedness opens up. We all suffer when we're forced to live in competition as self-enclosed individuals. Studying the neoliberal conjuncture allows us to clearly identify the roots of our suffering, and to tr ace our connections with others who are also suffering, although often in variegated ways. In other words, when w'e map our conjuncture, we can see how our different lives are lived on common ground, which is a crucial step to creating a world beyond competition.

... ... ...

A NEW HEGEMON

THE RISE OF NEOLIBERALISM

CHAPTER OVERVIEW

At this point, you might have a sense of what neoliberalism is, but you're probably still fuzzy on the details. This chapter starts to clear things up by charting the making of our neoliberal conjuncture. By tracing the history and development of neoliberalism, we will leant how competition came to be the driving force in our everyday lives. Specifically, we will examine the rise of neoliberal hegemony in four phases.

Table 1.1 Four Phases of Neoliberalism

As we will see, neoliberalism is far from natur and necessary; rather, it represents a clear political project that was organized, struggled for, and won.

A NEW HEGEMONY

We begin our investigation with a historical account of the rise of neoliberal hegemony. Hegemony is a concept developed by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was keen to account for the definitive role that culture played in legitimizing and sustaining capitalism and its exploitation of the working classes. In our own context of extreme economic inequality, Gramsci's question is still pressing: How and why do ordinary working folks come to accept a system where wealth is produced by their collective labors and energies but appropriated individually by only a few at the top? The theory of hegemony suggests that the answer to this question is not simply a matter of direct exploitation and control by the capitalist class. Rather, hegemony posits that power is maintained through ongoing, ever-shifting cultural processes of winning the consent of the governed, that is, ordinary people like you and me.

In other words, if we want to really understand why and how phenomena like inequality and exploitation exist, we have to attend to the particular, contingent, and often contradictory ways in which culture gets mobilized to forward the interests and power of the ruling classes. According to Gramsci, there was not one ruling class, but rather a historical bloc, "a moving equilibrium" of class interests and values. Hegemony names a cultural struggle for moral, social, economic, and political leadership; in this struggle, a field -- or assemblage -- of practices, discourses, values, and beliefs come to be dominant. While this field is powerful and firmly entrenched, it is also open to contestation. In other words, hegemonic power is always on the move; it has to keep winning our consent to survive, and sometimes it fails to do so.

Through the lens of hegemony, we can think about the rise of neoliberalism as an ongoing political project -- and class struggle -- to shift society's political equilibrium and create a new dominant field. Specifically, we are going to trace the shift from liberal to neoliberal hegemony. This shift is represented in the two images below.

Previous versions of liberal hegemony imagined society to be divided into distinct public and private spheres. The public sphere was the purview of the state, and its role was to ensure the formal rights and freedoms of citizens through the rule of law. The private sphere included the economy and the domestic sphere of home and family.

For the most part, liberal hegemony was animated by a commitment to limited government, as the goal was to allow for as much freedom in trade, associations, and civil society as possible, while preserving social order and individual rights. Politics took shape largely around the line between public and private; more precisely, it was a struggle over where and how to draw the line. In other words, within the field of liberal hegemony, politics was a question of how to define the uses and limits of the state and its public function in a capitalist society. Of course, political parties often disagreed passionately about where and how to draw that line. As we'll see below, many advocated for laissez-faire capitalism, while others argued for a greater public role in ensuring the health, happiness, and rights of citizens. What's crucial though is that everyone agreed that there was a line to be drawn, and that there was a public function for the state.

As Figure 1.1 shows, neoliberal hegemony works to erase this line between public and private and to create an entire society -- in fact, an entire world -- based on private, market competition. In this way, neoliberalism represents a radical reinvention of liberalism and thus of the horizons of hegemonic struggle. Crucially, within neoliberalism, the state's function does not go away; rather, it is deconstructed and reconstructed tow ard the new' end of expanding private markets.

Consequently, contemporary politics take shape around questions of how best to promote competition. For the most part, politics on both the left and right have been subsumed by neoliberal hegemony. For example, while neoliberalism made its debut in Western politics with the right-wing administrations of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, leaders associated with the left have worked to further neoliberal hegemony in stunning ways. As we will explore in more depth below and in die coming chapters, both U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have governed to create a privatized, market society. In other words, there is both a left and a right hegemonic horizon of neoliberalism. Thus, moving beyond neoliberalism will ultimately require a whole new field of politics.

It is important to see that the gradual shift from liberal to neoliberal hegemony was not inevitable or natural, nor was it easy. Rather, what we now r call neoliberalism is the effect of a sustained hegemonic struggle over the course of the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries to construct and maintain a new political equilibrium. Simply put, neoliberalism was, and continues to be, struggled over, fought for, and w'on.

In Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliheral Politics, Daniel Stedman Jones charts the history of the neoliberal project in three phases. The first phase saw the development of neoliberal ideas and philosophies in Europe during the years between World War I and World War II, as a relatively small group of economists (including most notably those from Austria, Germany, and France), wrestling with the rise of fascism, communism, and socialism, sought to envision a new liberal society that would protect individual liberties and free markets. The second phase w as a period of institution building, knowledge production, and organizing that enabled neoliberalism to cultivate a powerful base in culture and politics, especially in the U.S. and United Kingdom. During this phase, neoliberalism developed into a "thought collective" and full-fledged political movement. In the third phase, neoliberal ideas migrated from the margins to the center of political life as they came to shape global trade and development suggested by the theory of hegemony, none of these phases were neat and clean; each was shot through with struggle and contingency.

1 am adding a fourth phase, which is the focus of this book. Here neoliberalism is not only a set of economic policies and political discourses, but also a deeply entrenched sensibility of w ho we are and can become and of what is possible to do, both individually and collectively. It is what Raymond Williams called "a structure of feeling." Thanks to a convergence of different social, economic, and cultural forces, which we will explore throughout the following chapters, competition has become fully embedded in our lifeworlds: it is our culture, our conjuncture, the air we breathe. More specifically, this fourth phase is characterized by widespread precarity, where crisis becomes ordinary, a constant feature of everyday life. As we will learn in coming chapters, we are prompted to confront the precarity neoliberalism brings to our lives with more neoliberalism, that is, with living in competition and self-enclosed individualism.

PHASE I: THEORETICAL INNOVATION

The Crisis of Liberalism and the Birth of the Social Welfare State

Neoliberalism emerged out of the crisis of liberalism that ultimately came to a head in the early twentieth century. It is crucial to understand that liberal hegemony was never a coherent, unified phenomenon. Rather, it developed around a central political antagonism. On one side were those who championed individual liberty (especially private property rights and free markets) above all else. They argued against government intervention in private life, especially in the market. On the other side, social reformers believed that government should be pursued for the common good and not just for individual liberties. In the decades leading up to the Great Depression, it became clear that the individual-liberty side, which had long been dominant, was inadequate for managing huge transformations in capitalism that were underway. These transformations included industrialization, urbanization, and internationalization, as well as the rise of large-scale corporate firms that squeezed smaller market actors. Huge gaps formed between the political-economic elite, the middle classes, and the poor. Simply put, liberalism was in crisis.

During this time of social, cultural, and economic upheaval, those espousing the common good gained political ground. Specifically, the misery and devastation of the Great Depression solidified the gains for social reformers, opening a new era where a new, common-good liberalism began to prevail. In the United States, President Franklin

Roosevelt's administration passed a comprehensive set of social policies designed to protect individuals from the unpredictable and often brutal operations of capitalism. These included the following:

  1. Reforming banking: The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 set up regulatory agencies to provide oversight to the stock markets and financial sector, while enforcing the separation of commercial banking and speculative investment. Simply put, banks couldn't gamble with your savings and future.
  2. Strengthening labor: In 1935, the National Recovery Administration and the National Labor Relations Act were passed to recognize labor unions and the rights of workers to organize. At the same time, the administration spurred employment through the Public Works Administration, the Civil Works Administration, and the Works Progress Administration, while guaranteeing workers a dignified retirement with the Social Security Act of 1935.
  3. Promoting housing: A range of programs, policies, and agencies were established, including the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Housing Authority, to encourage homeownership and provide housing to the poor and homeless. 1

Taken together, these policies marked the birth of the so-called social welfare state, albeit one that was limited in scope and often highly exclusionary in practice. For example, a universal health care program was never realized. Many social groups, including African-Americans, migrant farm workers, and women, were prohibited by law from receiving federal benefits such as social security or unemployment. 3 Additionally, institutional racism plagued (as it still does) housing and banking institutions.

The Walter Lippmann Colloquium and the Birth of Neoliberalism

It is helpful to trace the emergence of our neoliberal conjuncture back to this moment where the common good was starting to win the day via the establishment of a limited and exclusionary social welfare state. For, despite the fact that these social welfare policies effectively "saved" capitalism from destroying itself, the individual-liberty side was deeply troubled. They feared that a new and established the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) in 1947 to continue the work of dreaming up a new individual-liberty liberalism.

At this point, neoliberalism was still swimming upstream, as the postwar era ushered in a new' conjuncture that David Harvey calls embedded liberalism.

Embedded liberalism was premised on a "class compromise" between the interests of workers and those of capitalists. In the name of peace, general prosperity, and global capitalism, a hegemonic consensus emerged "that the state should focus on full employment, economic growth, and the welfare of its citizens, and that state power should be freely deployed, alongside of or, if necessary, intervening in or even substituting for market processes to achieve these ends." 4

A central piece of the embedded liberal compromise was the Bretton Woods Accord, which attempted to stabilize the global economy by re-fixing currency rates to the gold standard. The idea was that national economies shouldn't be threatened by currency speculation in the financial markets. All this meant that an infrastructure emerged to protect citizens' economic and social security. To ensure the common good, capitalism must be embedded within "a web of social and political constraints." 5

Neoliberalism developed largely as a coordinated political response to the hegemony of embedded liberalism. As Harvey explains, it was a project "to disembed capital from these constraints." 6 Indeed, the struggle for neoliberal hegemony waged a robust and successful class war on the "compromise" of embedded liberalism by developing, promoting, and implementing a new version of individual-liberty liberalism.

The Neoliberal Thought Collective

As the system of embedded liberalism was taking root and establishing its dominance in national and international affairs, neoliberals were working on the ground: creating think tanks, forging political alliances, and infiltrating universities. During this second phase, neoliberalism emerged as a "thought collective": a "multilevel, multiphase, multi-sector approach to the building of political capacity to incubate, critique, and promulgate ideas." 7

The Neoliberal Thought Collective, as Philip Mirowski coined it, was a vertically integrated network of organizations and people focused on radically shifting the [concensus. ]

[Oct 01, 2017] Attempts to buy US elections using perverted notion of free speech were deliberate. This is an immanent feature of neoliberalism which being Trotskyism for the rich deny democracy for anybody outside the top one percent (or, may be, top 10-20 percent)

Highly recommended!
In 1970th the new neoliberal "capitalists of all countries, unite !" slogan displaced the old one: "Proletarians of all countries, unite!" Since the late 70th, the leading capitalist states in North America and Western Europe have pursued neoliberal policies and institutional changes. The peripheral and semi peripheral states in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, under the pressure of the leading capitalist states (primarily the United States) and international monetary institutions (IMF and the World Bank), were forced to adopt "structural adjustments," "shock therapies," or "economic reforms," to open their economies to transactionals and to restructure them in accordance with the requirements of the global neoliberal empire led by the USA.
The regime enforced in countries of the global neoliberal empire typically includes monetarist policies to lower inflation and maintain fiscal balance (often achieved by reducing public expenditures and raising the interest rate), "flexible" labor markets (meaning removing labor market regulations, cutting social welfare and facilitating legal and illegal immigration from poor countries to drive wages down), trade and financial liberalization, and privatization. These policies were an attack by the global finance capital on the working people of the world. Under neoliberal capitalism, decades of social progress and developmental efforts have been reversed. Global inequality in income and wealth has reached unprecedented levels sometimes exceeding the level reached in 1920th. In much of the world, working people have suffered pauperization. Entire countries have been reduced to misery.
Notable quotes:
"... What's missing here is the way in which the capitalist class orchestrated its efforts during the 1970s and early 1980s. I think it would be fair to say that at that time - in the English-speaking world anyway - the corporate capitalist class became pretty unified. ..."
"... For example, you see reforms of campaign finance that treated contributions to campaigns as a form of free speech . There's a long tradition in the United States of corporate capitalists buying elections but now it was legalized rather than being under the table as corruption. ..."
"... Overall I think this period was defined by a broad movement across many fronts, ideological and political. And the only way you can explain that broad movement is by recognizing the relatively high degree of solidarity in the corporate capitalist class. ..."
www.jacobinmag.com
What's missing here is the way in which the capitalist class orchestrated its efforts during the 1970s and early 1980s. I think it would be fair to say that at that time - in the English-speaking world anyway - the corporate capitalist class became pretty unified.

They agreed on a lot of things, like the need for a political force to really represent them. So you get the capture of the Republican Party, and an attempt to undermine, to some degree, the Democratic Party.

From the 1970s the Supreme Court made a bunch of decisions that allowed the corporate capitalist class to buy elections more easily than it could in the past.

For example, you see reforms of campaign finance that treated contributions to campaigns as a form of free speech. There's a long tradition in the United States of corporate capitalists buying elections but now it was legalized rather than being under the table as corruption.

Overall I think this period was defined by a broad movement across many fronts, ideological and political. And the only way you can explain that broad movement is by recognizing the relatively high degree of solidarity in the corporate capitalist class.

Capital reorganized its power in a desperate attempt to recover its economic wealth and its influence, which had been seriously eroded from the end of the 1960s into the 1970s.

[Oct 01, 2017] Bulletproof Neoliberalism by Paul Heideman

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Mirowski identifies three basic aspects of neoliberalism that the Left has failed to understand: the movement's intellectual history, the way it has transformed everyday life, and what constitutes opposition to it. Until we come to terms with them, Mirowski suggests, right-wing movements such as the Tea Party (a prominent player in the book) will continue to reign triumphant. ..."
"... Joining a long line of thinkers, most famously Karl Polanyi, Mirowski insists that a key error of the Left has been its failure to see that markets are always embedded in other social institutions. Neoliberals, by contrast, grasp this point with both hands -- and therefore seek to reshape all of the institutions of society, including and especially the state, to promote markets. Neoliberal ascendancy has meant not the retreat of the state so much as its remaking. ..."
"... he also recognizes that the neoliberals themselves have been canny about keeping the real nature of their project hidden through a variety of means. Neoliberal institutions tend to have what he calls a "Russian doll" structure, with the most central ones well hidden from public eyes. Mirowski coins an ironic expression, "the Neoliberal Thought Collective," for the innermost entities that formulate the movement's doctrine. The venerable Mont Pelerin Society is an NTC institution. Its ideas are frequently disseminated through venues which, formally at least, are unconnected to the center, such as academic economics departments. Thus, neoclassical economists spread the gospel of the free market while the grand project of remaking the state falls to others. ..."
"... At the same time as neoliberal commonsense trickles down from above, Mirowski argues that it also wells up from below, reinforced by our daily patterns of life. Social networking sites like Facebook encourage people to view themselves as perpetual cultural entrepreneurs, striving to offer a newer and better version of themselves to the world. Sites like LinkedIn prod their users to present themselves as a fungible basket of skills, adjustable to the needs of any employer, without any essential characteristics beyond a requisite subservience. Classical liberalism always assumes the coherent individual self as its basic unit. Neoliberalism, by contrast, sees people as little more than variable bundles of human capital, with no permanent interests or even attributes that cannot be remade through the market. For Mirowski, the proliferation of these forms of everyday neoliberalism constitute a "major reason the neoliberals have emerged from the crisis triumphant." ..."
"... Finally, Mirowski argues that the Left has too often been sucked in by neoliberalism's loyal opposition. Figures like Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman, while critical of austerity and supportive of the welfare state, accept the fundamental neoclassical economic precepts at the heart of neoliberal policy. Mirowski argues that we must ditch this tradition in its entirety. Even attempts to render its assumptions more realistic -- as in the case of behavioral economics, for example, which takes account of the ways real people diverge from the hyperrationality of homo economicus -- provide little succor for those seeking to overturn the neoliberals. ..."
"... Mirowski's insistence on the centrality of the state to the neoliberal project helps correct the unfortunate tendency of many leftists over the past decade to assent to neoliberal nostrums about the obsolescence of the state. Indeed, Mirowski goes further than many other critics who have challenged the supposed retreat of the state under neoliberalism. ..."
"... Loïc Wacquant, for instance, has described the "centaur state" of neoliberalism, in which a humanist liberalism reigns for the upper classes, while the lower classes face the punitive state apparatus in all its bestiality. ..."
"... Mirowski shows us that the world of the rich under neoliberalism in no way corresponds to the laissez-faire of classical liberalism. The state does not so much leave the rich alone as actively work to reshape the world in their interests, helping to create markets for the derivatives and securities that made (and then destroyed) so many of the fortunes of the recent past. The neoliberal state is an eminently interventionist one, and those mistaking it for the austere nightwatchman of libertarian utopianism have little hope of combating it. ..."
"... Mirowski's concern to disabuse his readers of the notion that the wing of neoliberal doctrine disseminated by neoclassical economists could ever be reformed produces some of the best sections of the book. His portrait of an economics profession in haggard disarray in the aftermath of the crisis is both comic and tragic, as the amusement value of the buffoonery on display diminishes quickly when one realizes the prestige still accorded to these figures. Reading his comprehensive examination of the discipline's response to the crisis, one is reminded of Freud's famous broken kettle. The professional economists' account of their role in the crisis went something like (a) there was no bubble and (b) bubbles are impossible to predict but (c) we knew it was a bubble all along. ..."
"... Though Krugman and Stiglitz have attacked concepts like the efficient markets hypothesis (which holds that prices in a competitive financial market reflect all relevant economic information), Mirowski argues that their attempt to do so while retaining the basic theoretical architecture of neoclassicism has rendered them doubly ineffective. ..."
"... First, their adoption of the battery of assumptions that accompany most neoclassical theorizing -- about representative agents, treating information like any other commodity, and so on -- make it nearly impossible to conclusively rebut arguments like the efficient markets hypothesis. ..."
Oct 01, 2017 | www.jacobinmag.com

To understand how a body of thought became an era of capitalism requires more than intellectual history.

"What is going to come after neoliberalism?" It was the question on many radicals' lips, present writer included, after the financial crisis hit in 2008. Though few were so sanguine about our prospects as to repeat the suicidal optimism of previous radical movements ("After Hitler, Our Turn!"), the feeling of the day was that the era of unfettered marketization was coming to a close. A new period of what was loosely referred to as Keynesianism would be the inevitable result of a crisis caused by markets run amok.

Five years later, little has changed. What comes after neoliberalism? More neoliberalism, apparently. The prospects for a revived Left capable of confronting it appear grim.

Enter Philip Mirowski's Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown . Mirowski maintains that the true nature of neoliberalism has gone unrecognized by its would-be critics, allowing the doctrine to flourish even in conditions, such as a massive financial crisis, that would seem to be inimical to its survival. Leftists keep busy tilting at the windmill of deregulation as the giants of neoliberalism go on pillaging unmolested.

Mirowski identifies three basic aspects of neoliberalism that the Left has failed to understand: the movement's intellectual history, the way it has transformed everyday life, and what constitutes opposition to it. Until we come to terms with them, Mirowski suggests, right-wing movements such as the Tea Party (a prominent player in the book) will continue to reign triumphant.

The book begins with the war of ideas -- a conflict in which, Mirowski argues, the Left has been far too generous in taking neoliberals at their word, or at least their best-publicized word. We have, in effect, been suckered by kindly old Milton Friedman telling us how much better off we'd all be if the government simply left us "free to choose." But neoliberals have at times been forthright about their appreciation for the uses of state power. Markets, after all, do not simply create themselves. Joining a long line of thinkers, most famously Karl Polanyi, Mirowski insists that a key error of the Left has been its failure to see that markets are always embedded in other social institutions. Neoliberals, by contrast, grasp this point with both hands -- and therefore seek to reshape all of the institutions of society, including and especially the state, to promote markets. Neoliberal ascendancy has meant not the retreat of the state so much as its remaking.

If Mirowski is often acidic about the Left's failure to understand this point, he also recognizes that the neoliberals themselves have been canny about keeping the real nature of their project hidden through a variety of means. Neoliberal institutions tend to have what he calls a "Russian doll" structure, with the most central ones well hidden from public eyes. Mirowski coins an ironic expression, "the Neoliberal Thought Collective," for the innermost entities that formulate the movement's doctrine. The venerable Mont Pelerin Society is an NTC institution. Its ideas are frequently disseminated through venues which, formally at least, are unconnected to the center, such as academic economics departments. Thus, neoclassical economists spread the gospel of the free market while the grand project of remaking the state falls to others.

At the same time as neoliberal commonsense trickles down from above, Mirowski argues that it also wells up from below, reinforced by our daily patterns of life. Social networking sites like Facebook encourage people to view themselves as perpetual cultural entrepreneurs, striving to offer a newer and better version of themselves to the world. Sites like LinkedIn prod their users to present themselves as a fungible basket of skills, adjustable to the needs of any employer, without any essential characteristics beyond a requisite subservience. Classical liberalism always assumes the coherent individual self as its basic unit. Neoliberalism, by contrast, sees people as little more than variable bundles of human capital, with no permanent interests or even attributes that cannot be remade through the market. For Mirowski, the proliferation of these forms of everyday neoliberalism constitute a "major reason the neoliberals have emerged from the crisis triumphant."

Finally, Mirowski argues that the Left has too often been sucked in by neoliberalism's loyal opposition. Figures like Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman, while critical of austerity and supportive of the welfare state, accept the fundamental neoclassical economic precepts at the heart of neoliberal policy. Mirowski argues that we must ditch this tradition in its entirety. Even attempts to render its assumptions more realistic -- as in the case of behavioral economics, for example, which takes account of the ways real people diverge from the hyperrationality of homo economicus -- provide little succor for those seeking to overturn the neoliberals.

For Mirowski, these three failures of the Left go a long way toward explaining how neoliberals have largely escaped blame for a crisis they created. The Left persistently goes after phantoms like deregulation or smaller government, which neoliberals easily parry by pointing out that the regulatory apparatus has never been bigger. At the same time, we ignore the deep roots of neoliberal ideology in everyday life, deceiving ourselves as to the scale of the task in front of us.

Whatever criticisms of Mirowski's analysis are in order, much of it is compelling, particularly in regard to the intellectual history of the NTC. Mirowski's insistence on the centrality of the state to the neoliberal project helps correct the unfortunate tendency of many leftists over the past decade to assent to neoliberal nostrums about the obsolescence of the state. Indeed, Mirowski goes further than many other critics who have challenged the supposed retreat of the state under neoliberalism.

Loïc Wacquant, for instance, has described the "centaur state" of neoliberalism, in which a humanist liberalism reigns for the upper classes, while the lower classes face the punitive state apparatus in all its bestiality. But Mirowski shows us that the world of the rich under neoliberalism in no way corresponds to the laissez-faire of classical liberalism. The state does not so much leave the rich alone as actively work to reshape the world in their interests, helping to create markets for the derivatives and securities that made (and then destroyed) so many of the fortunes of the recent past. The neoliberal state is an eminently interventionist one, and those mistaking it for the austere nightwatchman of libertarian utopianism have little hope of combating it.

It's here that we begin to see the strategic genius of neoliberal infrastructure, with its teams of college economics professors teaching the wondrous efficacy of supply and demand on the one hand, and the think tanks and policy shops engaged in the relentless pursuit of state power on the other. The Left too often sees inconsistency where in fact there is a division of labor.

Mirowski's concern to disabuse his readers of the notion that the wing of neoliberal doctrine disseminated by neoclassical economists could ever be reformed produces some of the best sections of the book. His portrait of an economics profession in haggard disarray in the aftermath of the crisis is both comic and tragic, as the amusement value of the buffoonery on display diminishes quickly when one realizes the prestige still accorded to these figures. Reading his comprehensive examination of the discipline's response to the crisis, one is reminded of Freud's famous broken kettle. The professional economists' account of their role in the crisis went something like (a) there was no bubble and (b) bubbles are impossible to predict but (c) we knew it was a bubble all along.

Incoherence notwithstanding, however, little in the discipline has changed in the wake of the crisis. Mirowski thinks that this is at least in part a result of the impotence of the loyal opposition -- those economists such as Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman who attempt to oppose the more viciously neoliberal articulations of economic theory from within the camp of neoclassical economics. Though Krugman and Stiglitz have attacked concepts like the efficient markets hypothesis (which holds that prices in a competitive financial market reflect all relevant economic information), Mirowski argues that their attempt to do so while retaining the basic theoretical architecture of neoclassicism has rendered them doubly ineffective.

First, their adoption of the battery of assumptions that accompany most neoclassical theorizing -- about representative agents, treating information like any other commodity, and so on -- make it nearly impossible to conclusively rebut arguments like the efficient markets hypothesis. Instead, they end up tinkering with it, introducing a nuance here or a qualification there. This tinkering causes their arguments to be more or less ignored in neoclassical pedagogy, as economists more favorably inclined toward hard neoliberal arguments can easily ignore such revisions and hold that the basic thrust of the theory is still correct. Stiglitz's and Krugman's arguments, while receiving circulation through the popular press, utterly fail to transform the discipline.

Mirowski also heaps scorn on the suggestion, sometimes made in leftist circles, that the problem at the heart of neoclassical economics is its assumption of a hyperrational homo economicus , relentlessly comparing equilibrium states and maximizing utility. Though such a revision may be appealing to a certain radical romanticism, Mirowski shows that a good deal of work going on under the label of behavioral economics has performed just this revision, and has come up with results that don't differ substantively from those of the mainstream. The main problem with neoclassicism isn't its theory of the human agent but rather its the theory of the market -- which is precisely what behavioral economics isn't interested in contesting.

In all, Mirowski's indictment of the state of economic theory and its imbrication with the neoliberal project is devastating. Unfortunately, he proves much less successful in explaining why things have turned out as they have. The book ascribes tremendous power to the Neoliberal Thought Collective, which somehow manages to do everything from controlling the economics profession to reshaping the state to forging a new sense of the human self. The reader is left wondering how the NTC came to acquire such power. This leads to the book's central flaw: a lack of any theory of the structure of modern capitalism. Indeed, the NTC seems to operate in something of a vacuum, without ever confronting other institutions or groups, such as the state or popular movements, with interests and agendas of their own.

To be fair, Mirowski does offer an explanation for the failure of popular movements to challenge neoliberalism, largely through his account of "everyday" neoliberalism. At its strongest, the book identifies important strategic failures, such as Occupy's embrace of "a mimicry of media technologies as opposed to concerted political mobilization." However, Mirowski extends the argument well beyond a specific failure of the Occupy movement to propose a general thesis that developments like Facebook and reality TV have transmitted neoliberal ideology to people who have never read Friedman and Hayek. In claiming that this embodied or embedded ideology plays an important role in the failure of the Left, he places far more explanatory weight on the concept of everyday neoliberalism than it is capable of bearing.

At the simplest level, it's just not clear that everyday neoliberalism constitutes the kind of block to political action that Mirowski thinks it does. No doubt, many people reading this article right now simultaneously have another browser tab open to monster.com or LinkedIn, where they are striving to present themselves as a fungible basket of skills to any employer that will have them. In this economy, everyone has to hustle, and that means using all available means. That many of these same readers have probably also done things like organize against foreclosures should give pause to any blurring of the distinction between using various media technologies and embracing the ideology Mirowski sees embodied in them.

Indeed, the ubiquity of participation in such technologies by people who support, oppose, or are apathetic about neoliberalism points to a larger phenomenon on which Mirowski is silent: the labor market. Put bluntly, it is difficult to imagine anyone engaging in the painfully strained self-advertisement facilitated by LinkedIn in a labor market with, say, 2-percent unemployment. In such a market, in which employers were competing for comparatively scarce workers, there would be very little need for those workers to go through the self-abasing ritual of converting themselves into fungible baskets of skills. In our current situation, by contrast, where secure and remunerative employment is comparatively scarce, it is no surprise that people turn to whatever technologies are available to attempt to sell themselves. As Joan Robinson put it, the only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by it.

In evaluating the role of everyday neoliberalism, it is also helpful to move, for the moment, beyond the perspective of the United States, where the NTC has clearly had great success, and adopt that of countries where resistance is significantly more developed, such as Venezuela or South Africa. Especially in the former, popular movements have been notably successful in combating neoliberal efforts to take over the state and reshape the economy, and have instead pushed the country in the opposite direction. Is it really plausible that a main reason for this difference is that everyday neoliberalism is more intense in the United States? I doubt it. For one thing, the strength of Venezuela's radical movements, in comparison with the US, clearly antedates the developments (social media, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo , and so on) that Mirowski discusses.

Moreover, it is just as plausible that the entrepreneurial culture he describes is even more extensive in the slums of the global South, where neoliberal devastation has forced many poor households to rely on at least one family member engaging in semi-legal arbitrage in goods salvaged from garbage or made at home. Surely such activities provide a firmer foundation for commercial subjectivity than having a 401(k). That resistance has grown in such circumstances suggests that looking to malignant subjectivities to explain popular passivity is an analytic dead-end.

If everyday neoliberalism doesn't explain the comparative weakness of the US left, what does? This is, of course, the key question, and I can do no more than gesture at an answer here. But I would suggest that the specific histories of the institutions of the American left, from the Communist Party to Students for a Democratic Society to labor unions, and the histories of the situations they confronted, provide us with a more solid foundation for understanding our current weakness than the hegemony of neoliberal culture does. Moreover, with a theory of capitalism that emphasizes the way the structure of the system makes it both necessary and very difficult for most people to organize to advance their interests, it becomes very easy to explain the persistence of a low level of popular mobilization against neoliberalism in the context of a weakened left.

If Mirowski's account doesn't give us a good basis for explaining why popular resistance has been so lacking in the US, it nonetheless suggests why he is so concerned with explaining the supposed dominance of neoliberal ideology among the general population. From the beginning, he raises the specter of right-wing resurgence, whether in the form of Scott Walker surviving the recall campaign in Wisconsin, the Tea Party mania of 2010, or the success of right-wing parties in Europe. However, much of this seems overstated, especially from a contemporary perspective. The Tea Party has, for all intents and purposes, disappeared from the front lines of American politics, and the Republican Party, while capable of enacting all kinds of sadistic policies on the state level, has remained in a state of disarray on the national level since the 2006 congressional elections.

More fundamentally, the argument that the voting public embraces neoliberalism doesn't square well with recent research by political scientists like Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens emphasizing the profound disconnect between the policy preferences of the poor and what transpires in Washington. What appears to be happening is less the general populace's incorporation into neoliberalism than their exclusion from any institutions that would allow them to change it. Importantly, this alternative explanation does not rely on the Left conceit that rebellion lurks perpetually just below the placid social surface, ready to explode into radical insurgency at any moment. It simply contends that the political passivity of neoliberalism's victims reflects a real diminution of their political options.

Mirowski's failure to address these larger institutional and structural dynamics vitiates much of the explanatory power of his book. On a purely descriptive level, the sections on the intellectual history of neoliberalism and the non-crisis of neoclassical economics illuminate many of the hidden corners of neoliberal ideology. However, if Mirowski is right to suggest that we need to understand neoliberalism better to be successful in fighting it -- and he surely is -- then much more is needed to explain neoliberal success and Left failure.

To understand how a body of thought became an era of capitalism requires more than intellectual history. It demands an account of how capitalism actually works in the period in question, and how the ideas of a small group of intellectuals came to be the policy preferences of the rich. Mirowski has given us an excellent foundation for understanding the doctrine, but it will remain for others to explain its actual development.

https://staticxx.facebook.com/connect/xd_arbiter/r/Z2duorNoYeF.js?version=42#channel=f1c0e2812ec10f6&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.jacobinmag.com

[Sep 25, 2017] A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Here is an except from "A Colony in a Nation" by Chris Hayes that she recently discussed (Chris Hayes is also the author of Twilight of the Elites ) ..."
"... ...we have built a colony in a nation, not in the classic Marxist sense but in the deep sense we can appreciate as a former colony ourselves: A territory that isn't actually free. A place controlled from outside rather than within. A place where the mechanisms of representation don't work enough to give citizens a sense of ownership over their own government. A place where the law is a tool of control rather than a foundation for prosperity. ..."
"... A Colony in a Nation is not primarily a history lesson, though it does provide a serious, empathetic look at the problems facing the Colony, as well as at the police officers tasked with making rapid decisions in a gun-rich environment. ..."
"... Elsewhere, Hayes examines his own experiences with the law, such as an incident when he was almost caught accidentally smuggling "about thirty dollars' worth of marijuana stuffed into my eyeglass case" into the 2000 Republican National Convention. Hayes got away without so much as a slap on the wrist, protected by luck, circumstances and privilege. ..."
Mar 23, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
"Listening to this show by MSNB is so disguising that I lost any respect for it. "

I actually jumped the gun. That's does not mean that it should not be viewed. There are some positive aspects of MSNBC http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show

Here is an except from "A Colony in a Nation" by Chris Hayes that she recently discussed (Chris Hayes is also the author of Twilight of the Elites )

...we have built a colony in a nation, not in the classic Marxist sense but in the deep sense we can appreciate as a former colony ourselves: A territory that isn't actually free. A place controlled from outside rather than within. A place where the mechanisms of representation don't work enough to give citizens a sense of ownership over their own government. A place where the law is a tool of control rather than a foundation for prosperity.

... ... ...

A Colony in a Nation is not primarily a history lesson, though it does provide a serious, empathetic look at the problems facing the Colony, as well as at the police officers tasked with making rapid decisions in a gun-rich environment.

Hayes takes us through his less-than-successful experience putting himself in the latter's shoes by trying out an unusual training tool, a virtually reality simulator: "We're only one scene in, and already the self-righteous liberal pundit has drawn his weapon on an unarmed man holding a cinder block."

Elsewhere, Hayes examines his own experiences with the law, such as an incident when he was almost caught accidentally smuggling "about thirty dollars' worth of marijuana stuffed into my eyeglass case" into the 2000 Republican National Convention. Hayes got away without so much as a slap on the wrist, protected by luck, circumstances and privilege.

For black men living in the Colony, encounters with the police are much more fraught. Racial profiling and minor infractions can lead to "being swept into the vortex of a penal system that captures more than half the black men his age in his neighborhood... an adulthood marked by prison, probation, and dismal job prospects...."

[Sep 20, 2017] The political history of the second half of the 20th century could be summarized as the conflict between its two ideologies -- Keynesian social democracy and neoliberalism, which managed to displace Keynesianism as a dominant ideology in 70th and in turn entered the crisis in 2008

What Monbiot called 'stories" and "powerful political narratives" are actually ideologies. Neoliberal ideology won in 70th and managed to destroy the weakened and discredited social democratic/Keynesean model and Bolshevism on late 80th early 90th. After 2008 neoliberalism as ideology is as dead as Stalinism was after 1945. You can even view Trump as kind of farcical Nikita Khrushchev who while sticking to neoliberalism "in general" at the same time denounced some key postulates of neoliberalism such as neoliberal globalization with outsourcing and offshoring components and free movement of labor. For Khrushchev that ended badly -- he was deposed and replaced by Brezhnev in 1964. The same might happen to Trump.
You can get better idea about what Monbiot is talking about replacing the word "stories" with the word "ideologies." An ideology is a coherent set of interconnected ideas or beliefs shared by a large group of people (often political party or nation). It may be a connected to a particular philosophy (Marxism in case of Socialism and Communism, Randism and neo-classical economics in case of neoliberalism) . Communism, socialism, and neoliberalism are major political/economical ideologies. Ideology prescribes how a country political system should be organized and how country economics should be run.
Notable quotes:
"... The political history of the second half of the 20th century could be summarised as the conflict between its two great narratives: the stories told by Keynesian social democracy and by neoliberalism. ..."
"... When the social democracy story dominated, even the Conservatives and Republicans adopted key elements of the programme. When neoliberalism took its place, political parties everywhere, regardless of their colour, fell under its spell . ..."
Sep 20, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

Originally from: George Monbiot: how do we get out of this mess?

Is it reasonable to hope for a better world? Study the cruelty and indifference of governments, the disarray of opposition parties, the apparently inexorable slide towards limate breakdown, the renewed threat of nuclear war, and the answer appears to be no. Our problems look intractable, our leaders dangerous, while voters are cowed and baffled. Despair looks like the only rational response. But over the past two years, I have been struck by four observations. What they reveal is that political failure is, in essence, a failure of imagination. They suggest to me that it is despair, not hope, that is irrational. I believe they light a path towards a better world.

The first observation is the least original. It is the realization that it is not strong leaders or parties that dominate politics as much as powerful political narratives. The political history of the second half of the 20th century could be summarised as the conflict between its two great narratives: the stories told by Keynesian social democracy and by neoliberalism. First one and then the other captured the minds of people across the political spectrum. When the social democracy story dominated, even the Conservatives and Republicans adopted key elements of the programme. When neoliberalism took its place, political parties everywhere, regardless of their colour, fell under its spell . These stories overrode everything: personality, identity and party history.

This should not surprise us. Stories are the means by which we navigate the world. They allow us to interpret its complex and contradictory signals. We all possess a narrative instinct: an innate disposition to listen for an account of who we are and where we stand.

... ... ...

The social democratic story explains that the world fell into disorder – characterised by the Great Depression – because of the self-seeking behaviour of an unrestrained elite. The elite's capture of both the world's wealth and the political system resulted in the impoverishment and insecurity of working people. By uniting to defend their common interests, the world's people could throw down the power of this elite, strip it of its ill-gotten gains and pool the resulting wealth for the good of all. Order and security would be restored in the form of a protective, paternalistic state, investing in public projects for the public good, generating the wealth that would guarantee a prosperous future for everyone. The ordinary people of the land – the heroes of the story – would triumph over those who had oppressed them.

The neoliberal story explains that the world fell into disorder as a result of the collectivising tendencies of the overmighty state, exemplified by the monstrosities of Stalinism and nazism, but evident in all forms of state planning and all attempts to engineer social outcomes. Collectivism crushes freedom, individualism and opportunity. Heroic entrepreneurs, mobilising the redeeming power of the market, would fight this enforced conformity, freeing society from the enslavement of the state. Order would be restored in the form of free markets, delivering wealth and opportunity, guaranteeing a prosperous future for everyone. The ordinary people of the land, released by the heroes of the story (the freedom-seeking entrepreneurs) would triumph over those who had oppressed them.

... ... ...

But the best on offer from major political parties is a microwaved version of the remnants of Keynesian social democracy. There are several problems with this approach. The first is that this old story has lost most of its content and narrative force. What we now call Keynesianism has been reduced to two thin chapters: lowering interest rates when economies are sluggish and using countercyclical public spending (injecting public money into the economy when unemployment is high or recession threatens). Other measures, such as raising taxes when an economy grows quickly, to dampen the boom-bust cycle; the fixed exchange rate system; capital controls and a self-balancing global banking system (an international clearing union ) – all of which John Maynard Keynes saw as essential complements to these policies – have been discarded and forgotten.

This is partly because the troubles that beset the Keynesian model in the 1970s have not disappeared. While the oil embargo in 1973 was the immediate trigger for the lethal combination of high inflation and high unemployment (" stagflation ") that Keynesian policies were almost powerless to counteract, problems with the system had been mounting for years. Falling productivity and rising cost-push inflation (wages and prices pursuing each other upwards) were already beginning to erode support for Keynesian economics. Most importantly, perhaps, the programme had buckled in response to the political demands of capital.

Strong financial regulations and controls on the movement of money began to weaken in the 1950s, as governments started to liberalise financial markets . Richard Nixon 's decision in 1971 to suspend the convertibility of dollars into gold destroyed the system of fixed exchange rates on which much of the success of Keynes's policies depended. The capital controls used to prevent financiers and speculators from sucking money out of balanced Keynesian economies collapsed. We cannot hope that the strategies deployed by global finance in the 20th century will be unlearned.

But perhaps the biggest problem residual Keynesianism confronts is that, when it does work, it collides headfirst with the environmental crisis. A programme that seeks to sustain employment through constant economic growth, driven by consumer demand, seems destined to exacerbate our greatest predicament.

... ... ...

[Sep 19, 2017] Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trumps triumph: How a ruthless network of super-rich ideologues killed choice and destroyed people's faith in politics by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek . Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism . It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone. ..."
"... But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap. ..."
"... He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands. ..."
"... The general thrust is about the gradual hollowing out of the middle class (or more affluent working class, depending on the analytical terms being used), about insecurity, stress, casualisation, rising wage inequality. ..."
"... So Hayek, I feel, is like many theoreticians, in that he seems to want a pure world that will function according to a simple and universal law. The world never was, and never will be that simple, and current economics simply continues to have a blindspot for externalities that overwhelm the logic of an unfettered so-called free market. ..."
"... "Neoliberalism" is entirely compatible with "growth of the state". Reagan greatly enlarged the state. He privatized several functions and it actually had the effect of increasing spending. ..."
"... As for the rest, it's the usual practice of gathering every positive metric available and somehow attributing it to neoliberalism, no matter how tenuous the threads, and as always with zero rigour. Supposedly capitalism alone doubled life expectancy, supports billions of extra lives, invented the railways, and provides the drugs and equipment that keep us alive. As though public education, vaccines, antibiotics, and massive availability of energy has nothing to do with those things. ..."
"... I think the damage was done when the liberal left co-opted neo-liberalism. What happened under Bill Clinton was the development of crony capitalism where for example the US banks were told to lower their credit standards to lend to people who couldn't really afford to service the loans. ..."
Nov 16, 2017 | www.theguardian.com
he events that led to Donald Trump's election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table . "This is what we believe," she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek . Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism . It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, "is not an ultimate or absolute value". In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are "scouts", "experimenting with new styles of living", who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The progress of society depends on the liberty of these "independents" to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: "the idle rich", who don't have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing "fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs". Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but "aimless display", they are in fact acting as society's vanguard.

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is "an overwhelming case against a free health service for all" and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics .

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek's doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world's richest people and businesses , including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek's anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate . In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a "third way".

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy. Hayek's triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair's expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton's repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act , which had regulated the financial sector. For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn't possess a narrative either (except "hope"), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people's lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism's crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek's "independent"; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming .

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century. It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It's too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish . The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

justamug -> Skytree 16 Nov 2016 18:17

Thanks for the chuckle. On a more serious note - defining neoliberalism is not that easy since it is not a laid out philosophy like liberalism, or socialism, or communism or facism. Since 2008 the use of the word neoliberalism has increased in frequency and has come to mean different things to different people.

A common theme appears to be the negative effects of the market on the human condition.

Having read David Harvey's book, and Phillip Mirowski's book (both had a go at defining neoliberalism and tracing its history) it is clear that neoliberalism is not really coherent set of ideas.

ianfraser3 16 Nov 2016 17:54

EF Schumacher quoted "seek first the kingdom of God" in his epilogue of "Small Is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered". This was written in the early 1970s before the neoliberal project bit in the USA and the UK. The book is laced with warnings about the effects of the imposition of neoliberalism on society, people and the planet. The predictions have largely come true. New politics and economics needed, by leaders who place at the heart of their approach the premise, and fact, that humans are "by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish". It is about reclaiming our humanity from a project that treats people as just another commodity.


Filipio -> YouDidntBuildThat 16 Nov 2016 17:42

Whoa there, slow down.

Your last post was questioning the reality of neoliberalism as a general policy direction that had become hegemonic across many governments (and most in the west) over recent decades. Now you seem to be agreeing that the notion does have salience, but that neoliberalism delivered positive rather than negative consequences.

Well, its an ill wind that blows nobody any good, huh?

Doubtless there were some positive outcomes for particular groups. But recall that the context for this thread is not whether, on balance, more people benefited from neoliberal policies than were harmed -- an argument that would be most powerful only in very utilitarian style frameworks of thought (most good for the many, or most harm for only the few). The thread is about the significance of the impacts of neoliberalism in the rise of Trump. And in specific relation to privatisation (just one dimension of neoliberalism) one key impact was downsizing (or 'rightsizing'; restructuring). There is a plethora of material, including sociological and psychological, on the harm caused by shrinking and restructured work-forces as a consequence of privatisation. Books have been written, even in the business management sector, about how poorly such 'change' was handled and the multiple deleterious outcomes experienced by employees.

And we're still only talking about one dimension of neoliberalism! Havn't even touched on deregulation yet (notably, labour market and financial sector).

The general thrust is about the gradual hollowing out of the middle class (or more affluent working class, depending on the analytical terms being used), about insecurity, stress, casualisation, rising wage inequality.

You want evidence? I'm not doing your research for you. The internet can be a great resource, or merely an echo chamber. The problem with so many of the alt-right (and this applies on the extreme left as well) is that they only look to confirm their views, not read widely. Open your eyes, and use your search engine of choice. There is plenty out there. Be open to having your preconceptions challenged.

RichardErskine -> LECKJ3000 16 Nov 2016 15:38

LECKJ3000 - I am not an economist, but surely the theoretical idealised mechanisms of the market are never realised in practice. US subsidizing their farmers, in EU too, etc. And for problems that are not only externalities but transnational ones, the idea that some Hayek mechanism will protect thr ozone layer or limit carbon emissions, without some regulation or tax.

Lord Stern called global warming the greatest market failure in history, but no market, however sophisticated, can deal with it without some price put on the effluent of product (the excessive CO2 we put into the atmosphere).

As with Montreal and subsequent agreements, there is a way to maintain a level playing field; to promote different substances for use as refrigerants; and to address the hole in ozone layer; without abandoning the market altogether. Simple is good, because it avoids over-engineering the interventions (and the unintended consequences you mention).

The same could/ should be true of global warming, but we have left it so late we cannot wait for the (inevitable) fall of fossil fuels and supremacy of renewables. We need a price on carbon, which is a graduated and fast rising tax essentially on its production and/or consumption, which has already started to happen ( http://www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/document/SDN/background-note_carbon-tax.pdf ), albeit not deep / fast / extensive enough, or international in character, but that will come, if not before the impacts really bite then soon after.

So Hayek, I feel, is like many theoreticians, in that he seems to want a pure world that will function according to a simple and universal law. The world never was, and never will be that simple, and current economics simply continues to have a blindspot for externalities that overwhelm the logic of an unfettered so-called free market.

LionelKent -> greven 16 Nov 2016 14:59

And persistent. J.K. Galbraith viewed the rightwing mind as predominantly concerned with figuring out a way to justify the shift of wealth from the immense majority to an elite at the top. I for one regret acutely that he did not (as far as I know) write a volume on his belief in progressive taxation.

RandomLibertarian -> JVRTRL 16 Nov 2016 09:19

Not bad points.

When it comes to social safety net programs, e.g. in health care and education -- those programs almost always tend to be more expensive and more complicated when privatized. If the goal was to actually save taxpayer money, in the U.S. at least, it would have made a lot more sense to have a universal Medicare system, rather than a massive patch-work like the ACA and our hybrid market.

Do not forget that the USG, in WW2, took the deliberate step of allowing employers to provide health insurance as a tax-free benefit - which it still is, being free even from SS and Medicare taxes. In the post-war boom years this resulted in the development of a system with private rooms, almost on-demand access to specialists, and competitive pay for all involved (while the NHS, by contrast, increasingly drew on immigrant populations for nurses and below). Next, the large sums of money in the system and a generous court system empowered a vast malpractice industry. So to call our system in any way a consequence of a free market is a misnomer.

Entirely state controlled health care systems tend to be even more cost-effective.

Read Megan McArdle's work in this area. The US has had similar cost growth since the 1970s to the rest of the world. The problem was that it started from a higher base.

Part of the issue is that privatization tends to create feedback mechanism that increase the size of spending in programs. Even Eisenhower's noted "military industrial complex" is an illustration of what happens when privatization really takes hold.

When government becomes involved in business, business gets involved in government!

Todd Smekens 16 Nov 2016 08:40

Albert Einstein said, "capitalism is evil" in his famous dictum called, "Why Socialism" in 1949. He also called communism, "evil", so don't jump to conclusions, comrades. ;)

His reasoning was it distorts a human beings longing for the social aspect. I believe George references this in his statement about people being "unselfish". This is noted by both science and philosophy.

Einstein noted that historically, the conqueror would establish the new order, and since 1949, Western Imperialism has continued on with the predatory phase of acquiring and implementing democracy/capitalism. This needs to end. As we've learned rapidly, capitalism isn't sustainable. We are literally overheating the earth which sustains us. Very unwise.

Einstein wrote, "Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society."

Personally, I'm glad George and others are working on a new economic and social construct for us "human beings". It's time we leave the predatory phase of "us versus them", and construct a new society which works for the good of our now, global society.

zavaell -> LECKJ3000 16 Nov 2016 06:28

The problem is that both you and Monbiot fail to mention that your "the spontaneous order of the market" does not recognize externalities and climate change is outside Hayek's thinking - he never wrote about sustainability or the limits on resources, let alone the consequences of burning fossil fuels. There is no beauty in what he wrote - it was a cold, mechanical model that assumed certain human behaviour but not others. Look at today's money-makers - they are nearly all climate change deniers and we have to have government to reign them in.

aLERNO 16 Nov 2016 04:52

Good, short and concise article. But the FIRST NEOLIBERAL MILESTONE WAS THE 1973 COUP D'ETAT IN CHILE, which not surprisingly also deposed the first democratically-elected socialist government.

accipiter15 16 Nov 2016 02:34

A great article and explanation of the influence of Hayek on Thatcher. Unfortunately this country is still suffering the consequences of her tenure and Osborne was also a proponent of her policies and look where we are as a consequence. The referendum gave the people the opportunity to vent their anger and if we had PR I suspect we would have a greater turn-out and nearly always have some sort of coalition where nothing gets done that is too hurtful to the population. As for Trump, again his election is an expression of anger and desperation. However, the American voting system is as unfair as our own - again this has probably been the cause of the low turn-out. Why should people vote when they do not get fair representation - it is a waste of time and not democratic. I doubt that Trump is Keynsian I suspect he doesn't have an economic theory at all. I just hope that the current economic thinking prevailing currently in this country, which is still overshadowed by Thatcher and the free market, with no controls over the city casino soon collapses and we can start from a fairer and more inclusive base!

JVRTRL -> Keypointist 16 Nov 2016 02:15

The system that Clinton developed was an inheritance from George H.W. Bush, Reagan (to a large degree), Carter, with another large assist from Nixon and the Powell Memo.

Bill Clinton didn't do it by himself. The GOP did it with him hand-in-hand, with the only resistance coming from a minority within the Democratic party.

Trump's victory was due to many factors. A large part of it was Hillary Clinton's campaign and the candidate. Part of it was the effectiveness of the GOP massive resistance strategy during the Obama years, wherein they pursued a course of obstruction in an effort to slow the rate of the economic recovery (e.g. as evidence of the bad faith, they are resurrecting a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Obama originally proposed in 2012, and now that they have full control, all the talk about "deficits" goes out the window).

Obama and the Democratic party also bear responsibility for not recognizing the full scope of the financial collapse in 2008-2009, passing a stimulus package that was about $1 trillion short of spending needed to accelerate the recovery by the 2010 mid-terms, combined with a weak financial regulation law (which the GOP is going to destroy), an overly complicated health care law -- classic technocratic, neoliberal incremental policy -- and the failure of the Obama administration to hold Wall Street accountable for criminal misconduct relating to the financial crisis. Obama's decision to push unpopular trade agreements didn't help either. As part of the post-mortem, the decision to continuing pushing the TPP may have cost Clinton in the rust belt states that went for Trump. The agreement was unpopular, and her shift on the policy didn't come across as credible. People noticed as well that Obama was trying to pass the measure through the lame-duck session of Congress post-election. With Trump's election, the TPP is done too.

JVRTRL daltonknox67 16 Nov 2016 02:00

There is no iron law that says a country has to run large trade deficits. The existence of large trade deficits is usually a result of policy choices.

Growth also hasn't gone into the tank. What's changed is the distribution of the gains in GDP growth -- that is in no small part a direct consequence of changes in policy since the 1970s. It isn't some "market place magic". We have made major changes to tax laws since that time. We have weakened collective bargaining, which obviously has a negative impact on wages. We have shifted the economy towards financial services, which has the tendency of increasing inequality.

The idea too that people will be "poorer" than in the 1920s and 1930s is just plain ignorant. It has no basis in any of the data. Wages in the bottom quartile have actually decreased slightly since the 1970s in real terms, but those wages in the 1970s were still exponentially higher than wages in the 1920s in real terms.

Wages aren't stagnating because people are working less. Wages have stagnated because of dumb policy choices that have tended to incentives looting by those at the top of the income distribution from workers in the lower parts of the economy. The 2008 bailouts were a clear illustration of this reality. People in industries rigged rules to benefit themselves. They misallocated resources. Then they went to representatives and taxpayers and asked for a large no-strings attached handout that was effectively worth trillions of dollars (e.g. hundreds of billions through TARP, trillions more through other programs). As these players become wealthier, they have an easier time buying politicians to rig rules further to their advantage.


JVRTRL YinxxXing 16 Nov 2016 01:50

Part of the problem is a quirk of the U.S. system. We have an electoral college system, which was originally adopted over 200 years ago, in part, in order to help to preserve slavery. If the presidential election was based on a national vote, I suspect we would have higher participation rates, because every vote in every state would carry equal weight.

As things stand now, in 35-40 states in any election cycle, there usually isn't much doubt about the result of the presidential race.

On top of this, there are all kind of obstacles that tend to make voting more difficult. e.g. voting on a weekday, voter IDs, voter suppression efforts.

JVRTRL -> RandomLibertarian 16 Nov 2016 01:44

"The tyranny of the 51 per cent is the oldest and most solid argument against a pure democracy."

"Tyranny of the majority" is always a little bizarre, given that the dynamics of majority rule are unlike the governmental structures of an actual tyranny. Even in the context of the U.S. we had minority rule due to voting restrictions for well over a century that was effectively a tyranny for anyone who was denied the ability to participation in the elections process. Pure majorities can go out of control, especially in a country with massive wealth disparities and with weak civic institutions.

On the other hand, this is part of the reason to construct a system of checks and balances. It's also part of the argument for representative democracy.

"Neoliberalism" is entirely compatible with "growth of the state". Reagan greatly enlarged the state. He privatized several functions and it actually had the effect of increasing spending.

When it comes to social safety net programs, e.g. in health care and education -- those programs almost always tend to be more expensive and more complicated when privatized. If the goal was to actually save taxpayer money, in the U.S. at least, it would have made a lot more sense to have a universal Medicare system, rather than a massive patch-work like the ACA and our hybrid market.

Entirely state controlled health care systems tend to be even more cost-effective. Part of the issue is that privatization tends to create feedback mechanism that increase the size of spending in programs. Even Eisenhower's noted "military industrial complex" is an illustration of what happens when privatization really takes hold.

daltonknox67 15 Nov 2016 21:46

After WWII most of the industrialised world had been bombed or fought over with destruction of infrastructure and manufacturing. The US alone was undamaged. It enjoyed a manufacturing boom that lasted until the 70's when competition from Germany and Japan, and later Taiwan, Korea and China finally brought it to an end.

As a result Americans born after 1950 will be poorer than the generation born in the 20's and 30's.

This is not a conspiracy or government malfunction. It is a quirk of history. Get over it and try working.

Arma Geddon 15 Nov 2016 21:11

Another nasty neoliberal policy of Reagan and Thatcher, was to close all the mental hospitals, and to sweeten the pill to sell to the voters, they called it Care in the Community, except by the time those hospitals closed and the people who had to relay on those institutions, they found out and are still finding out that there is very little care in the community left any more, thanks to Thatcher's disintegration of the ethos community spirit.

In their neoliberal mantra of thinking, you are on your own now, tough, move on, because you are hopeless and non productive, hence you are a burden to taxpayers.

Its been that way of thinking for over thirty years, and now the latest group targeted, are the sick and disabled, victims of the neoliberal made banking crash and its neoliberal inspired austerity, imposed of those least able to fight back or defend themselves i.e. vulnerable people again!

AlfredHerring GimmeHendrix 15 Nov 2016 20:23

It was in reference to Maggie slapping a copy of Hayek's Constitution of Liberty on the table and saying this is what we believe. As soon as you introduce the concept of belief you're talking about religion hence completeness while Hayek was writing about economics which demands consistency. i.e. St. Maggie was just as bad as any Stalinist: economics and religion must be kept separate or you get a bunch of dead peasants for no reason other than your own vanity.

Ok, religion based on a sky god who made us all is problematic but at least there's always the possibility of supplication and miracles. Base a religion on economic theory and you're just making sausage of your neighbors kids.

TanTan -> crystaltips2 15 Nov 2016 20:10

If you claim that the only benefit of private enterprise is its taxability, as you did, then why not cut out the middle man and argue for full state-directed capitalism?

Because it is plainly obvious that private enterprise is not directed toward the public good (and by definition). As we have both agreed, it needs to have the right regulations and framework to give it some direction in that regard. What "the radical left" are pointing out is that the idea of private enterprise is now completely out of control, to the point where voters are disenfranchised because private enterprise has more say over what the government does than the people. Which is clearly a problem.

As for the rest, it's the usual practice of gathering every positive metric available and somehow attributing it to neoliberalism, no matter how tenuous the threads, and as always with zero rigour. Supposedly capitalism alone doubled life expectancy, supports billions of extra lives, invented the railways, and provides the drugs and equipment that keep us alive. As though public education, vaccines, antibiotics, and massive availability of energy has nothing to do with those things.

As for this computer being the invention of capitalism, who knows, but I suppose if one were to believe that everything was invented and created by capitalism and monetary motives then one might believe that. Energy allotments referred to the limit of our usage of readily available fossil fuels which you remain blissfully unaware of.

Children have already been educated to agree with you, in no small part due to a fear of the communist regimes at the time, but at the expense of critical thinking. Questioning the system even when it has plainly been undermined to its core is quickly labelled "radical" regardless of the normalcy of the query. I don't know what you could possibly think left-wing motives could be, but your own motives are plain to see when you immediately lump people who care about the planet in with communist idealogues. If rampant capitalism was going to solve our problems I'm all for it, but it will take a miracle to reverse the damage it has already done, and only a fool would trust it any further.

YouDidntBuildThat -> Filipio 15 Nov 2016 20:06

Filipo

You argue that a great many government functions have been privatized. I agree. Yet strangely you present zero evidence of any downsides of that happening. Most of the academic research shows a net benefit, not just on budgets but on employee and customer satisfaction. See for example.

And despite these privitazation cost savings and alleged neoliberal "austerity" government keeps taking a larger share of our money, like a malignant cancer. No worries....We're from the government, and we're here to help.

Keypointist 15 Nov 2016 20:04

I think the damage was done when the liberal left co-opted neo-liberalism. What happened under Bill Clinton was the development of crony capitalism where for example the US banks were told to lower their credit standards to lend to people who couldn't really afford to service the loans.

It was this that created too big to fail and the financial crisis of 2008. Conservative neo-liberals believe passionately in competition and hate monopolies. The liberal left removed was was productive about neo-liberalism and replaced it with a kind of soft state capitalism where big business was protected by the state and the tax payer was called on to bail out these businesses. THIS more than anything else led to Trump's victory.

[Sep 19, 2017] The political project of neoliberalism, brought to ascendence by Thatcher and Reagan, has pursued two principal objectives. The first has been to dismantle any barriers to the exercise of unaccountable private power. The second had been to erect them to the exercise of any democratic public will

Sep 19, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

The political project of neoliberalism , brought to ascendence by Thatcher and Reagan, has pursued two principal objectives. The first has been to dismantle any barriers to the exercise of unaccountable private power. The second had been to erect them to the exercise of any democratic public will.

Its trademark policies of privatization, deregulation, tax cuts and free trade deals: these have liberated corporations to accumulate enormous profits and treat the atmosphere like a sewage dump, and hamstrung our ability, through the instrument of the state, to plan for our collective welfare.

Anything resembling a collective check on corporate power has become a target of the elite: lobbying and corporate donations, hollowing out democracies, have obstructed green policies and kept fossil fuel subsidies flowing; and the rights of associations like unions, the most effective means for workers to wield power together, have been undercut whenever possible.

At the very moment when climate change demands an unprecedented collective public response, neoliberal ideology stands in the way. Which is why, if we want to bring down emissions fast, we will need to overcome all of its free-market mantras: take railways and utilities and energy grids back into public control; regulate corporations to phase out fossil fuels; and raise taxes to pay for massive investment in climate-ready infrastructure and renewable energy -- so that solar panels can go on everyone's rooftop, not just on those who can afford it.

Neoliberalism has not merely ensured this agenda is politically unrealistic: it has also tried to make it culturally unthinkable. Its celebration of competitive self-interest and hyper-individualism, its stigmatization of compassion and solidarity, has frayed our collective bonds . It has spread, like an insidious anti-social toxin, what Margaret Thatcher preached: "there is no such thing as society."

Studies show that people who have grown up under this era have indeed become more individualistic and consumerist . Steeped in a culture telling us to think of ourselves as consumers instead of citizens, as self-reliant instead of interdependent, is it any wonder we deal with a systemic issue by turning in droves to ineffectual, individual efforts? We are all Thatcher's children.

Even before the advent of neoliberalism, the capitalist economy had thrived on people believing that being afflicted by the structural problems of an exploitative system – poverty, joblessness, poor health, lack of fulfillment – was in fact a personal deficiency.

Neoliberalism has taken this internalized self-blame and turbocharged it. It tells you that you should not merely feel guilt and shame if you can't secure a good job, are deep in debt, and are too stressed or overworked for time with friends. You are now also responsible for bearing the burden of potential ecological collapse.

Of course we need people to consume less and innovate low-carbon alternatives – build sustainable farms, invent battery storages, spread zero-waste methods. But individual choices will most count when the economic system can provide viable, environmental options for everyone!not just an affluent or intrepid few.

If affordable mass transit isn't available, people will commute with cars. If local organic food is too expensive, they won't opt out of fossil fuel-intensive super-market chains. If cheap mass produced goods flow endlessly, they will buy and buy and buy. This is the con-job of neoliberalism: to persuade us to address climate change through our pocket-books, rather than through power and politics.

Eco-consumerism may expiate your guilt. But it's only mass movements that have the power to alter the trajectory of the climate crisis. This requires of us first a resolute mental break from the spell cast by neoliberalism: to stop thinking like individuals.

The good news is that the impulse of humans to come together is inextinguishable – and the collective imagination is already making a political come-back. The climate justice movement is blocking pipelines, forcing the divestment of trillions of dollars, and winning support for 100% clean energy economies in cities and states across the world. New ties are being drawn to Black Lives Matter, immigrant and Indigenous rights, and fights for better wages. On the heels of such movements, political parties seem finally ready to defy neoliberal dogma.

None more so than Jeremy Corbyn, whose Labour Manifesto spelled out a redistributive project to address climate change: by publicly retooling the economy, and insisting that corporate oligarchs no longer run amok. The notion that the rich should pay their fair share to fund this transformation was considered laughable by the political and media class. Millions disagreed. Society, long said to be departed, is now back with a vengeance.

So grow some carrots and jump on a bike: it will make you happier and healthier. But it is time to stop obsessing with how personally green we live – and start collectively taking on corporate power.

[Sep 19, 2017] How neoliberalism left a toxic legacy

Notable quotes:
"... Henllan, Denbighshire ..."
"... Wallington, Surrey ..."
Sep 19, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

Reading your long read on liberalism, it crossed my mind that Friedrich Hayek must be turning in his grave ( The big idea that defines our era , 19 August). Neoliberalism has demolished Hayek's theory of markets. Markets are not free: they are controlled by a wealthy minority of state-sized corporations. Markets are not efficient: they generate mountains of waste as corporations walk away from every abandoned disaster, expecting someone else to clear up the mess. Markets are not competitive: mergers, acquisitions, takeovers and buyouts reduce competition and choice for the consumer. Multinational corporations and international banks so dominate national governments that criminality is tolerated and, in the case of banks, even accepted as normal.

The 2008 crash showed that only the insiders of the financial services industry know what is going on. When a combination of incompetence and greed wrecked the international economy, taxpayers/consumers had to fund a colossal bailout. If big government hadn't organised a rescue, the neoliberal marketplace would have disappeared up its own rectum. The "market economy" is not an "objective science". Hayek's big idea is fatally flawed.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

Hayek's may have been "the big idea that defines our era", but economies run by governments favouring his ideas, broadly those since Thatcher and Reagan, have been far less successful providing for the majority of their people than those that favoured John Maynard Keynes. Albert Camus wrote that his generation's task was to prevent the world destroying itself. Today it requires a triumph of hope over experience to believe that free marketeers will address climate change. And if the "invisible hand" should always decide, it was odd that its manifestation, almost immediately after WWII, was the finance sector recruiting (directly or indirectly) economists, journalists and politicians to reverse Keynes's theories and policies and to denounce him as a "tax and spender".
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

What is neoliberalism? It's that moment when you ought to step in to do something about the dehumanised, exploited fast food courier, pedalling furiously along the busy pavement to the beat of the algorithm (past the homeless in their sleeping bags, the slaves in their nail bars and massage parlours, and the private security officers patrolling the "investment properties" that were once homes) before he ploughs into the arthritic, mentally ill woman painfully inching her way to humiliation at an "independent" work capability assessment – but you don't bother because you know the market's invisible hand will sort things out for you.
Ian McCormack
Leicester

[Sep 19, 2017] Goodbye neoliberalism, hello common good by Robin Le Mare

Notable quotes:
"... Allithwaite, Cumbria ..."
Sep 19, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

The academic, political and philosophical basis, with its misanthropic view that everyone is essentially selfish, is bust, argues Robin Le Mare Margaret Thatcher and Ronal Reagan great believers in neoliberilsm.

The academic, political and philosophical basis, with its misanthropic view that everyone is essentially selfish, is bust, argues Robin Le Mare

Letters

Sunday 6 August 2017 13.22 EDT Last modified on Sunday 6 August 2017 17.00 EDT At last, a clear indication of the neoliberal revolution coming to an end ( How Britain fell out of love with the free market , 5 August). I wish it were more clearly stated by politicians and in the questions journalists ask them. It is high time to denounce those behind the whole scheme – one which is so obviously leading to many tragedies of the commons.

The academic (Friedman, Hayek, Buchanan et al), political (Reagan, Thatcher ...) and philosophical basis, with its misanthropic view that everyone is essentially selfish, is bust. The hypocrisy of that idea is astounding, the more so that it gained such following and influence, as every one of those who supported it had families, lived in communities, joined clubs and depended on others every day.

The article mentions the corruption of 2007-08 banking. The consequences from it, and neoliberalism generally, being many examples of tragedies of the commons: bonus culture, plastics pollution, accelerated species extinctions, atmospheric chaos and oceanic acidification, wars and mass migration. There's a great deal of highly damaging social and ecosystem free riding in play, and directly related to the perverse economic philosophy that is currently dominant.

Failed models need to be denounced and rejected, but that is inadequate without a clear statement of alternatives. The ghastly "there is no alternative" has to be rebuked, as there are and have to be alternatives. I would start by emphasising Elinor Ostrom's analysis of economic governance, especially the commons, for which she was awarded the Nobel prize in 2009. I encourage people to ask their councillors and MPs how policies benefit the common good. I want journalists to ask every politician how their actions benefit the common good.

Discussions about the boundaries between public, private and common need to be promoted in churches, pubs, town halls and parliament. Every policy is conducted with reference to the economy, but rarely are questions asked about the externalities involved in the policy. I look forward to a Guardian long read describing "alternatives to the orthodox".
Robin Le Mare
Allithwaite, Cumbria

Your excellent long read last Saturday could also have included a further casualty of capitalism – welfare services. In the late 80s, when I was working in Bolton's social services, I remember the arrival of the purchaser-provider split doctrine when some key health service manager colleagues were barred from our regular joint health and social services meetings because they were providers.

This approach of introducing the market economy started to affect us in social services in the early 1990s when we, too, were obliged by the government to restructure our departments and separate purchasing staff from providing staff.

It always intrigued me how introducing the market economy into the provision of welfare services would do anything but drive costs down rather than improve and increase our services to meet ever-increasing demand and expectations. So much so, that I chose to examine what differences a Labour government would bring to the delivery of social services and whether it would continue with a market economy approach, when I began my M Phil at Lincoln University in 1998.

Needless to say, when I completed my study three years later, I could only conclude that Labour continued to promote the concept of trading and a welfare industry driven by market forces, which has now led to the current crisis of a decimation of so many of the services we were once so proud of.

Your article implies that there is "a stirring among genuine Conservatives that capitalism is against place and home" I would add that capitalism is also against welfare.
Nick Thompson
Liverpool

[Sep 19, 2017] Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world by Stephen Metcalf

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The word ["neoliberalism"] has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human. ..."
"... Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over "neoliberalism": they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism ..."
"... The paper gently called out a "neoliberal agenda" for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality. ..."
"... In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left's traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality. ..."
"... Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market ..."
"... Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But "neoliberalism" indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals. ..."
"... In short, "neoliberalism" is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity. ..."
"... No sooner had neoliberalism been certified as real, and no sooner had it made clear the universal hypocrisy of the market, than the populists and authoritarians came to power ..."
"... Against the forces of global integration, national identity is being reasserted, and in the crudest possible terms. What could the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America have to do with neoliberal rationality? ..."
"... It isn't only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; ..."
"... That Hayek is considered the grandfather of neoliberalism – a style of thought that reduces everything to economics – is a little ironic given that he was such a mediocre economist. ..."
"... This last is what makes neoliberalism "neo". It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as "classical liberalism". In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to "leave us alone" – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis. ..."
"... Hayek had only his idea to console him; an idea so grand it would one day dissolve the ground beneath the feet of Keynes and every other intellectual. Left to its own devices, the price system functions as a kind of mind. And not just any mind, but an omniscient one: the market computes what individuals cannot grasp. Reaching out to him as an intellectual comrade-in-arms, the American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote to Hayek, saying: "No human mind has ever understood the whole scheme of a society At best a mind can understand its own version of the scheme, something much thinner, which bears to reality some such relation as a silhouette to a man." ..."
"... The only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. In its omniscience, the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts. ..."
"... According to the logic of Hayek's Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market ..."
"... ociety reconceived as a giant market leads to a public life lost to bickering over mere opinions; until the public turns, finally, in frustration to a strongman as a last resort for solving its otherwise intractable problems. ..."
"... What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics ..."
Aug 18, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

The word ["neoliberalism"] has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over "neoliberalism": they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism . In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a "neoliberal agenda" for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.

Neoliberalism is an old term, dating back to the 1930s, but it has been revived as a way of describing our current politics – or more precisely, the range of thought allowed by our politics . In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it was a way of assigning responsibility for the debacle, not to a political party per se, but to an establishment that had conceded its authority to the market. For the Democrats in the US and Labour in the UK, this concession was depicted as a grotesque betrayal of principle. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it was said, had abandoned the left's traditional commitments, especially to workers, in favour of a global financial elite and the self-serving policies that enriched them; and in doing so, had enabled a sickening rise in inequality.

Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world – podcast

Over the past few years, as debates have turned uglier, the word has become a rhetorical weapon, a way for anyone left of centre to incriminate those even an inch to their right. (No wonder centrists say it's a meaningless insult: they're the ones most meaningfully insulted by it.) But "neoliberalism" is more than a gratifyingly righteous jibe. It is also, in its way, a pair of eyeglasses.

Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But "neoliberalism" indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.

Still peering through the lens, you see how, no less than the welfare state, the free market is a human invention. You see how pervasively we are now urged to think of ourselves as proprietors of our own talents and initiative, how glibly we are told to compete and adapt. You see the extent to which a language formerly confined to chalkboard simplifications describing commodity markets (competition, perfect information, rational behaviour) has been applied to all of society, until it has invaded the grit of our personal lives, and how the attitude of the salesman has become enmeshed in all modes of self-expression.

In short, "neoliberalism" is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

No sooner had neoliberalism been certified as real, and no sooner had it made clear the universal hypocrisy of the market, than the populists and authoritarians came to power. In the US, Hillary Clinton, the neoliberal arch-villain, lost – and to a man who knew just enough to pretend he hated free trade . So are the eyeglasses now useless? Can they do anything to help us understand what is broken about British and American politics? Against the forces of global integration, national identity is being reasserted, and in the crudest possible terms. What could the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America have to do with neoliberal rationality? What possible connection is there between the president – a freewheeling boob – and the bloodless paragon of efficiency known as the free market?

It isn't only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; between the market as unique discloser of value and guardian of liberty, and our current descent into post-truth and illiberalism.

Moving the stale debate about neoliberalism forward begins, I think, with taking seriously the measure of its cumulative effect on all of us, regardless of affiliation. And this requires returning to its origins, which have nothing to do with Bill or Hillary Clinton. There once was a group of people who did call themselves neoliberals, and did so proudly, and their ambition was a total revolution in thought. The most prominent among them, Friedrich Hayek, did not think he was staking out a position on the political spectrum, or making excuses for the fatuous rich, or tinkering along the edges of microeconomics.

He thought he was solving the problem of modernity: the problem of objective knowledge. For Hayek, the market didn't just facilitate trade in goods and services; it revealed truth. How did his ambition collapse into its opposite – the mind-bending possibility that, thanks to our thoughtless veneration of the free market, truth might be driven from public life altogether?


When the idea occurred to Friedrich Hayek in 1936, he knew, with the conviction of a "sudden illumination", that he had struck upon something new. "How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds," he wrote, "bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess?"

This was not a technical point about interest rates or deflationary slumps. This was not a reactionary polemic against collectivism or the welfare state. This was a way of birthing a new world. To his mounting excitement, Hayek understood that the market could be thought of as a kind of mind.

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" had already given us the modern conception of the market: as an autonomous sphere of human activity and therefore, potentially, a valid object of scientific knowledge. But Smith was, until the end of his life, an 18th-century moralist. He thought the market could be justified only in light of individual virtue, and he was anxious that a society governed by nothing but transactional self-interest was no society at all. Neoliberalism is Adam Smith without the anxiety.

That Hayek is considered the grandfather of neoliberalism – a style of thought that reduces everything to economics – is a little ironic given that he was such a mediocre economist. He was just a young, obscure Viennese technocrat when he was recruited to the London School of Economics to compete with, or possibly even dim, the rising star of John Maynard Keynes at Cambridge.

The plan backfired, and Hayek lost out to Keynes in a rout. Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936, was greeted as a masterpiece. It dominated the public discussion, especially among young English economists in training, for whom the brilliant, dashing, socially connected Keynes was a beau idéal . By the end of the second world war, many prominent free-marketers had come around to Keynes's way of thinking, conceding that government might play a role in managing a modern economy. The initial excitement over Hayek had dissipated. His peculiar notion that doing nothing could cure an economic depression had been discredited in theory and practice. He later admitted that he wished his work criticising Keynes would simply be forgotten.

... Hayek built into neoliberalism the assumption that the market provides all necessary protection against the one real political danger: totalitarianism. To prevent this, the state need only keep the market free.

This last is what makes neoliberalism "neo". It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as "classical liberalism". In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to "leave us alone" – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis.

That isn't all: every aspect of democratic politics, from the choices of voters to the decisions of politicians, must be submitted to a purely economic analysis. The lawmaker is obliged to leave well enough alone – to not distort the natural actions of the marketplace – and so, ideally, the state provides a fixed, neutral, universal legal framework within which market forces operate spontaneously. The conscious direction of government is never preferable to the "automatic mechanism of adjustment" – ie the price system, which is not only efficient but maximises liberty, or the opportunity for men and women to make free choices about their own lives.

As Keynes jetted between London and Washington, creating the postwar order, Hayek sat pouting in Cambridge. He had been sent there during the wartime evacuations; and he complained that he was surrounded by "foreigners" and "no lack of orientals of all kinds" and "Europeans of practically all nationalities, but very few of real intelligence".

Stuck in England, without influence or respect, Hayek had only his idea to console him; an idea so grand it would one day dissolve the ground beneath the feet of Keynes and every other intellectual. Left to its own devices, the price system functions as a kind of mind. And not just any mind, but an omniscient one: the market computes what individuals cannot grasp. Reaching out to him as an intellectual comrade-in-arms, the American journalist Walter Lippmann wrote to Hayek, saying: "No human mind has ever understood the whole scheme of a society At best a mind can understand its own version of the scheme, something much thinner, which bears to reality some such relation as a silhouette to a man."

It is a grand epistemological claim – that the market is a way of knowing, one that radically exceeds the capacity of any individual mind. Such a market is less a human contrivance, to be manipulated like any other, than a force to be studied and placated. Economics ceases to be a technique – as Keynes believed it to be – for achieving desirable social ends, such as growth or stable money. The only social end is the maintenance of the market itself. In its omniscience, the market constitutes the only legitimate form of knowledge, next to which all other modes of reflection are partial, in both senses of the word: they comprehend only a fragment of a whole and they plead on behalf of a special interest. Individually, our values are personal ones, or mere opinions; collectively, the market converts them into prices, or objective facts.

... ... ...

The more Hayek's idea expands, the more reactionary it gets, the more it hides behind its pretence of scientific neutrality – and the more it allows economics to link up with the major intellectual trend of the west since the 17th century. The rise of modern science generated a problem: if the world is universally obedient to natural laws, what does it mean to be human? Is a human being simply an object in the world, like any other? There appears to be no way to assimilate the subjective, interior human experience into nature as science conceives it – as something objective whose rules we discover by observation.

... ... ...

More than anyone, even Hayek himself, it was the great postwar Chicago economist Milton Friedman who helped convert governments and politicians to the power of Hayek's Big Idea. But first he broke with two centuries of precedent and declared that economics is "in principle independent of any particular ethical position or normative judgments" and is "an 'objective' science, in precisely the same sense as any of the physical sciences". Values of the old, mental, normative kind were defective, they were "differences about which men can ultimately only fight". There is the market, in other words, and there is relativism.

Markets may be human facsimiles of natural systems, and like the universe itself, they may be authorless and valueless. But the application of Hayek's Big Idea to every aspect of our lives negates what is most distinctive about us. That is, it assigns what is most human about human beings – our minds and our volition – to algorithms and markets, leaving us to mimic, zombie-like, the shrunken idealisations of economic models. Supersizing Hayek's idea and radically upgrading the price system into a kind of social omniscience means radically downgrading the importance of our individual capacity to reason – our ability to provide and evaluate justifications for our actions and beliefs.

As a result, the public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets. The internet is personal preference magnified by algorithm; a pseudo-public space that echoes the voice already inside our head. Rather than a space of debate in which we make our way, as a society, toward consensus, now there is a mutual-affirmation apparatus banally referred to as a "marketplace of ideas". What looks like something public and lucid is only an extension of our own pre-existing opinions, prejudices and beliefs, while the authority of institutions and experts has been displaced by the aggregative logic of big data. When we access the world through a search engine, its results are ranked, as the founder of Google puts it, "recursively" – by an infinity of individual users functioning as a market, continuously and in real time.

... ... ...

According to the logic of Hayek's Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market – as Friedman said, they are nothing but relativism, each as good as any other. When the only objective truth is determined by the market, all other values have the status of mere opinions; everything else is relativist hot air. But Friedman's "relativism" is a charge that can be thrown at any claim based on human reason. It is a nonsense insult, as all humanistic pursuits are "relative" in a way the sciences are not. They are relative to the (private) condition of having a mind, and the (public) need to reason and understand even when we can't expect scientific proof. When our debates are no longer resolved by deliberation over reasons, then the whimsies of power will determine the outcome.

This is where the triumph of neoliberalism meets the political nightmare we are living through now. "You had one job," the old joke goes, and Hayek's grand project, as originally conceived in 30s and 40s, was explicitly designed to prevent a backslide into political chaos and fascism. But the Big Idea was always this abomination waiting to happen. It was, from the beginning, pregnant with the thing it was said to protect against. Society reconceived as a giant market leads to a public life lost to bickering over mere opinions; until the public turns, finally, in frustration to a strongman as a last resort for solving its otherwise intractable problems.

... ... ...

What began as a new form of intellectual authority, rooted in a devoutly apolitical worldview, nudged easily into an ultra-reactionary politics. What can't be quantified must not be real, says the economist, and how do you measure the benefits of the core faiths of the enlightenment – namely, critical reasoning, personal autonomy and democratic self-government? When we abandoned, for its embarrassing residue of subjectivity, reason as a form of truth, and made science the sole arbiter of both the real and the true, we created a void that pseudo-science was happy to fill.

... ... ...

[Sep 16, 2017] The Transformation of the American Dream

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Language is important, but it can be slippery. Consider that the phrase, the American Dream, has changed radically through the years. Mr. Trump and Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, have suggested it involves owning a beautiful home and a roaring business, but it wasn't always so. Instead, in the 1930s, it meant freedom, mutual respect and equality of opportunity. It had more to do with morality than material success. ..."
"... This drift in meaning is significant... ..."
"... Survival and security are the bottom 2 levels on Maslow's pyramid. If that's at the top of the wish list it doesn't speak well of the environment where the list is made. I would say most people are aiming for levels 3-5, taking 1-2 for "granted" - but while level 1 (survival) is pretty much assured unless you get sick or are shot by a cop, level 2 is increasingly brittle. ..."
"... In different US locations, I heard my share of "living the dream" in response to "how are you" from retail clerks - which is obviously ironic and shows that people are well aware of it just being a narrative. It also reminds me of a quip in a Dilbert cartoon many years ago - "you only have the right to pursue happiness, not to actually achieve it". ..."
"... And what George Carlin had to say on the topic. ..."
Sep 16, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Robert Shiller:

The Transformation of the 'American Dream' : "The American Dream is back." President Trump made that claim in a speech in January.

They are ringing words, but what do they mean? Language is important, but it can be slippery. Consider that the phrase, the American Dream, has changed radically through the years. Mr. Trump and Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, have suggested it involves owning a beautiful home and a roaring business, but it wasn't always so. Instead, in the 1930s, it meant freedom, mutual respect and equality of opportunity. It had more to do with morality than material success.

This drift in meaning is significant...

RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , August 06, 2017 at 08:09 AM

[How I achieved the American Dream -]

http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/northrop-grumman-lays-off-state-workers-under-contract-with-vita/article_3d39c735-9793-5885-aba5-135f6b24d3bf.html

Northrop Grumman lays off 51 state workers under contract with VITA

By MICHAEL MARTZ Richmond Times-Dispatch

Jun 16, 2015

...
While Northrop Grumman made the decision on the layoffs, VITA informed the affected workers because they are state employees and placed them on leave through June 30. The state Department of Human Resources Management assisted the technology agency with the layoffs through its shared services center.

Affected employees will be offered state severance packages based on years of service, early retirement options, and "access to outplacement services."...

cm -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , August 06, 2017 at 04:48 PM
What you describe in the first sentence is only one of many interpretations. But the (al)lure of the meme is that the interpretation is open-ended (one could also say "not well defined"; but isn't that what freedom is about - that the outcome and the way of achieving it are not rigidly prescribed?).

Survival and security are the bottom 2 levels on Maslow's pyramid. If that's at the top of the wish list it doesn't speak well of the environment where the list is made. I would say most people are aiming for levels 3-5, taking 1-2 for "granted" - but while level 1 (survival) is pretty much assured unless you get sick or are shot by a cop, level 2 is increasingly brittle.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron said in reply to cm... , August 07, 2017 at 05:28 AM
The environment in a Detroit tenement grows a shorter Maslow's pyramid than Santa Clara Valley suburbs. Central VA is somewhere in between where the highest aspiration of the vast majority of people is to belong and have the esteem of others. Self-actualization and transcendence are not even things here save for a rare few strangers in a strange land.
cm -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , August 07, 2017 at 10:26 PM
Well, all these terms are subject to interpretation and exist in degrees. Obviously survival is a strong prerequisite for the higher levels, but one can partially achieve higher levels without having achieved lower levels fully. At least for a while; or having achieved a lower level may be illusory (this was my actual point).

I would dispute that "almost everybody" cannot achieve esteem/self-actualization - at least for a while. How strong/persistent need the achievement be to count?

Then there is even the fundamental issue of knowing whether a level has really been "permanently" secured. E.g. safety - which can usually only be judged by demonstration of its absence.

Michael , August 06, 2017 at 03:53 PM
When Drumpf talks about the American Dream, he means more wealth, freedom, control, and sleaze for the oligarchy.
cm -> Michael... , August 06, 2017 at 04:36 PM
No he actually doesn't. It is just a BS phrase/meme, similar to "hard work". It is just signaling that one cares for/appreciates general virtues and the audience's desire for recognition and happiness. In the case of "hard work", perhaps also with the aspect of pushing role model narratives.

I never heard these phrases in any other context.

cm -> Michael... , August 06, 2017 at 04:41 PM
In different US locations, I heard my share of "living the dream" in response to "how are you" from retail clerks - which is obviously ironic and shows that people are well aware of it just being a narrative. It also reminds me of a quip in a Dilbert cartoon many years ago - "you only have the right to pursue happiness, not to actually achieve it".

And what George Carlin had to say on the topic.

[Sep 13, 2017] A despot in disguise: one mans mission to rip up democracy by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... He aimed, in short, to save capitalism from democracy. ..."
Sep 13, 2017 | www.theguardian.com

theguardian.com

George Monbiot t's the missing chapter: a key to understanding the politics of the past half century. To read Nancy MacLean's new book, Democracy in Chains : The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, is to see what was previously invisible.

The history professor's work on the subject began by accident. In 2013 she stumbled across a deserted clapboard house on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia. It was stuffed with the unsorted archives of a man who had died that year whose name is probably unfamiliar to you: James McGill Buchanan. She says the first thing she picked up was a stack of confidential letters concerning millions of dollars transferred to the university by the billionaire Charles Koch .

Her discoveries in that house of horrors reveal how Buchanan, in collaboration with business tycoons and the institutes they founded, developed a hidden programme for suppressing democracy on behalf of the very rich. The programme is now reshaping politics, and not just in the US.

Buchanan was strongly influenced by both the neoliberalism of Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises , and the property supremacism of John C Calhoun, who argued in the first half of the 19th century that freedom consists of the absolute right to use your property (including your slaves) however you may wish; any institution that impinges on this right is an agent of oppression, exploiting men of property on behalf of the undeserving masses.

James Buchanan brought these influences together to create what he called public choice theory . He argued that a society could not be considered free unless every citizen has the right to veto its decisions. What he meant by this was that no one should be taxed against their will. But the rich were being exploited by people who use their votes to demand money that others have earned, through involuntary taxes to support public spending and welfare. Allowing workers to form trade unions and imposing graduated income taxes were forms of "differential or discriminatory legislation" against the owners of capital.

Any clash between "freedom" (allowing the rich to do as they wish) and democracy should be resolved in favour of freedom. In his book The Limits of Liberty , he noted that "despotism may be the only organisational alternative to the political structure that we observe." Despotism in defence of freedom.

His prescription was a "constitutional revolution": creating irrevocable restraints to limit democratic choice. Sponsored throughout his working life by wealthy foundations, billionaires and corporations, he developed a theoretical account of what this constitutional revolution would look like, and a strategy for implementing it.

He explained how attempts to desegregate schooling in the American south could be frustrated by setting up a network of state-sponsored private schools. It was he who first proposed privatizing universities, and imposing full tuition fees on students: his original purpose was to crush student activism. He urged privatization of social security and many other functions of the state. He sought to break the links between people and government, and demolish trust in public institutions. He aimed, in short, to save capitalism from democracy.

In 1980, he was able to put the programme into action. He was invited to Chile , where he helped the Pinochet dictatorship write a new constitution, which, partly through the clever devices Buchanan proposed, has proved impossible to reverse entirely. Amid the torture and killings, he advised the government to extend programmes of privatisation, austerity, monetary restraint, deregulation and the destruction of trade unions: a package that helped trigger economic collapse in 1982.

None of this troubled the Swedish Academy, which through his devotee at Stockholm University Assar Lindbeck in 1986 awarded James Buchanan the Nobel memorial prize for economics . It is one of several decisions that have turned this prize toxic.

Koch officials said that the network's midterm budget for policy and politics is between $300m and $400m, but donors are demanding legislative progress

But his power really began to be felt when Koch, currently the seventh richest man in the US, decided that Buchanan held the key to the transformation he sought. Koch saw even such ideologues as Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan as "sellouts", as they sought to improve the efficiency of government rather than destroy it altogether . But Buchanan took it all the way.

MacLean says that Charles Koch poured millions into Buchanan's work at George Mason University, whose law and economics departments look as much like corporate-funded thinktanks as they do academic faculties. He employed the economist to select the revolutionary "cadre" that would implement his programme (Murray Rothbard, at the Cato Institute that Koch founded, had urged the billionaire to study Lenin's techniques and apply them to the libertarian cause). Between them, they began to develop a programme for changing the rules.

The papers Nancy MacLean discovered show that Buchanan saw stealth as crucial. He told his collaborators that "conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential". Instead of revealing their ultimate destination, they would proceed by incremental steps. For example, in seeking to destroy the social security system, they would claim to be saving it, arguing that it would fail without a series of radical "reforms". (The same argument is used by those attacking the NHS). Gradually they would build a "counter-intelligentsia", allied to a "vast network of political power" that would become the new establishment.

Through the network of thinktanks that Koch and other billionaires have sponsored, through their transformation of the Republican party, and the hundreds of millions they have poured into state congressional and judicial races, through the mass colonisation of Trump's administration by members of this network and lethally effective campaigns against everything from public health to action on climate change, it would be fair to say that Buchanan's vision is maturing in the US.

But not just there. Reading this book felt like a demisting of the window through which I see British politics. The bonfire of regulations highlighted by the Grenfell Tower disaster, the destruction of state architecture through austerity, the budgeting rules, the dismantling of public services, tuition fees and the control of schools: all these measures follow Buchanan's programme to the letter. I wonder how many people are aware that David Cameron's free schools project stands in a tradition designed to hamper racial desegregation in the American south.

In one respect, Buchanan was right: there is an inherent conflict between what he called "economic freedom" and political liberty. Complete freedom for billionaires means poverty, insecurity, pollution and collapsing public services for everyone else. Because we will not vote for this, it can be delivered only through deception and authoritarian control. The choice we face is between unfettered capitalism and democracy. You cannot have both.

Buchanan's programme is a prescription for totalitarian capitalism. And his disciples have only begun to implement it. But at least, thanks to MacLean's discoveries, we can now apprehend the agenda. One of the first rules of politics is, know your enemy. We're getting there.

[Sep 11, 2017] Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what is wrenching society apart by George Monbiot

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do. ..."
"... A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like. ..."
"... Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction. ..."
"... Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement. ..."
"... It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is a project that explicitly aims, and has achieved, the undermining and elimination of social networks in favour of market competition ..."
"... In practice, loosening social and legal institutions has reduced social security (in the general sense rather than simply welfare payments) and encouraged the limitation of social interaction to money based activity ..."
"... All powerful institutions have a vested interest in keeping us atomized and individualistic. The gangs at the top don't want competition. They're afraid of us. In particular, they're afraid of men organising into gangs. That's where this very paper comes in ..."
"... The alienation genie was out of the bottle with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and mass migration to cities began and we abandoned living in village communities ..."
"... Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy. ..."
"... My stab at an answer would first question the notion that we are engaging in anything. That presupposes we are making the choices. Those who set out the options are the ones that make the choices. We are being engaged by the grotesquely privileged and the pathologically greedy in an enterprise that profits them still further. It suits the 1% very well strategically, for obvious reasons, that the 99% don't swap too many ideas with each other. ..."
"... According to Robert Putnam, as societies become more ethnically diverse they lose social capital, contributing to the type of isolation and loneliness which George describes. Doesn't sound as evil as neoliberalism I suppose. ..."
"... multiculturalism is a direct result of Neoliberalism. The market rules and people are secondary. Everything must be done for business owners, and that everything means access to cheap labor. ..."
"... I'd have thought what he really wants to say is that loneliness as a phenomenon in modern Western society arises out of an intent on the part of our political and social elites to divide us all into competing against one another, as individuals and as members of groups, all the better to keep us under control and prevent us from working together to claim our fair share of resources. ..."
"... Has it occurred to you that the collapse in societal values has allowed 'neo-liberalism' to take hold? ..."
"... No. It has been the concentrated propaganda of the "free" press. Rupert Murdoch in particular, but many other well-funded organisations working in the background over 50 years. They are winning. ..."
"... We're fixated on a magical, abstract concept called "the economy". Everything must be done to help "the economy", even if this means adults working through their weekends, neglecting their children, neglecting their elderly parents, eating at their desks, getting diabetes, breaking down from stress, and giving up on a family life. ..."
"... You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. ..."
"... As can be seen from many of the posts, neo-liberalism depends on, and fosters, ignorance, an inability to see things from historical and different perspectives and social and intellectual disciplines. On a sociological level how other societies are arranged throws up interesting comparisons. Scandanavian countries, which have mostly avoided neo-liberalism by and large, are happier, healthier places to live. America and eastern countries arranged around neo-liberal, market driven individualism, are unhappy places, riven with mental and physical health problems and many more social problems of violence, crime and suicide. ..."
"... The people who fosted this this system onto us, are now either very old or dead. We're living in the shadow of their revolutionary transformation of our more equitable post-war society. Hayek, Friedman, Keith Joseph, Thatcher, Greenspan and tangentially but very influentially Ayn Rand. Although a remainder (I love the wit of the term 'Remoaner') , Brexit can be better understood in the context of the death-knell of neoliberalism. ..."
"... Criticism of his hypotheses on this thread (where articualted at all) focus on the existence of solitude and loneliness prior to neo liberalism, which seems to me to be to deliberately miss his point: this was formerly a minor phenomenon, yet is now writ on an incredible scale - and it is a social phenomenon particular to those western economies whose elites have most enthusiastically embraced neo liberalism. ..."
"... We all want is to: (and feel we have the right to) wear the best clothes, have the foreign holidays, own the latest tech and eat the finest foods. At the same time our rights have increased and awareness of our responsibilities have minimized. The execution of common sense and an awareness that everything that goes wrong will always be someone else fault. ..."
"... We are not all special snowflakes, princesses or worthy of special treatment, but we act like self absorbed, entitled individuals. Whether that's entitled to benefits, the front of the queue or bumped into first because its our birthday! ..."
"... Unhealthy social interaction, yes. You can never judge what is natural to humans based on contemporary Britain. Anthropologists repeatedly find that what we think natural is merely a social construct created by the system we are subject to. ..."
"... We are becoming fearful of each other and I believe the insecurity we feel plays a part in this. ..."
"... We have become so disconnected from ourselves and focused on battling to stay afloat. Having experienced periods of severe stress due to lack of money I couldn't even begin to think about how I felt, how happy I was, what I really wanted to do with my life. I just had to pay my landlord, pay the bills and try and put some food on my table so everything else was totally neglected. ..."
"... We need a radical change of political thinking to focus on quality of life rather than obsession with the size of our economy. High levels of immigration of people who don't really integrate into their local communities has fractured our country along with the widening gap between rich and poor. Governments only see people in terms of their "economic value" - hence mothers being driven out to work, children driven into daycare and the elderly driven into care homes. Britain is becoming a soulless place - even our great British comedy is on the decline. ..."
"... Quality of life is far more important than GDP I agree but it is also far more important than inequality. ..."
"... Thatcher was only responsible for "letting it go" in Britain in 1980, but actually it was already racing ahead around the world. ..."
"... Eric Fromm made similar arguments to Monbiot about the psychological impact of modern capitalism (Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society) - although the Freudian element is a tad outdated. However, for all the faults of modern society, I'd rather be unhappy now than in say, Victorian England. Similarly, life in the West is preferable to the obvious alternatives. ..."
"... Whilst it's very important to understand how neoliberalism, the ideology that dare not speak it's name, derailed the general progress in the developed world. It's also necessary to understand that the roots this problem go much further back. Not merely to the start of the industrial revolution, but way beyond that. It actually began with the first civilizations when our societies were taken over by powerful rulers, and they essentially started to farm the people they ruled like cattle. On the one hand they declared themselves protector of their people, whilst ruthlessly exploiting them for their own political gain. I use the livestock farming analogy, because that explains what is going on. ..."
"... Neo-liberalism allows psychopaths to flourish, and it has been argued by Robert Hare that they are disproportionately represented in the highest echelons of society. So people who lack empathy and emotional attachment are probably weilding a significant amount of influence over the way our economy and society is organised. Is it any wonder that they advocate an economic model which is most conducive to their success? Things like job security, rigged markets, unions, and higher taxes on the rich simply get in their way. ..."
"... . Data suggests that inequality has widened massively over the last 30 years ( https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/infographic-income-inequality-uk ) - as has social mobility ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts ). Homelessness has risen substantially since 1979. ..."
"... As a director and CEO of an organisation employing several hundred people I became aware that 40% of the staff lived alone and that the workplace was important to them not only for work but also for interacting with their colleagues socially . ..."
"... A thoughtful article. But the rich and powerful will ignore it; their doing very well out of neo liberalism thank you. Meanwhile many of those whose lives are affected by it don't want to know - they're happy with their bigger TV screen. Which of course is what the neoliberals want, 'keep the people happy and in the dark'. An old Roman tactic - when things weren't going too well for citizens and they were grumbling the leaders just extended the 'games'. Evidently it did the trick ..."
"... Sounds like the inevitable logical outcome of a society where the predator sociopathic and their scared prey are all that is allowed. This dynamic dualistic tautology, the slavish terrorised to sleep and bullying narcissistic individual, will always join together to protect their sick worldview by pathologising anything that will threaten their hegemony of power abuse: compassion, sensitivity, moral conscience, altruism and the immediate effects of the ruthless social effacement or punishment of the same ie human suffering. ..."
"... "Alienation, in all areas, has reached unprecedented heights; the social machinery for deluding consciousnesses in the interest of the ruling class has been perfected as never before. The media are loaded with upscale advertising identifying sophistication with speciousness. Television, in constant use, obliterates the concept under the image and permanently feeds a baseless credulity for events and history. Against the will of many students, school doesn't develop the highly cultivated critical capacities that a real sovereignty of the people would require. And so on. ..."
"... There's no question - neoliberalism has been wrenching society apart. It's not as if the prime movers of this ideology were unaware of the likely outcome viz. "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher). Actually in retrospect the whole zeitgeist from the late 70s emphasised the atomised individual separated from the whole. Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" (1976) may have been influential in creating that climate. ..."
"... I would add that the basic concepts of the Neoliberal New world order are fundamentally Evil, from the control of world population through supporting of strife starvation and war to financial inducements of persons in positions of power. Let us not forget the training of our younger members of our society who have been induced to a slavish love of technology. ..."
"... The kind of personal freedom that you say goes hand in hand with capitalism is an illusion for the majority of people. It holds up the prospect of that kind of freedom, but only a minority get access to it. ..."
"... Problems in society are not solved by having a one hour a week class on "self esteem". In fact self-esteem and self-worth comes from the things you do. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is the bastard child of globalization which in effect is Americanization. The basic premise is the individual is totally reliant on the corporate world state aided by a process of fear inducing mechanisms, pharmacology is one of the tools. No community no creativity no free thinking. Poded sealed and cling filmed a quasi existence. ..."
"... Having grown up during the Thatcher years, I entirely agree that neoliberalism has divided society by promoting individual self-optimisation at the expensive of everyone else. ..."
"... There is no such thing as a free-market society. Your society of 'self-interest' is really a state supported oligarchy. If you really want to live in a society where there is literally no state and a more or less open market try Somalia or a Latin American city run by drug lords - but even then there are hierarchies, state involvement, militias. ..."
"... Furthermore, a society in which people are encouraged to be narrowly selfish is just plain uncivilized. Since when have sociopathy and barbarism been something to aspire to? ..."
"... Why don't we explore some of the benefits?.. Following the long list of some the diseases, loneliness can inflict on individuals, there must be a surge in demand for all sort of medications; anti-depressants must be topping the list. There is a host many other anti-stress treatments available of which Big Pharma must be carving the lion's share. Examine the micro-economic impact immediately following a split or divorce. There is an instant doubling on the demand for accommodation, instant doubling on the demand for electrical and household items among many other products and services. But the icing on the cake and what is really most critical for Neoliberalism must be this: With the morale barometer hitting the bottom, people will be less likely to think of a better future, and therefore, less likely to protest. In fact, there is nothing left worth protecting. ..."
"... Your freedom has been curtailed. Your rights are evaporating in front of your eyes. And Best of all, from the authorities' perspective, there is no relationship to defend and there is no family to protect. If you have a job, you want to keep, you must prove your worthiness every day to 'a company'. ..."
Oct 12, 2016 | www.theguardian.com

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children's mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.

Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.

As Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett has brilliantly documented, girls and young women routinely alter the photos they post to make themselves look smoother and slimmer. Some phones, using their "beauty" settings, do it for you without asking; now you can become your own thinspiration. Welcome to the post-Hobbesian dystopia: a war of everyone against themselves.

Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing

Is it any wonder, in these lonely inner worlds, in which touching has been replaced by retouching, that young women are drowning in mental distress? A recent survey in England suggests that one in four women between 16 and 24 have harmed themselves, and one in eight now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Anxiety, depression, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder affect 26% of women in this age group. This is what a public health crisis looks like.

If social rupture is not treated as seriously as broken limbs, it is because we cannot see it. But neuroscientists can. A series of fascinating papers suggest that social pain and physical pain are processed by the same neural circuits. This might explain why, in many languages, it is hard to describe the impact of breaking social bonds without the words we use to denote physical pain and injury. In both humans and other social mammals, social contact reduces physical pain. This is why we hug our children when they hurt themselves: affection is a powerful analgesic. Opioids relieve both physical agony and the distress of separation. Perhaps this explains the link between social isolation and drug addiction.

Experiments summarised in the journal Physiology & Behaviour last month suggest that, given a choice of physical pain or isolation, social mammals will choose the former. Capuchin monkeys starved of both food and contact for 22 hours will rejoin their companions before eating. Children who experience emotional neglect, according to some findings, suffer worse mental health consequences than children suffering both emotional neglect and physical abuse: hideous as it is, violence involves attention and contact. Self-harm is often used as an attempt to alleviate distress: another indication that physical pain is not as bad as emotional pain. As the prison system knows only too well, one of the most effective forms of torture is solitary confinement.

It is not hard to see what the evolutionary reasons for social pain might be. Survival among social mammals is greatly enhanced when they are strongly bonded with the rest of the pack. It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators, or to starve. Just as physical pain protects us from physical injury, emotional pain protects us from social injury. It drives us to reconnect. But many people find this almost impossible.

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat. It's more surprising to discover the range of physical illnesses it causes or exacerbates. Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people. Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day: it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%. This is partly because it enhances production of the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.

Studies in both animals and humans suggest a reason for comfort eating: isolation reduces impulse control, leading to obesity. As those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder are the most likely to suffer from loneliness, might this provide one of the explanations for the strong link between low economic status and obesity?

Anyone can see that something far more important than most of the issues we fret about has gone wrong. So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain? Should this question not burn the lips of everyone in public life?

There are some wonderful charities doing what they can to fight this tide, some of which I am going to be working with as part of my loneliness project. But for every person they reach, several others are swept past.

This does not require a policy response. It requires something much bigger: the reappraisal of an entire worldview. Of all the fantasies human beings entertain, the idea that we can go it alone is the most absurd and perhaps the most dangerous. We stand together or we fall apart.

RachelL , 12 Oct 2016 03:57

Well its a bit of a stretch blaming neoliberalism for creating loneliness. Yet it seems to be the fashion today to imagine that the world we live in is new...only created just years ago. And all the suffering that we see now never existed before. Plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness never happened in the past, because everything was bright and shiny and world was good.

Regrettably history teaches us that suffering and deprivation have dogged mankind for centuries, if not tens of thousands of years. That's what we do; survive, persist...endure. Blaming 'neoliberalism' is a bit of cop-out. It's the human condition man, just deal with it.

B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 03:57
Some of the connections here are a bit tenuous, to say the least, including the link to political ideology. Economic liberalism is usually accompanied with social conservatism, and vice versa. Right wing ideologues are more likely to emphasize the values of marriage and family stability, while left wing ones are more likely to favor extremes of personal freedom and reject those traditional structures that used to bind us together.
ID236975 -> B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:15
You're a little confused there in your connections between policies, intentions and outcomes. Nevertheless, Neoliberalism is a project that explicitly aims, and has achieved, the undermining and elimination of social networks in favour of market competition.

In practice, loosening social and legal institutions has reduced social security (in the general sense rather than simply welfare payments) and encouraged the limitation of social interaction to money based activity.

As Monbiot has noted, we are indeed lonelier.

DoctorLiberty -> B26354 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
That holds true when you're talking about demographics/voters.

Economic and social liberalism go hand in hand in the West. No matter who's in power, the establishment pushes both but will do one or the other covertly.

All powerful institutions have a vested interest in keeping us atomized and individualistic. The gangs at the top don't want competition. They're afraid of us. In particular, they're afraid of men organising into gangs. That's where this very paper comes in.

deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:00
The alienation genie was out of the bottle with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and mass migration to cities began and we abandoned living in village communities. Over the ensuing approx 250 years we abandoned geographically close relationships with extended families, especially post WW2. Underlying economic structures both capitalist and marxist dissolved relationships that we as communal primates evolved within. Then accelerate this mess with (anti-) social media the last 20 years along with economic instability and now dissolution of even the nuclear family (which couldn't work in the first place, we never evolved to live with just two parents looking after children) and here we have it: Mass mental illness. Solution? None. Just form the best type of extended community both within and outside of family, be engaged and generours with your community hope for the best.
terraform_drone -> deskandchair , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
Indeed, Industrialisation of our pre-prescribed lifestyle is a huge factor. In particular, our food, it's low quality, it's 24 hour avaliability, it's cardboard box ambivalence, has caused a myriad of health problems. Industrialisation is about profit for those that own the 'production-line' & much less about the needs of the recipient.
afinch , 12 Oct 2016 04:03

It's unsurprising that social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat.

Yes, although there is some question of which order things go in. A supportive social network is clearly helpful, but it's hardly a simple cause and effect. Levels of different mental health problems appear to differ widely across societies just in Europe, and it isn't particularly the case that more capitalist countries have greater incidence than less capitalist ones.

You could just as well blame atheism. Since the rise of neo-liberalism and drop in church attendance track each other pretty well, and since for all their ills churches did provide a social support group, why not blame that?

ID236975 -> afinch, 12 Oct 2016 04:22
While attending a church is likely to alleviate loneliness, atheism doesn't expressly encourage limiting social interactions and selfishness. And of course, reduced church attendance isn't exactly the same as atheism.

Neoliberalism expressly encourages 'atomisation'- it is all about reducing human interaction to markets. And so this is just one of the reasons that neoliberalism is such a bunk philosophy.

anotherspace , 12 Oct 2016 04:05
So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?

My stab at an answer would first question the notion that we are engaging in anything. That presupposes we are making the choices. Those who set out the options are the ones that make the choices. We are being engaged by the grotesquely privileged and the pathologically greedy in an enterprise that profits them still further. It suits the 1% very well strategically, for obvious reasons, that the 99% don't swap too many ideas with each other.

notherspace -> TremblingFactHunt , 12 Oct 2016 05:46
We as individuals are offered the 'choice' of consumption as an alternative to the devastating ennui engendered by powerlessness. It's no choice at all of course, because consumption merely enriches the 1% and exacerbates our powerlessness. That was the whole point of my post.

The 'choice' to consume is never collectively exercised as you suggest. Sadly. If it was, 'we' might be able to organise ourselves into doing something about it.

Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
According to Robert Putnam, as societies become more ethnically diverse they lose social capital, contributing to the type of isolation and loneliness which George describes. Doesn't sound as evil as neoliberalism I suppose.
ParisHiltonCommune -> Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 07:59
Disagree. Im British but have had more foreign friends than British. The UK middle class tend to be boring insular social status obsessed drones.other nationalities have this too, but far less so
Dave Powell -> Burstcouch , 12 Oct 2016 10:54
Multiculturalism is destroying social cohesion.
ParisHiltonCommune -> Dave Powell , 12 Oct 2016 14:47
Well, yes, but multiculturalism is a direct result of Neoliberalism. The market rules and people are secondary. Everything must be done for business owners, and that everything means access to cheap labor.

Multiculturalism isn't the only thing destroying social cohesion, too. It was being destroyed long before the recent surges of immigrants. It was reported many times in the 1980's in communities made up of only one culture. In many ways, it is being used as the obvious distraction from all the other ways Fundamentalist Free Marketers wreck live for many.

Rozina , 12 Oct 2016 04:09
This post perhaps ranges too widely to the point of being vague and general, and leading Monbiot to make some huge mental leaps, linking loneliness to a range of mental and physical problems without being able to explain, for example, the link between loneliness and obesity and all the steps in-between without risking derailment into a side issue.

I'd have thought what he really wants to say is that loneliness as a phenomenon in modern Western society arises out of an intent on the part of our political and social elites to divide us all into competing against one another, as individuals and as members of groups, all the better to keep us under control and prevent us from working together to claim our fair share of resources.

Go on, George, you can say that, why not?

MSP1984 , 12 Oct 2016 04:18
Are you familiar with the term 'Laughter is the best medicine'? Well, it's true. When you laugh, your brain releases endorphins, yeah? Your stress hormones are reduced and the oxygen supply to your blood is increased, so...

I try to laugh several times a day just because... it makes you feel good! Let's try that, eh? Ohohoo... Hahaha... Just, just... Hahahaha... Come on, trust me.. you'll feel.. HahaHAhaha! O-o-o-o-a-hahahahaa... Share

ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 04:19
>Neoliberalism is creating loneliness.

Has it occurred to you that the collapse in societal values has allowed 'neo-liberalism' to take hold?

totaram -> ID8701745 , 12 Oct 2016 05:00
No. It has been the concentrated propaganda of the "free" press. Rupert Murdoch in particular, but many other well-funded organisations working in the background over 50 years. They are winning.
greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 04:20
We're fixated on a magical, abstract concept called "the economy". Everything must be done to help "the economy", even if this means adults working through their weekends, neglecting their children, neglecting their elderly parents, eating at their desks, getting diabetes, breaking down from stress, and giving up on a family life.

Impertinent managers ban their staff from office relationships, as company policy, because the company is more important than its staff's wellbeing.

Companies hand out "free" phones that allow managers to harrass staff for work out of hours, on the understanding that they will be sidelined if thy don't respond.

And the wellbeing of "the economy" is of course far more important than whether the British people actually want to merge into a European superstate. What they want is irrelevant.

That nasty little scumbag George Osborne was the apotheosis of this ideology, but he was abetted by journalists who report any rise in GDP as "good" - no matter how it was obtained - and any "recession" to be the equivalent of a major natural disaster.

If we go on this way, the people who suffer the most will be the rich, because it will be them swinging from the lamp-posts, or cowering in gated communities that they dare not leave (Venezuela, South Africa). Those riots in London five years ago were a warning. History is littered with them.

DiscoveredJoys -> greenwichite , 12 Oct 2016 05:48
You can make a reasonable case that 'Neoliberalism' expects that every interaction, including between individuals, can be reduced to a financial one. If this results in loneliness then that's certainly a downside - but the upside is that billions have been lifted out of absolute poverty worldwide by 'Neoliberalism'.

Mr Monbiot creates a compelling argument that we should end 'Neoliberalism' but he is very vague about what should replace it other than a 'different worldview'. Destruction is easy, but creation is far harder.

concerned4democracy , 12 Oct 2016 04:28
As a retired teacher it grieves me greatly to see the way our education service has become obsessed by testing and assessment. Sadly the results are used not so much to help children learn and develop, but rather as a club to beat schools and teachers with. Pressurised schools produce pressurised children. Compare and contrast with education in Finland where young people are not formally assessed until they are 17 years old. We now assess toddlers in nursery schools.
SATs in Primary schools had children concentrating on obscure grammatical terms and usage which they will never ever use again. Pointless and counter-productive.
Gradgrind values driving out the joy of learning.
And promoting anxiety and mental health problems.
colddebtmountain , 12 Oct 2016 04:33
It is all the things you describe, Mr Monbiot, and then some. This dystopian hell, when anything that did work is broken and all things that have never worked are lined up for a little tinkering around the edges until the camouflage is good enough to kid people it is something new. It isn't just neoliberal madness that has created this, it is selfish human nature that has made it possible, corporate fascism that has hammered it into shape. and an army of mercenaries who prefer the take home pay to morality. Crime has always paid especially when governments are the crooks exercising the law.

The value of life has long been forgotten as now the only thing that matters is how much you can be screwed for either dead or alive. And yet the Trumps, the Clintons, the Camerons, the Johnsons, the Merkels, the Mays, the news media, the banks, the whole crooked lot of them, all seem to believe there is something worth fighting for in what they have created, when painfully there is not. We need revolution and we need it to be lead by those who still believe all humanity must be humble, sincere, selfless and most of all morally sincere. Freedom, justice, and equality for all, because the alternative is nothing at all.

excathedra , 12 Oct 2016 04:35
Ive long considered neo-liberalism as the cause of many of our problems, particularly the rise in mental health problems, alienation and loneliness.

As can be seen from many of the posts, neo-liberalism depends on, and fosters, ignorance, an inability to see things from historical and different perspectives and social and intellectual disciplines. On a sociological level how other societies are arranged throws up interesting comparisons. Scandanavian countries, which have mostly avoided neo-liberalism by and large, are happier, healthier places to live. America and eastern countries arranged around neo-liberal, market driven individualism, are unhappy places, riven with mental and physical health problems and many more social problems of violence, crime and suicide.

The worst thing is that the evidence shows it doesn't work. Not one of the privatisations in this country have worked. All have been worse than what they've replaced, all have cost more, depleted the treasury and led to massive homelessness, increased mental health problems with the inevitable financial and social costs, costs which are never acknowledged by its adherents.

Put crudely, the more " I'm alright, fuck you " attitude is fostered, the worse societies are. Empires have crashed and burned under similar attitudes.

MereMortal , 12 Oct 2016 04:37
A fantastic article as usual from Mr Monbiot.

The people who fosted this this system onto us, are now either very old or dead. We're living in the shadow of their revolutionary transformation of our more equitable post-war society. Hayek, Friedman, Keith Joseph, Thatcher, Greenspan and tangentially but very influentially Ayn Rand. Although a remainder (I love the wit of the term 'Remoaner') , Brexit can be better understood in the context of the death-knell of neoliberalism.

I never understood how the collapse of world finance, resulted in a right wing resurgence in the UK and the US. The Tea Party in the US made the absurd claim that the failure of global finance was not due to markets being fallible, but because free markets had not been enforced citing Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac as their evidence and of Bill Clinton insisting on more poor and black people being given mortgages.

I have a terrible sense that it will not go quietly, there will be massive global upheavals as governments struggle deal with its collapse.

flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 04:39
I have never really agreed with GM - but this article hits the nail on the head.

I think there are a number of aspects to this:

  1. The internet. The being in constant contact, our lives mapped and our thoughts analysed - we can comment on anything (whether informed or total drivel) and we've been fed the lie that our opinion is is right and that it matters) Ive removed fscebook and twitter from my phone, i have never been happier
  2. Rolling 24 hour news. That is obsessed with the now, and consistently squeezes very complex issues into bite sized simple dichotomies. Obsessed with results and critical in turn of everyone who fails to feed the machine
  3. The increasing slicing of work into tighter and slimmer specialisms, with no holistic view of the whole, this forces a box ticking culture. "Ive stamped my stamp, my work is done" this leads to a lack of ownership of the whole. PIP assessments are an almost perfect example of this - a box ticking exercise, designed by someone who'll never have to go through it, with no flexibility to put the answers into a holistic context.
  4. Our education system is designed to pass exams and not prepare for the future or the world of work - the only important aspect being the compilation of next years league tables and the schools standings. This culture is neither healthy no helpful, as students are schooled on exam technique in order to squeeze out the marks - without putting the knowledge into a meaningful and understandable narrative.

Apologies for the long post - I normally limit myself to a trite insulting comment :) but felt more was required in this instance.

Taxiarch -> flyboy101 , 12 Oct 2016 05:42
Overall, I agree with your points. Monbiot here adopts a blunderbuss approach (competitive self-interest and extreme individualism; "brutal" education, employment social security; consumerism, social media and vanity). Criticism of his hypotheses on this thread (where articualted at all) focus on the existence of solitude and loneliness prior to neo liberalism, which seems to me to be to deliberately miss his point: this was formerly a minor phenomenon, yet is now writ on an incredible scale - and it is a social phenomenon particular to those western economies whose elites have most enthusiastically embraced neo liberalism. So, when Monbiot's rhetoric rises:

"So why are we engaging in this world-eating, self-consuming frenzy of environmental destruction and social dislocation, if all it produces is unbearable pain?"

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

We stand together or we fall apart.

Hackneyed and unoriginal but still true for all that.

flyboy101 -> Taxiarch , 12 Oct 2016 06:19
I think the answer is only

the answer is, of course, 'western capitalist elites'.

because of the lies that are being sold. We all want is to: (and feel we have the right to) wear the best clothes, have the foreign holidays, own the latest tech and eat the finest foods. At the same time our rights have increased and awareness of our responsibilities have minimized. The execution of common sense and an awareness that everything that goes wrong will always be someone else fault.

We are not all special snowflakes, princesses or worthy of special treatment, but we act like self absorbed, entitled individuals. Whether that's entitled to benefits, the front of the queue or bumped into first because its our birthday!

I share Monbiots pain here. But rather than get a sense of perspective - the answer is often "More public money and counseling"

DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:42
George Monbiot has struck a nerve. They are there every day in my small town local park: people, young and old, gender and ethnically diverse, siting on benches for a couple of hours at a time.

Trite as it may seem, this temporary thread of canine affection breaks the taboo of strangers passing by on the other side. Conversations, sometimes stilted, sometimes deeper and more meaningful, ensue as dog walkers become a brief daily healing force in a fractured world of loneliness. It's not much credit in the bank of sociability. But it helps.

Trite as it may seem from the outside, their interaction with the myriad pooches regularly walk

wakeup99 -> DGIxjhLBTdhTVh7T , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Do a parkrun and you get the same thing. Free and healthy.
ParisHiltonCommune -> SenseCir , 12 Oct 2016 08:47
Unhealthy social interaction, yes. You can never judge what is natural to humans based on contemporary Britain. Anthropologists repeatedly find that what we think natural is merely a social construct created by the system we are subject to.

If you don't work hard, you will be a loser, don't look out of the window day dreaming you lazy slacker. Get productive, Mr Burns millions need you to work like a machine or be replaced by one.

Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:46
Good article. You´re absoluately right. And the deeper casue is this: separation from God. If we don´t fight our way back to God, individually and collectively, things are going to get a lot worse. With God, loneliness doesn´t exist. I encourage anyone and everyone to start talking to Him today and invite Him into your heart and watch what starts to happen.
wakeup99 -> Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Religion divides not brings people together. Only when you embrace all humanity and ignore all gods will you find true happiness. The world and the people in it are far more inspiring when you contemplate the lack of any gods. The fact people do amazing things without needing the promise of heaven or the threat of hell - that is truly moving.
TeaThoughts -> Sandra Hannen Gomez , 12 Oct 2016 05:23
I see what you're saying but I read 'love' instead of God. God is too religious which separates and divides ("I'm this religion and my god is better than yours" etc etc). I believe that George is right in many ways in that money is very powerful on it's impact on our behavior (stress, lack etc) and therefore our lives. We are becoming fearful of each other and I believe the insecurity we feel plays a part in this.

We have become so disconnected from ourselves and focused on battling to stay afloat. Having experienced periods of severe stress due to lack of money I couldn't even begin to think about how I felt, how happy I was, what I really wanted to do with my life. I just had to pay my landlord, pay the bills and try and put some food on my table so everything else was totally neglected.

When I moved house to move in with family and wasn't expected to pay rent, though I offered, all that dissatisfaction and undealt with stuff came spilling out and I realised I'd had no time for any real safe care above the very basics and that was not a good place to be. I put myself into therapy for a while and started to look after myself and things started to change. I hope to never go back to that kind of position but things are precarious financially and the field I work in isn't well paid but it makes me very happy which I realise now is more important.

geoffhoppy , 12 Oct 2016 04:47
Neo-liberalism has a lot to answer for in bringing misery to our lives and accelerating the demise of the planet but I find it not guilty on this one. The current trends as to how people perceive themselves (what you've got rather than who you are) and the increasing isolation in our cities started way before the neo-liberals. It is getting worse though and on balance social media is making us more connected but less social. Share
RandomName2016 , 12 Oct 2016 04:48
The way that the left keeps banging on about neoliberalism is half of what makes them such a tough sell electorally. Just about nobody knows what neoliberalism is, and literally nobody self identifies as a neoliberal. So all this moaning and wailing about neoliberalism comes across as a self absorbed, abstract and irrelevant. I expect there is the germ of an idea in there, but until the left can find away to present that idea without the baffling layer of jargon and over-analysis, they're going to remain at a disadvantage to the easy populism of the right.
Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting article. We have heard so much about the size of our economy but less about our quality of life. The UK quality of life is way below the size of our economy i.e. economy size 6th largest in the world but quality of life 15th. If we were the 10th largest economy but were 10th for quality of life we would be better off than we are now in real terms.

We need a radical change of political thinking to focus on quality of life rather than obsession with the size of our economy. High levels of immigration of people who don't really integrate into their local communities has fractured our country along with the widening gap between rich and poor. Governments only see people in terms of their "economic value" - hence mothers being driven out to work, children driven into daycare and the elderly driven into care homes. Britain is becoming a soulless place - even our great British comedy is on the decline.

wakeup99 -> Astrogenie , 12 Oct 2016 04:56
Quality of life is far more important than GDP I agree but it is also far more important than inequality.
MikkaWanders , 12 Oct 2016 04:49
Interesting. 'It is the isolated and marginalised animals that are most likely to be picked off by predators....' so perhaps the species is developing its own predators to fill a vacated niche.

(Not questioning the comparison to other mammals at all as I think it is valid but you would have to consider the whole rather than cherry pick bits)

johnny991965 , 12 Oct 2016 04:52
Generation snowflake. "I'll do myself in if you take away my tablet and mobile phone for half an hour".
They don't want to go out and meet people anymore. Nightclubs for instance, are closing because the younger generation 'don't see the point' of going out to meet people they would otherwise never meet, because they can meet people on the internet. Leave them to it and the repercussions of it.....
johnny991965 -> grizzly , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
Socialism is dying on its feet in the UK, hence the Tory's 17 point lead at the mo. The lefties are clinging to whatever influence they have to sway the masses instead of the ballot box. Good riddance to them.
David Ireland -> johnny991965 , 13 Oct 2016 12:45
17 point lead? Dying on it's feet? The neo-liberals are showing their disconnect from reality. If anything, neo-liberalism is driving a people to the left in search of a fairer and more equal society.
justask , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
George Moniot's articles are better thought out, researched and written than the vast majority of the usual clickbait opinion pieces found on the Guardian these days. One of the last journalists, rather than liberal arts blogger vying for attention.
Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
Neoliberalism's rap sheet is long and dangerous but this toxic philosophy will continue unabated because most people can't join the dots and work out how detrimental it has proven to be for most of us.

It dangles a carrot in order to create certain economic illusions but the simple fact is neoliberal societies become more unequal the longer they persist.

wakeup99 -> Nada89 , 12 Oct 2016 05:05
Neoliberal economies allow people to build huge global businesses very quickly and will continue to give the winners more but they also can guve everyone else more too but just at a slower rate. Socialism on the other hand mires everyone in stagnant poverty. Question is do you want to be absolutely or relatively better off.
totaram -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:19
You have no idea. Do not confuse capitalism with neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a political ideology based on a mythical version of capitalism that doesn't actually exist, but is a nice way to get the deluded to vote for something that doesn't work in their interest at all.
peterfieldman , 12 Oct 2016 04:57
And things will get worse as society falls apart due to globalisation, uberization, lack of respect for authority, lacks of a fair tax and justice system, crime, immorality, loss of trust of politicians and financial and corporate sectors, uncontrolled immigration bringing with it insecurity and the risk of terrorism and a dumbing down of society with increasing inequality. All this is in a new book " The World at a Crossroads" which deals with the major issues facing the planet.
Nada89 -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:07
What, like endless war, unaffordable property, monstrous university fees, zero hours contracts and a food bank on every corner, and that's before we even get to the explosion in mental distress.
monsieur_flaneur -> thedisclaimer , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
There's nothing spurious or obscure about Neoliberalism. It is simply the political ideology of the rich, which has been our uninterrupted governing ideology since Reagan and Thatcher: Privatisation, deregulation, 'liberalisation' of housing, labour, etc, trickledown / low-tax-on-the-rich economics, de-unionization. You only don't see it if you don't want to see it.
arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:03
I'm just thinking what is wonderful about societies that are big of social unity. And conformity. Those societies for example where you "belong" to your family. Where teenage girls can be married off to elderly uncles to cement that belonging. Or those societies where the belonging comes through religious centres. Where the ostracism for "deviant" behaviour like being gay or for women not submitting to their husbands can be brutal. And I'm not just talking about muslims here.

Or those societies that are big on patriotism. Yep they are usually good for mental health as the young men are given lessons in how to kill as many other men as possible efficiently.

And then I have to think how our years of "neo-liberal" governments have taken ideas of social liberalisation and enshrined them in law. It may be coincidence but thirty years after Thatcher and Reagan we are far more tolerant of homosexuality and willing to give it space to live, conversely we are far less tolerant of racism and are willing to prosecute racist violence. Feminists may still moan about equality but the position of women in society has never been better, rape inside marriage has (finally) been outlawed, sexual violence generally is no longer condoned except by a few, work opportunities have been widened and the woman's role is no longer just home and family. At least that is the case in "neo-liberal" societies, it isn't necessarily the case in other societies.

So unless you think loneliness is some weird Stockholm Syndrome thing where your sense of belonging comes from your acceptance of a stifling role in a structured soiety, then I think blaming the heightened respect for the individual that liberal societies have for loneliness is way off the mark.

What strikes me about the cases you cite above, George, is not an over-respect for the individual but another example of individuals being shoe-horned into a structure. It strikes me it is not individualism but competition that is causing the unhappiness. Competition to achieve an impossible ideal.

I fear George, that you are not approaching this with a properly open mind dedicated to investigation. I think you have your conclusion and you are going to bend the evidence to fit. That is wrong and I for one will not support that. In recent weeks and months we have had the "woe, woe and thrice woe" writings. Now we need to take a hard look at our findings. We need to take out the biases resulting from greater awareness of mental health and better and fuller diagnosis of mental health issues. We need to balance the bias resulting from the fact we really only have hard data for modern Western societies. And above all we need to scotch any bias resulting from the political worldview of the researchers.

Then the results may have some value.

birney -> arkley , 12 Oct 2016 05:10
It sounded to me that he was telling us of farm labouring and factory fodder stock that if we'd 'known our place' and kept to it ,all would be well because in his ideal society there WILL be or end up having a hierarchy, its inevitable.
EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:04
Wasn't all this started by someone who said, "There is no such thing as Society"? The ultimate irony is that the ideology that championed the individual and did so much to dismantle the industrial and social fabric of the Country has resulted in a system which is almost totalitarian in its disregard for its ideological consequences.
wakeup99 -> EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Thatcher said it in the sense that society is not abstract it is just other people so when you say society needs to change then people need to change as society is not some independent concept it is an aggregation of all us. The left mis quote this all the time and either they don't get it or they are doing on purpose.
HorseCart -> EndaFlannel , 12 Oct 2016 05:09
No, Neoliberalism has been around since 1938.... Thatcher was only responsible for "letting it go" in Britain in 1980, but actually it was already racing ahead around the world.

Furthermore, it could easily be argued that the Beatles helped create loneliness - what do you think all those girls were screaming for? And also it could be argued that the Beatles were bringing in neoliberalism in the 1960s, via America thanks to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis etc.. Share

billybagel -> wakeup99 , 12 Oct 2016 05:26
They're doing it on purpose. ""If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it." -- Joseph Boebbels
Luke O'Brien , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
Great article, although surely you could've extended the blame to capitalism has a whole?

In what, then, consists the alienation of labor? First, in the fact that labor is external to the worker, i.e., that it does not belong to his nature, that therefore he does not realize himself in his work, that he denies himself in it, that he does not feel at ease in it, but rather unhappy, that he does not develop any free physical or mental energy, but rather mortifies his flesh and ruins his spirit. The worker, therefore, is only himself when he does not work, and in his work he feels outside himself. He feels at home when he is not working, and when he is working he does not feel at home. His labor, therefore, is not voluntary, but forced--forced labor. It is not the gratification of a need, but only a means to gratify needs outside itself. Its alien nature shows itself clearly by the fact that work is shunned like the plague as soon as no physical or other kind of coercion exists.

Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844

JulesBywaterLees , 12 Oct 2016 05:08
We have created a society with both flaws and highlights- and we have unwittingly allowed the economic system to extend into our lives in negative ways.

On of the things being modern brings is movement- we move away from communities, breaking friendships and losing support networks, and the support networks are the ones that allow us to cope with issues, problems and anxiety.

Isolation among the youth is disturbing, it is also un natural, perhaps it is social media, or fear of parents, or the fall in extra school activities or parents simply not having a network of friends because they have had to move for work or housing.

There is some upsides, I talk and get support from different international communities through the social media that can also be so harmful- I chat on xbox games, exchange information on green building forums, arts forums, share on youtube as well as be part of online communities that hold events in the real world.

LordMorganofGlossop , 12 Oct 2016 05:11
Increasingly we seem to need to document our lives on social media to somehow prove we 'exist'. We seem far more narcissistic these days, which tends to create a particular type of unhappiness, or at least desire that can never be fulfilled. Maybe that's the secret of modern consumer-based capitalism. To be happy today, it probably helps to be shallow, or avoid things like Twitter and Facebook!

Eric Fromm made similar arguments to Monbiot about the psychological impact of modern capitalism (Fear of Freedom and The Sane Society) - although the Freudian element is a tad outdated. However, for all the faults of modern society, I'd rather be unhappy now than in say, Victorian England. Similarly, life in the West is preferable to the obvious alternatives.

Interestingly, the ultra conservative Adam Smith Institute yesterday decided to declare themselves 'neoliberal' as some sort of badge of honour:
http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/coming-out-as-neoliberals

eamonmcc , 12 Oct 2016 05:15
Thanks George for commenting in such a public way on the unsayable: consume, consume, consume seems to be the order of the day in our modern world and the points you have highlighted should be part of public policy everywhere.

I'm old enough to remember when we had more time for each other; when mothers could be full-time housewives; when evenings existed (evenings now seem to be spent working or getting home from work). We are undoubtedly more materialistic, which leads to more time spent working, although our modern problems are probably not due to increasing materialism alone.

Regarding divorce and separation, I notice people in my wider circle who are very open to affairs. They seem to lack the self-discipline to concentrate on problems in their marriage and to give their full-time partner a high level of devotion. Terrible problems come up in marriages but if you are completely and unconditionally committed to your partner and your marriage then you can get through the majority of them.

CEMKM , 12 Oct 2016 05:47
Aggressive self interest is turning in on itself. Unfortunately the powerful who have realised their 'Will to Power' are corrupted by their own inflated sense of self and thus blinded. Does this all predict a global violent revolution?
SteB1 -> NeverMindTheBollocks , 12 Oct 2016 06:32

A diatribe against a vague boogieman that is at best an ill-defined catch-all of things this CIFer does not like.

An expected response from someone who persistently justifies neoliberalism through opaque and baseless attacks on those who reveal how it works. Neoliberalism is most definitely real and it has a very definite history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, what is most interesting is how nearly all modern politicians who peddle neoliberal doctrine or policy, refuse to use the name, or even to openly state what ideology they are in fact following.

I suppose it is just a complete coincidence that the policy so many governments are now following so closely follow known neoliberal doctrine. But of course the clever and unpleasant strategy of those like yourself is to cry conspiracy theory if this ideology, which dare not speak its name is mentioned.

Your style is tiresome. You make no specific supported criticisms again, and again. You just make false assertions and engage in unpleasant ad homs and attempted character assassination. You do not address the evidence for what George Monbiot states at all.

heian555 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56
An excellent article. One wonders exactly what one needs to say in order to penetrate the reptilian skulls of those who run the system.

As an addition to Mr Monbiot's points, I would like to point out that it is not only competitive self-interest and extreme individualism that drives loneliness. Any system that has strict hierarchies and mechanisms of social inclusion also drives it, because such systems inhibit strongly spontaneous social interaction, in which people simply strike up conversation. Thailand has such a system. Despite her promoting herself as the land of smiles, I have found the people here to be deeply segregated and unfriendly. I have lived here for 17 years. The last time I had a satisfactory face-to-face conversation, one that went beyond saying hello to cashiers at checkout counters or conducting official business, was in 1999. I have survived by convincing myself that I have dialogues with my books; as I delve more deeply into the texts, the authors say something different to me, to which I can then respond in my mind.

SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 05:56

Epidemics of mental illness are crushing the minds and bodies of millions. It's time to ask where we are heading and why

I want to quote the sub headline, because "It's time to ask where we are heading and why", is the important bit. George's excellent and scathing evidence based criticism of the consequences of neoliberalism is on the nail. However, we need to ask how we got to this stage. Despite it's name neoliberalism doesn't really seem to contain any new ideas, and in some way it's more about Thatcher's beloved return to Victorian values. Most of what George Monbiot highlights encapsulatec Victorian thinking, the sort of workhouse mentality.

Whilst it's very important to understand how neoliberalism, the ideology that dare not speak it's name, derailed the general progress in the developed world. It's also necessary to understand that the roots this problem go much further back. Not merely to the start of the industrial revolution, but way beyond that. It actually began with the first civilizations when our societies were taken over by powerful rulers, and they essentially started to farm the people they ruled like cattle. On the one hand they declared themselves protector of their people, whilst ruthlessly exploiting them for their own political gain. I use the livestock farming analogy, because that explains what is going on.

To domesticate livestock, and to make them pliable and easy to work with the farmer must make himself appear to these herd animals as if they are their protector, the person who cares for them, nourishes and feeds them. They become reliant on their apparent benefactor. Except of course this is a deceitful relationship, because the farmer is just fattening them up to be eaten.

For the powerful to exploit the rest of people in society for their own benefit they had to learn how to conceal what they were really doing, and to wrap it in justifications to bamboozle the people they were exploiting for their own benefit. They did this by altering our language and inserting ideas in our culture which justified their rule, and the positions of the rest of us.

Before state religions, generally what was revered was the Earth, the natural world. It was on a personal level, and not controlled by the powerful. So the powerful needed to remove that personal meaningfulness from people's lives, and said the only thing which was really meaningful, was the religion, which of course they controlled and were usually the head of. Over generations people were indoctrinated in a completely new way of thinking, and a language manipulated so all people could see was the supposed divine right of kings to rule. Through this language people were detached from what was personally meaningful to them, and could only find meaningfulness by pleasing their rulers, and being indoctrinated in their religion.

If you control the language people use, you can control how perceive the world, and can express themselves.

By stripping language of meaningful terms which people can express themselves, and filling it full of dubious concepts such as god, the right of kings completely altered how people saw the world, how they thought. This is why over the ages, and in different forms the powerful have always attempted to have full control of our language through at first religion and their proclamations, and then eventually by them controlling our education system and the media.

The idea of language being used to control how people see the world, and how they think is of course not my idea. George Orwell's Newspeak idea explored in "1984" is very much about this.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

This control of language is well known throughout history. Often conquerors would abolish languages of those they conquered. In the so called New World the colonists eventually tried to control how indigenous people thought by forcibly sending their children to boarding school, to be stripped of their culture, their native language, and to be inculcated in the language and ideas of their colonists. In Britain various attempts were made to banish the Welsh language, the native language of the Britons, before the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans took over.

However, what Orwell did not deal with properly is the origin of language style. To Orwell, and to critics of neoliberalism, the problems can be traced back to the rise of what they criticised. To a sort of mythical golden age. Except all the roots of what is being criticised can be found in the period before the invention of these doctrines. So you have to go right back to the beginning, to understand how it all began.

Neoliberalism would never have been possible without this long control of our language and ideas by the powerful. It prevents us thinking outside the box, about what the problem really is, and how it all began.

clarissa3 -> SteB1 , 12 Oct 2016 06:48
All very well but you are talking about ruthlessness of western elites, mostly British, not all.

It was not like that everywhere. Take Poland for example, and around there..

New research is emerging - and I'd recommend reading of prof Frost from St Andrew's Uni - that lower classes were actually treated with respect by elites there, mainly land owners and aristocracy who more looked after them and employed and cases of such ruthlessness as you describe were unknown of.

So that 'truth' about attitudes to lower classes is not universal!

SteB1 -> Borisundercoat , 12 Oct 2016 06:20

What is "neoliberalism" exactly?

It's spouted by many on here as the root of all evil.

I'd be interested to see how many different definitions I get in response...


The reason I call neoliberalism the ideology which dare not speak it's name is that in public you will rarely hear it mentioned by it's proponents. However, it was a very important part of Thatcherism, Blairism, and so on. What is most definite is that these politicians and others are most definitely following some doctrine. Their ideas about what we must do and how we must do it are arbitrary, but they make it sound as if it's the only way to do things.

If you want to learn more about neoliberalism, read a summary such as the Wikipedia page on it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376

However, as I hint, the main problem in dealing with neoliberalism is that none of the proponents of this doctrine admit to what ideology they are actually following. Yet very clearly around the world leaders in many countries are clearly singing from the same hymn sheet because the policy they implement is so similar. Something has definitely changed. All the attempts to roll back welfare, benefits, and public services is most definitely new, or they wouldn't be having to reverse policy of the past if nothing had change. But as all these politicians implementing this policy all seem to refuse to explain what doctrine they are following, it makes it difficult to pin down what is happening. Yet we can most definitely say that there is a clear doctrine at work, because why else would so many political leaders around the world be trying to implement such similar policy.

Winstons1 -> TerryMcBurney , 12 Oct 2016 06:24

Neo-liberalism doesn't really exist except in the minds of the far left and perhaps a few academics.

Neoliberalism is a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. ... Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development.

I believe the term 'Neo liberalism' was coined by those well known 'Lefties'The Chicago School .
If you don't believe that any of the above has been happening ,it does beg the question as to where you have been for the past decade.

UnderSurveillance , 12 Oct 2016 06:12
The ironies of modern civilization - we have never been more 'connected' to other people on global level and less 'connected' on personal level.

We have never had access to such a wide range of information and opinions, but also for a long time been so divided into conflicting groups, reading and accessing in fact only that which reinforces what we already think.

John Pelan , 12 Oct 2016 06:18
Sir Harry Burns, ex-Chief Medical Officer in Scotland talks very powerfully about the impact of loneliness and isolation on physical and mental health - here is a video of a recent talk by him - http://www.befs.org.uk/calendar/48/164-BEFS-Annual-Lecture
MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 06:22
These issues have been a long time coming, just think of the appeals of the 60's to chill out and love everyone. Globalisation and neo-liberalism has simply made society even more broken.
The way these problems have been ignored and made worse over the last few decades make me think that the solution will only happen after a massive catastrophe and society has to be rebuilt. Unless we make the same mistakes again.
A shame really, you would think intelligence would be useful but it seems not.
ParisHiltonCommune -> MightyDrunken , 12 Oct 2016 07:19
Contemporary Neo-liberalism is a reaction against that ideal of the 60s
DevilMayCareIDont , 12 Oct 2016 06:25
I would argue that it creates a bubble of existence for those who pursue a path of "success" that instead turns to isolation . The amount of people that I have met who have moved to London because to them it represents the main location for everything . I get to see so many walking cliches of people trying to fit in or stand out but also fitting in just the same .

The real disconnect that software is providing us with is truly staggering . I have spoken to people from all over the World who seem to feel more at home being alone and playing a game with strangers . The ones who are most happy are those who seem to be living all aloe and the ones who try and play while a girlfriend or family are present always seemed to be the ones most agitated by them .

We are humans relying on simplistic algorithms that reduce us ,apps like Tinder which turns us into a misogynist at the click of a button .

Facebook which highlights our connections with the other people and assumes that everyone you know or have met is of the same relevance .

We also have Twitter which is the equivalent of screaming at a television when you are drunk or angry .

We have Instagram where people revel in their own isolation and send updates of it . All those products that are instantly updated and yet we are ageing and always feeling like we are grouped together by simple algorithms .

JimGoddard , 12 Oct 2016 06:28
Television has been the main destroyer of social bonds since the 1950s and yet it is only mentioned once and in relation to the number of competitions on it, which completely misses the point. That's when I stopped taking this article seriously.
GeoffP , 12 Oct 2016 06:29
Another shining example of the slow poison of capitalism. Maybe it's time at last to turn off the tap?
jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
I actually blame Marx for neoliberalism. He framed society purely in terms economic, and persuaded that ideology is valuable in as much as it is actionable.

For a dialectician he was incredibly short sighted and superficial, not realising he was creating a narrative inimical to personal expression and simple thoughtfulness (although he was warned). To be fair, he can't have appreciated how profoundly he would change the way we concieve societies.

Neoliberalism is simply the dark side of Marxism and subsumes the personal just as comprehensively as communism.

We're picked apart by quantification and live as particulars, suffering the ubiquitous consequences of connectivity alone . . .

Unless, of course, you get out there and meet great people!

ParisHiltonCommune -> jwestoby , 12 Oct 2016 07:16
Marxism arose as a reaction against the harsh capitalism of its day. Of course it is connected. It is ironic how Soviet our lives have become.
zeeeel , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
Neo-liberalism allows psychopaths to flourish, and it has been argued by Robert Hare that they are disproportionately represented in the highest echelons of society. So people who lack empathy and emotional attachment are probably weilding a significant amount of influence over the way our economy and society is organised. Is it any wonder that they advocate an economic model which is most conducive to their success? Things like job security, rigged markets, unions, and higher taxes on the rich simply get in their way.
Drewv , 12 Oct 2016 06:30
That fine illustration by Andrzej Krauze up there is exactly what I see whenever I walk into an upscale mall or any Temple of Consumerism.

You can hear the Temple calling out: "Feel bad, atomized individuals? Have a hole inside? Feel lonely? That's all right: buy some shit you don't need and I guarantee you'll feel better."

And then it says: "So you bought it and you felt better for five minutes, and now you feel bad again? Well, that's not rocket science...you should buy MORE shit you don't need! I mean, it's not rocket science, you should have figured this out on your own."

And then it says: "Still feel bad and you have run out of money? Well, that's okay, just get it on credit, or take out a loan, or mortgage your house. I mean, it's not rocket science. Really, you should have figured this out on your own already...I thought you were a modern, go-get-'em, independent, initiative-seizing citizen of the world?"

And then it says: "Took out too many loans, can't pay the bills and the repossession has begun? Honestly, that's not my problem. You're just a bad little consumer, and a bad little liberal, and everything is your own fault. You go sit in a dark corner now where you don't bother the other shoppers. Honestly, you're just being a burden on other consumers now. I'm not saying you should kill yourself, but I can't say that we would mind either."

And that's how the worms turn at the Temples of Consumerism and Neoliberalism.

havetheyhearts , 12 Oct 2016 06:31
I kept my sanity by not becoming a spineless obedient middle class pleaser of a sociopathic greedy tribe pretending neoliberalism is the future.

The result is a great clarity about the game, and an intact empathy for all beings.

The middle class treated each conscious "outsider" like a lowlife, and now they play the helpless victims of circumstances.

I know why I renounced to my privileges. They sleepwalk into their self created disorder. And yes, I am very angry at those who wasted decades with their social stupidity, those who crawled back after a start of change into their petit bourgeois niche.

I knew that each therapist has to take a stand and that the most choose petty careers. Do not expect much sanity from them for your disorientated kids.
Get insightful yourself and share your leftover love to them. Try honesty and having guts...that might help both of you.

Likewhatever , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Alternatively, neo-liberalism has enabled us to afford to live alone (entire families were forced to live together for economic reasons), and technology enables us to work remotely, with no need for interaction with other people.

This may make some people feel lonely, but for many others its utopia.

Peter1Barnet , 12 Oct 2016 06:32
Some of the things that characterise Globalisation and Neoliberalism are open borders and free movement. How can that contribute to isolation? That is more likely to be fostered by Protectionism. And there aren't fewer jobs. Employment is at record highs here and in many other countries. There are different jobs, not fewer, and to be sure there are some demographics that have lost out. But overall there are not fewer jobs. That falls for the old "lump of labour" fallacy.
WhigInterpretation , 12 Oct 2016 06:43
The corrosive state of mass television indoctrination sums it up: Apprentice, Big Brother, Dragon's Den. By degrees, the standard keeps lowering. It is no longer unusual for a licence funded TV programme to consist of a group of the mentally deranged competing to be the biggest asshole in the room.

Anomie is a by-product of cultural decline as much as economics.

Pinkie123 -> Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:18

What is certain, is that is most ways, life is far better now in the UK than 20, 30 or 40 years ago, by a long way!

That's debatable. Data suggests that inequality has widened massively over the last 30 years ( https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/infographic-income-inequality-uk ) - as has social mobility ( https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/may/22/social-mobility-data-charts ). Homelessness has risen substantially since 1979.

Our whole culture is more stressful. Jobs are more precarious; employment rights more stacked in favor of the employer; workforces are deunionised; leisure time is on the decrease; rents are unaffordable; a house is no longer a realistic expectation for millions of young people. Overall, citizens are more socially immobile and working harder for poorer real wages than they were in the late 70's.

As for mental health, evidence suggest that mental health problems have been on the increase over recent decades, especially among young people. The proportion of 15/16 year olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years, from 1 in 30 to 2 in 30 for boys and 1 in 10 to 2 in ten for girls ( http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/news/increased-levels-anxiety-and-depression-teenage-experience-changes-over-time

Unfortunately, sexual abuse has always been a feature of human societies. However there is no evidence to suggest it was any worse in the past. Then sexual abuse largely took place in institutional settings were at least it could be potentially addressed. Now much of it has migrated to the great neoliberal experiment of the internet, where child exploitation is at endemic levels and completely beyond the control of law enforcement agencies. There are now more women and children being sexually trafficked than there were slaves at the height of the slave trade. Moreover, we should not forget that Jimmy Saville was abusing prolifically right into the noughties.

My parents were both born in 1948. They say it was great. They bought a South London house for next to nothing and never had to worry about getting a job. When they did get a job it was one with rights, a promise of a generous pension, a humane workplace environment, lunch breaks and an ethos of public service. My mum says that the way women are talked about now is worse.

Sounds fine to me. That's not to say everything was great: racism was acceptable (though surely the vile views pumped out onto social media are as bad or worse than anything that existed then), homosexuality was illegal and capital punishment enforced until the 1960's. However, the fact that these things were reformed showed society was moving in the right direction. Now we are going backwards, back to 1930's levels or inequality and a reactionary, small-minded political culture fueled by loneliness, rage and misery.

Pinkie123 -> Stephen Bell , 12 Oct 2016 07:28
And there is little evidence to suggest that anyone has expanded their mind with the internet. A lot of people use it to look at porn, post racist tirades on Facebook, send rape threats, distributes sexual images of partners with their permission, take endless photographs of themselves and whip up support for demagogues. In my view it would much better if people went to a library than lurked in corporate echo chambers pumping out the like of 'why dont theese imagrantz go back home and all those lezbo fems can fuckk off too ha ha megalolz ;). Seriously mind expanding stuff. Share
Pinkie123 -> Pinkie123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Oops ' without their permission...
maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 06:49
As a director and CEO of an organisation employing several hundred people I became aware that 40% of the staff lived alone and that the workplace was important to them not only for work but also for interacting with their colleagues socially . This was encouraged and the organisation achieved an excellent record in retaining staff at a time when recruitment was difficult. Performance levels were also extremely high . I particulalry remember with gratitude the solidarity of staff when one of our colleagues - a haemophiliac - contracted aids through an infected blood transfusion and died bravely but painfully - the staff all supported him in every way possible through his ordeal and it was a privilege for me to work with such kind and caring people .
oommph -> maldonglass , 12 Oct 2016 07:00
Indeed. Those communities are often undervalued. However, the problem is, as George says, lots of people are excluded from them.

They are also highly self-selecting (e.g. you need certain trains of inclusivity, social adeptness, empathy, communication, education etc to get the job that allows you to join that community).

Certainly I make it a priority in my life. I do create communities. I do make an effort to stand by people who live like me. I can be a leader there.

Sometimes I wish more people would be. It is a sustained, long-term effort. Share

forkintheroad , 12 Oct 2016 06:50
'a war of everyone against themselves' - post-Hobbesian. Genius, George.
sparclear , 12 Oct 2016 06:51
Using a word like 'loneliness' is risky insofar as nuances get lost. It can have thousand meanings, as there are of a word like 'love'.

isolation
grief
loneliness
feeling abandoned
solitude
purposelessness
neglect
depression
&c.

To add to this discussion, we might consider the strongest need and conflict each of us experiences as a teenager, the need to be part of a tribe vs the the conflict inherent in recognising one's uniqueness. In a child's life from about 7 or 8 until adolescence, friends matter the most. Then the young person realises his or her difference from everyone else and has to grasp what this means.

Those of us who enjoyed a reasonably healthy upbringing will get through the peer group / individuation stage with happiness possible either way - alone or in friendship. Our parents and teachers will have fostered a pride in our own talents and our choice of where to socialise will be flexible and non-destructive.

Those of us who at some stage missed that kind of warmth and acceptance in childhood can easily stagnate. Possibly this is the most awkward of personal developmental leaps. The person neither knows nor feels comfortable with themselves, all that faces them is an abyss.
Where creative purpose and strength of spirit are lacking, other humans can instinctively sense it and some recoil from it, hardly knowing what it's about. Vulnerabilities attendant on this state include relationships holding out some kind of ersatz rescue, including those offered by superficial therapists, religions, and drugs, legal and illegal.

Experience taught that apart from the work we might do with someone deeply compassionate helping us where our parents failed, the natural world is a reliable healer. A kind of self-acceptance and individuation is possible away from human bustle. One effect of the seasons and of being outdoors amongst other life forms is to challenge us physically, into present time, where our senses start to work acutely and our observational skills get honed, becoming more vibrant than they could at any educational establishment.

This is one reason we have to look after the Earth, whether it's in a city context or a rural one. Our mental, emotional and physical health is known to be directly affected by it.

Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 06:55
A thoughtful article. But the rich and powerful will ignore it; their doing very well out of neo liberalism thank you. Meanwhile many of those whose lives are affected by it don't want to know - they're happy with their bigger TV screen. Which of course is what the neoliberals want, 'keep the people happy and in the dark'. An old Roman tactic - when things weren't going too well for citizens and they were grumbling the leaders just extended the 'games'. Evidently it did the trick
worried -> Buster123 , 12 Oct 2016 07:32
The rich and powerful can be just as lonely as you and me. However, some of them will be lonely after having royally forked the rest of us over...and that is another thing
Hallucinogen , 12 Oct 2016 06:59

We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives.

- Fight Club
People need a tribe to feel purpose. We need conflict, it's essential for our species... psychological health improved in New York after 9/11.
ParisHiltonCommune , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Totally agree with the last sentences. Human civilisation is a team effort. Individual humans cant survive, our language evolved to aid cooperation.

Neo-liberalism is really only an Anglo-American project. Yet we are so indoctrinated in it, It seems natural to us, but not to hardly any other cultures.

As for those "secondary factors. Look to advertising and the loss of real jobs forcing more of us to sell services dependent on fake needs. Share

deirdremcardle , 12 Oct 2016 07:01
Help save the Notting Hill Carnival
http://www.getwestlondon.co.uk/news/west-london-news/teen-disembowelled-years-notting-hill-11982129

It's importance for social cohesion -- yes inspite of the problems , can not be overestimated .Don't let the rich drive it out , people who don't understand ,or care what it's for .The poorer boroughs cannot afford it .K&C have easily 1/2billion in Capital Reserves ,so yes they must continue . Here I can assure you ,one often sees the old and lonely get a hug .If drug gangs are hitting each other or their rich boy customers with violence - that is a different matter . And yes of course if we don't do something to help boys from ethnic minorities ,with education and housing -of course it only becomes more expensive in the long run.

Boris Johnson has idiotically mouthed off about trying to mobilise people to stand outside the Russian Embassy , as if one can mobilise youth by telling them to tidy their bedroom .Because that's all it amounts to - because you have to FEEL protest and dissent . Well here at Carnival - there it is ,protest and dissent . Now listen to it . And of course it will be far easier than getting any response from sticking your tongue out at the Putin monster --
He has his bombs , just as Kensington and Chelsea have their money. (and anyway it's only another Boris diversion ,like building some fucking stupid bridge ,instead of doing anything useful)

Lafcadio1944 , 12 Oct 2016 07:03
"Society" or at least organized society is the enemy of corporate power. The idea of Neoliberal capitalism is to replace civil society with corporate law and rule. The same was true of the less extreme forms of capitalism. Society is the enemy of capital because it put restrictions on it and threatens its power.

When society organizes itself and makes laws to protect society from the harmful effects of capitalism, for example demands on testing drugs to be sure they are safe, this is a big expense to Pfizer, there are many examples - just now in the news banning sugary drinks. If so much as a small group of parents forming a day care co-op decide to ban coca cola from their group that is a loss of profit.

That is really what is going on, loneliness is a big part of human life, everyone feels it sometimes, under Neoliberal capitalism it is simply more exaggerated due to the out and out assault on society itself.

Joan Cant , 12 Oct 2016 07:10
Well the prevailing Global Capitalist world view is still a combination 1. homocentric Cartesian Dualism i.e. seeing humans as most important and sod all other living beings, and seeing humans as separate from all other living beings and other humans and 2. Darwinian "survival of the fittest" seeing everything as a competition and people as "winners and losers, weak or strong with winners and the strong being most important". From these 2 combined views all kinds of "games" arise. The main one being the game of "victim, rescuer, persecutor" (Transactional Analysis). The Guardian engages in this most of the time and although I welcome the truth in this article to some degree, surprisingly, as George is environmentally friendly, it kinda still is talking as if humans are most important and as if those in control (the winners) need to change their world view to save the victims. I think the world view needs to zoom out to a perspective that recognises that everything is interdependent and that the apparent winners and the strong are as much victims of their limited world view as those who are manifesting the effects of it more obviously.
Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
Here in America, we have reached the point at which police routinely dispatch the mentally ill, while complaining that "we don't have the time for this" (N. Carolina). When a policeman refuses to kill a troubled citizen, he or she can and will be fired from his job (West Virginia). This has become not merely commonplace, but actually a part of the social function of the work of the police -- to remove from society the burden of caring for the mentally ill by killing them. In the state where I live, a state trooper shot dead a mentally ill man who was not only unarmed, but sitting on the toilet in his own home. The resulting "investigation" exculpated the trooper, of course; in fact, young people are constantly told to look up to the police.
ianita1978 -> Zombiesfan , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
Sounds like the inevitable logical outcome of a society where the predator sociopathic and their scared prey are all that is allowed. This dynamic dualistic tautology, the slavish terrorised to sleep and bullying narcissistic individual, will always join together to protect their sick worldview by pathologising anything that will threaten their hegemony of power abuse: compassion, sensitivity, moral conscience, altruism and the immediate effects of the ruthless social effacement or punishment of the same ie human suffering.
Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 07:14
The impact of increasing alienation on individual mental health has been known about and discussed for a long time.

When looking at a way forward, the following article is interesting:

"Alienation, in all areas, has reached unprecedented heights; the social machinery for deluding consciousnesses in the interest of the ruling class has been perfected as never before. The media are loaded with upscale advertising identifying sophistication with speciousness. Television, in constant use, obliterates the concept under the image and permanently feeds a baseless credulity for events and history. Against the will of many students, school doesn't develop the highly cultivated critical capacities that a real sovereignty of the people would require. And so on.

The ordinary citizen thus lives in an incredibly deceiving reality. Perhaps this explains the tremendous and persistent gap between the burgeoning of motives to struggle, and the paucity of actual combatants. The contrary would be a miracle. Thus the considerable importance of what I call the struggle for representation: at every moment, in every area, to expose the deception and bring to light, in the simplicity of form which only real theoretical penetration makes possible, the processes in which the false-appearances, real and imagined, originate, and this way, to form the vigilant consciousness, placing our image of reality back on its feet and reopening paths to action."

https://www.marxists.org/archive/seve/lucien_seve.htm

ianita1978 -> Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 08:18
For the global epidemic of abusive, effacing homogenisation of human intellectual exchange and violent hyper-sexualisation of all culture, I blame the US Freudian PR guru Edward Bernays and his puritan forebears - alot.
bonhee -> Ruby4 , 12 Oct 2016 09:03
Thanks for proving that Anomie is a far more sensible theory than Dialectical Materialistic claptrap that was used back in the 80s to terrorize the millions of serfs living under the Jack boot of Leninist Iron curtain.
RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:15
There's no question - neoliberalism has been wrenching society apart. It's not as if the prime movers of this ideology were unaware of the likely outcome viz. "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher). Actually in retrospect the whole zeitgeist from the late 70s emphasised the atomised individual separated from the whole. Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" (1976) may have been influential in creating that climate.

Anyway, the wheel has turned thank goodness. We are becoming wiser and understanding that "ecology" doesn't just refer to our relationship with the natural world but also, closer to home, our relationship with each other.

Jayarava Attwood -> RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:37
The Communist manifesto makes the same complaint in 1848. The wheel has not turned, it is still grinding down workers after 150 years. We are none the wiser.
Ben Wood -> RossJames , 12 Oct 2016 07:49
"The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will."
R Hunter
ianita1978 -> Ben Wood , 12 Oct 2016 08:13
Yep. And far too many good people have chosen to be the grateful dead in order to escape the brutal torture of bullying Predators.
magicspoon3 , 12 Oct 2016 07:30
What is loneliness? I love my own company and I love walking in nature and listening to relaxation music off you tube and reading books from the library. That is all free. When I fancied a change of scene, I volunteered at my local art gallery.

Mental health issues are not all down to loneliness. Indeed, other people can be a massive stress factor, whether it is a narcissistic parent, a bullying spouse or sibling, or an unreasonable boss at work.

I'm on the internet far too much and often feel the need to detox from it and get back to a more natural life, away from technology. The 24/7 news culture and selfie obsessed society is a lot to blame for social disconnect.

The current economic climate is also to blame, if housing and job security are a problem for individuals as money worries are a huge factor of stress. The idea of not having any goal for the future can trigger depressive thoughts.

I have to say, I've been happier since I don't have such unrealistic expectations of what 'success is'. I rarely get that foreign holiday or new wardrobe of clothes and my mobile phone is archaic. The pressure that society puts on us to have all these things- and get in debt for them is not good. The obsession with economic growth at all costs is also stupid, as the numbers don't necessarily mean better wealth, health or happiness.

dr8765 , 12 Oct 2016 07:34
Very fine article, as usual from George, until right at the end he says:

This does not require a policy response.

But it does. It requires abandonment of neoliberalism as the means used to run the world. People talk about the dangers of man made computers usurping their makers but mankind has, it seems, already allowed itself to become enslaved. This has not been achieved by physical dependence upon machines but by intellectual enslavement to an ideology.

John Smythe , 12 Oct 2016 07:35
A very good "Opinion" by George Monbiot one of the best I have seen on this Guardian blog page.

I would add that the basic concepts of the Neoliberal New world order are fundamentally Evil, from the control of world population through supporting of strife starvation and war to financial inducements of persons in positions of power. Let us not forget the training of our younger members of our society who have been induced to a slavish love of technology. Many other areas of human life are also under attack from the Neoliberal, even the very air we breathe, and the earth we stand upon.

Jayarava Attwood , 12 Oct 2016 07:36
The Amish have understood for 300 years that technology could have a negative effect on society and decided to limit its effects. I greatly admire their approach. Neal Stephenson's recent novel Seveneves coined the term Amistics for the practice of assessing and limiting the impact of tech. We need a Minister for Amistics in the government. Wired magazine did two features on the Amish use of telephones which are quite insightful.

The Amish Get Wired. The Amish ? 6.1.1993
look Who's talking . 1.1.1999

If we go back to 1848, we also find Marx and Engels, in the Communist Manifesto, complaining about the way that the first free-market capitalism (the original liberalism) was destroying communities and families by forcing workers to move to where the factories were being built, and by forcing women and children into (very) low paid work. 150 years later, after many generations of this, combined with the destruction of work in the North, the result is widespread mental illness. But a few people are really rich now, so that's all right, eh?

Social media is ersatz community. It's like eating grass: filling, but not nourishing.

ICYMI I had some thoughts a couple of days ago on how to deal with the mental health epidemic .

maplegirl , 12 Oct 2016 07:38
Young people are greatly harmed by not being able to see a clear path forward in the world. For most people, our basic needs are a secure job, somewhere secure and affordable to live, and a decent social environment in terms of public services and facilities. Unfortunately, all these things are sliding further out of reach for young people in the UK, and they know this. Many already live with insecure housing where their family could have to move at a month or two's notice.

Our whole economic system needs to be built around providing these basic securities for people. Neoliberalism = insecure jobs, insecure housing and poor public services, because these are the end result of its extreme free market ideology.

dynamicfrog , 12 Oct 2016 07:44
I agree with this 100%. Social isolation makes us unhappy. We have a false sense of what makes us unhappy - that success or wealth will enlighten or liberate us. What makes us happy is social connection. Good friendships, good relationships, being part of community that you contribute to. Go to some of the poorest countries in the world and you may meet happy people there, tell them about life in rich countries, and say that some people there are unhappy. They won't believe you. We do need to change our worldview, because misery is a real problem in many countries.
SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 07:47
It is tempting to see the world before Thatcherism, which is what most English writers mean when they talk about neo-liberalism, as an idyll, but it simply wasn't.

The great difficulty with capitalism is that while it is in many ways an amoral doctrine, it goes hand in hand with personal freedom. Socialism is moral in its concern for the poorest, but then it places limits on personal freedom and choice. That's the price people pay for the emphasis on community, rather than the individual.

Close communities can be a bar on personal freedom and have little tolerance for people who deviate from the norm. In doing that, they can entrench loneliness.

This happened, and to some extent is still happening, in the working class communities which we typically describe as 'being destroyed by Thatcher'. It's happening in close-knit Muslim communities now.

I'm not attempting to vindicate Thatcherism, I'm just saying there's a pay-off with any model of society. George Monbiot's concerns are actually part of a long tradition - Oliver Goldsmith's Deserted Village (1770) chimes with his thinking, as does DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover.

proteusblu -> SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
The kind of personal freedom that you say goes hand in hand with capitalism is an illusion for the majority of people. It holds up the prospect of that kind of freedom, but only a minority get access to it. For most, it is necessary to submit yourself to a form of being yoked, in terms of the daily grind which places limits on what you can then do, as the latter depends hugely on money. The idea that most people are "free" to buy the house they want, private education, etc., not to mention whether they can afford the many other things they are told will make them happy, is a very bad joke. Hunter-gatherers have more real freedom than we do. Share
Stephen Bell -> SavannahLaMar , 12 Oct 2016 09:07
Well said. One person's loneliness is another's peace and quiet.
stumpedup_32 -> Firstact , 12 Oct 2016 08:12
According to Wiki: 'Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th century resurgence of 19th century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.'
queequeg7 , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
We grow into fear - the stress of exams and their certain meanings; the lower wages, longer hours, and fewer rights at work; the certainty of debt with ever greater mortgages; the terror of benefit cuts combined with rent increases.

If we're forever afraid, we'll cling to whatever life raft presents.

It's a demeaning way to live, but it serves the Market better than having a free, reasonably paid, secure workforce, broadly educated and properly housed, with rights.

CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
Insightful analysis... George quite rightly pinpoints the isolating effects of modern society and technology and the impact on the quality of our relationships. The obvious question is how can we offset these trends and does the government care enough to do anything about them?

It strikes me that one of the major problems is that [young] people have been left to their own devices in terms of their consumption of messages from Social and Mass online Media - analogous to leaving your kids in front of a video in lieu of a parental care or a babysitter. In traditional society - the messages provided by Society were filtered by family contact and real peer interaction - and a clear picture of the limited value of the media was propogated by teachers and clerics. Now young and older people alike are left to make their own judgments and we cannot be surprised when they extract negative messages around body image, wealth and social expectations and social and sexual norms from these channels. It's inevitable that this will create a boundary free landscape where insecurity, self-loathing and ultimately mental illness will prosper.

I'm not a traditionalist in any way but there has to be a role for teachers and parents in mediating these messages and presenting the context for analysing what is being said in a healthy way. I think this kind of Personal Esteem and Life Skills education should be part of the core curriculum in all schools. Our continued focus on basic academic skills just does not prepare young people for the real world of judgementalism, superficiality and cliques and if anything dealing with these issues are core life skills.

We can't reverse the fact that media and modern society is changing but we can prepare people for the impact which it can have on their lives.

school10 -> CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 08:04
A politician's answer. X is a problem. Someone else, in your comment it will be teachers that have to sort it out. Problems in society are not solved by having a one hour a week class on "self esteem". In fact self-esteem and self-worth comes from the things you do. Taking kids away from their academic/cultural studies reduces this. This is a problem in society. What can society as a whole do to solve it and what are YOU prepared to contribute.
David Ireland -> CrazyGuy , 12 Oct 2016 09:28
Rather difficult to do when their parents are Thatchers children and buy into the whole celebrity, you are what you own lifestyle too....and teachers are far too busy filling out all the paperwork that shows they've met their targets to find time to teach a person centred course on self-esteem to a class of 30 teenagers.
Ian Harris , 12 Oct 2016 07:54
I think we should just continue to be selfish and self-serving, sneering and despising anyone less fortunate than ourselves, look up to and try to emulate the shallow, vacuous lifestyle of the non-entity celebrity, consume the Earth's natural resources whilst poisoning the planet and the people, destroy any non-contributing indigenous peoples and finally set off all our nuclear arsenals in a smug-faced global firework display to demonstrate our high level of intelligence and humanity. Surely, that's what we all want? Who cares? So let's just carry on with business as usual!
BetaRayBill , 12 Oct 2016 08:01
Neoliberalism is the bastard child of globalization which in effect is Americanization. The basic premise is the individual is totally reliant on the corporate world state aided by a process of fear inducing mechanisms, pharmacology is one of the tools. No community no creativity no free thinking. Poded sealed and cling filmed a quasi existence.
Bluecloud , 12 Oct 2016 08:01 Contributor
Having grown up during the Thatcher years, I entirely agree that neoliberalism has divided society by promoting individual self-optimisation at the expensive of everyone else.

What's the solution? Well if neoliberalism is the root cause, we need a systematic change, which is a problem considering there is no alternative right now. We can however, get active in rebuilding communities and I am encouraged by George Monbiot's work here.

My approach is to get out and join organizations working toward system change. 350.org is a good example. Get involved.

SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 08:09
we live in a narcissistic and ego driven world that dehumanises everyone. we have an individual and collective crisis of the soul. it is our false perception of ourselves that creates a disconnection from who we really are that causes loneliness.
rolloverlove -> SemenC , 12 Oct 2016 11:33
I agree. This article explains why it is a perfectly normal reaction to the world we are currently living in. It goes as far as to suggest that if you do not feel depressed at the state of our world there's something wrong with you ;-)
http://upliftconnect.com/mutiny-of-the-soul/
HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:10
Surely there is a more straightforward possible explanation for increasing incidence of "unhapiness"?

Quite simply, a century of gradually increasing general living standards in the West have lifted the masses up Maslows higiene hierarchy of needs, to where the masses now have largely only the unfulfilled self esteem needs that used to be the preserve of a small, middle class minority (rather than the unfulfilled survival, security and social needs of previous generations)

If so - this is good. This is progress. We just need to get them up another rung to self fulfillment (the current concern of the flourishing upper middle classes).

avid Ireland -> HaveYouFedTheFish , 12 Oct 2016 08:59
Maslow's hierarchy of needs was not about material goods. One could be poor and still fulfill all his criteria and be fully realised. You have missed the point entirely.
HaveYouFedTheFish -> David Ireland , 12 Oct 2016 09:25
Error.... Who mentioned material goods? I think you have not so much "missed the point" as "made your own one up" .

And while agreed that you could, in theory, be poor and meet all of your needs (in fact the very point of the analysis is that money, of itself, isn't what people "need") the reality of the structure of a western capitalist society means that a certain level of affluence is almost certainly a prerequisite for meeting most of those needs simply because food and shelter at the bottom end and, say, education and training at the top end of self fulfillment all have to be purchased. Share

HaveYouFedTheFish -> David Ireland , 12 Oct 2016 09:40
Also note that just because a majority of people are now so far up the hierarchy does in no way negate an argument that corporations haven't also noticed this and target advertising appropriately to exploit it (and maybe we need to talk about that)

It just means that it's lazy thinking to presume we are in some way "sliding backwards" socially, rather than needing to just keep pushing through this adversity through to the summit.

I have to admit it does really stick in my craw a bit hearing millenials moan about how they may never get to *own* a really *nice* house while their grandparents are still alive who didn't even get the right to finish school and had to share a bed with their siblings.

Pinkie123 -> Loatheallpoliticians , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
There is no such thing as a free-market society. Your society of 'self-interest' is really a state supported oligarchy. If you really want to live in a society where there is literally no state and a more or less open market try Somalia or a Latin American city run by drug lords - but even then there are hierarchies, state involvement, militias.

What you are arguing for is a system (for that is what it is) that demands everyone compete with one another. It is not free, or liberal, or democratic, or libertarian. It is designed to oppress, control, exploit and degrade human beings. This kind of corporatism in which everyone is supposed to serve the God of the market is, ironically, quite Stalinist. Furthermore, a society in which people are encouraged to be narrowly selfish is just plain uncivilized. Since when have sociopathy and barbarism been something to aspire to?

LevNikolayevich , 12 Oct 2016 08:17
George, you are right, of course. The burning question, however, is not 'Is our current social set-up making us ill' (it certainly is), but 'Is there a healthier alternative?' What form of society would make us less ill? Socialism and egalatarianism, wherever they are tried, tend to lead to their own set of mental-illness-inducing problems, chiefly to do with thwarted opportunity, inability to thrive, and constraints on individual freedom. The sharing, caring society is no more the answer than the brutally individualistic one. You may argue that what is needed is a balance between the two, but that is broadly what we have already. It ain't perfect, but it's a lot better than any of the alternatives.
David Ireland -> LevNikolayevich , 12 Oct 2016 08:50
We certainly do NOT at present have a balance between the two societies...Have you not read the article? Corporations and big business have far too much power and control over our lives and our Gov't. The gov't does not legislate for a real living minimum wage and expects the taxpayer to fund corporations low wage businesses. The Minimum wage and benefit payments are sucked in to ever increasing basic living costs leaving nothing for the human soul aside from more work to keep body and soul together, and all the while the underlying message being pumped at us is that we are failures if we do not have wealth and all the accoutrements that go with it....How does that create a healthy society?
Saul Till , 12 Oct 2016 08:25
Neoliberalism. A simple word but it does a great deal of work for people like Monbiot.

The simple statistical data on quality of life differences between generations is absolutely nowhere to be found in this article, nor are self-reported findings on whether people today are happier, just as happy or less happy than people thirty years ago. In reality quality of life and happiness indices have generally been increasing ever since they were introduced.
It's more difficult to know if things like suicide, depression and mental illness are actually increasing or whether it's more to do with the fact that the number of people who are prepared to report them is increasing: at least some of the rise in their numbers will be down to greater awareness of said mental illness, government campaigns and a decline in associated social stigma.

Either way, what evidence there is here isn't even sufficient to establish that we are going through some vast mental health crisis in the first place, never mind that said crisis is inextricably bound up with 'neoliberalism'.

Furthermore, I'm inherently suspicious of articles that manage to connect every modern ill to the author's own political bugbear, especially if they cherry-pick statistical findings to support their point. I'd be just as, if not more, suspicious if it was a conservative author trying to link the same ills to the decline in Christianity or similar. In fact, this article reminds me very much of the sweeping claims made by right-wingers about the allegedly destructive effects of secularism/atheism/homosexuality/video games/South Park/The Great British Bake Off/etc...

If you're an author and you have a pet theory, and upon researching an article you believe you see a pattern in the evidence that points towards further confirmation of that theory, then you should step back and think about whether said pattern is just a bit too psychologically convenient and ideologically simple to be true. This is why people like Steven Pinker - properly rigorous, scientifically versed writer-researchers - do the work they do in systematically sifting through the sociological and historical data: because your mind is often actively trying to convince you to believe that neoliberalism causes suicide and depression, or, if you're a similarly intellectually lazy right-winger, homosexuality leads to gang violence and the flooding of(bafflingly, overwhelmingly heterosexual) parts of America.

I see no sign that Monbiot is interested in testing his belief in his central claim and as a result this article is essentially worthless except as an example of a certain kind of political rhetoric.

Rapport , 12 Oct 2016 08:38

social isolation is strongly associated with depression, suicide, anxiety, insomnia, fear and the perception of threat .... Dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, lowered resistance to viruses, even accidents are more common among chronically lonely people.

Loneliness has a comparable impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day:

it appears to raise the risk of early death by 26%

Why don't we explore some of the benefits?.. Following the long list of some the diseases, loneliness can inflict on individuals, there must be a surge in demand for all sort of medications; anti-depressants must be topping the list. There is a host many other anti-stress treatments available of which Big Pharma must be carving the lion's share. Examine the micro-economic impact immediately following a split or divorce. There is an instant doubling on the demand for accommodation, instant doubling on the demand for electrical and household items among many other products and services. But the icing on the cake and what is really most critical for Neoliberalism must be this: With the morale barometer hitting the bottom, people will be less likely to think of a better future, and therefore, less likely to protest. In fact, there is nothing left worth protecting.

Your freedom has been curtailed. Your rights are evaporating in front of your eyes. And Best of all, from the authorities' perspective, there is no relationship to defend and there is no family to protect. If you have a job, you want to keep, you must prove your worthiness every day to 'a company'.

[Sep 05, 2017] A State of Neoliberalism

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... "number of refugees and displaced persons increased dramatically over the decade, doubling from 2007 to 2015, to approximately 60 million people. There are nine countries with more than 10 per cent of their population classified as refugees or displaced persons with Somalia and South Sudan having more than 20 per cent of their population displaced and Syria with over 60 per cent displaced." ..."
"... Today Trotskyism no more confines itself to "informing" the bourgeoisie. Today Trotskyism is the center and the rallying point for the enemies of the Soviet Union, of the proletarian revolution in capitalist countries, of the Communist International. Trotskyism is trying not only to disintegrate the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, but also to disintegrate the forces that make for the dictatorship of the proletariat the world over. ..."
"... Neoliberalism is a new form of corporatism based on the ideology of market fundamentalism, dominance of finance and cult of rich ("greed is good") instead of the ideology on racial or national superiority typical for classic corporatism. Actually, some elements of the idea of "national superiority" were preserved in a form superiority of "corporate management" and top speculators over other people. In a way, neoliberalism considers bankers and corporations top management to be a new Aryan race. As it relies on financial mechanisms and banks instead of brute force of subduing people the practice of neoliberalism outside of the G7 is also called neocolonialism. Neoliberal practice within G7 is called casino capitalism, an apt term that underscore ..."
"... the role of finance and stock exchange in this new social order. Neoliberalism is an example of emergence of ideologies not from their persuasive power or inner logic, but from the private interests of ruling elite. Political pressure and money created the situation in which intellectually bankrupt ideas could prevail . ..."
"... Neoliberalism is not a collection of theories meant to improve the economy. Instead, it should be understood as a class strategy designed to redistribute wealth upward toward an increasingly narrow fraction of population (top 1%). It is the Marxist idea of "class struggle" turned on its head and converted into a perverted "revolt of the elite," unsatisfied with the peace of the pie it is getting from the society. While previously excessive greed was morally condemned, neoliberalism employed a slick trick of adopting "reverse," Nietzschean Ubermench morality in bastartized form propagated in the USA under the name of Randism. ..."
"... This neoliberal transformation of the society into a top 1% (or, more correctly, 0.01%) "have and have more" and "the rest" undermined and exploited by financial oligarchy with near complete indifference to what happens with the most unprotected lower quintile of the population. The neoliberal reformers don't care about failures and contradictions of the economic system which drive the majority of country population into abject poverty, as it happened in Russia. Nor do they care about their actions such as blowing financial bubbles, like in the USA in 2008 can move national economics toward disaster. They have a somewhat childish, simplistic "greed is good" mentality: they just want to have their (as large as possible) piece of economic pie fast and everything else be damned. In a way, they are criminals and neoliberalism is a highly criminogenic creed, but it tried to conceal the racket and plunder it inflicts of the societies under the dense smoke screen of "free market" newspeak. ..."
"... That means that in most countries neoliberalism is an unstable social order as plunder can't continue indefinitely. It was partially reversed in Chile, Russia, and several other countries. It was never fully adopted in northern Europe. ..."
"... One can see an example of this smoke screen in Thatcher's dictum of neoliberalism: "There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals and families." In foreign policy neoliberalism behaves like brutal imperialism which subdue countries either by debt slavery or direct military intervention. In a neoliberal view the world consist of four concentric cycles which in order of diminishing importance are . ..."
"... Finance is accepted as the most important institution of the civilization which should govern all other spheres of life. It is clear that such a one-dimensional view is wrong, but neoliberals like communists before them have a keen sense of mission and made its "long march through the institutions" and changed the way Americans think (Using the four "M" strategy -- money, media, marketing, and management) ..."
"... A well-oiled machine of foundations, lobbies, think-tanks, economic departments of major universities, publications, political cadres, lawyers and activist organizations slowly and strategically took over nation after nation. A broad alliance of neo-liberals, neo-conservatives and the religious right successfully manufactured a new common sense, assaulted Enlightenment values and formed a new elite, the top layer of society, where this "greed is good" culture is created and legitimized. ..."
"... We are now at the point of deciding how to staff economic policy during the transition, who should be the point of contact with Treasury and how to blend the transition and campaign economic policy talent. ..."
"... Normally these decisions could be made after the election, and ideally after the selection of a National Economic Advisor, but, of course, these are not normal times. ..."
"... Jeb stated that Trump previously was one of Clinton's largest supporters, not only by verbally expressing that he hoped she won the election, but financially contributing to her campaign. Bush explained that it seems "too good to be true" that Trump suddenly doesn't support Hillary and has a plan "to make America great again." He believes it is much more likely that he is part of the Hillary campaign and is doing "his part" to ensure his friend elected in November. ..."
"... that the United States is now an "oligarchy" in which "unlimited political bribery" has created "a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors." Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, "look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves." ..."
"... HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, "unlimited money in politics." It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. Your thoughts on that? ..."
"... CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we've just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election's over. The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody's who's already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who's just a challenger ..."
"... More than one in five U.S. millennials would be open to backing a communist candidate, and a third believe George W. Bush killed more people than Joseph Stalin, according to a new poll released Monday. ..."
"... , commissioned by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and carried out by YouGov, surveyed Americans of all ages about their attitudes towards communism, socialism, and the American economic system in general. ..."
"... Overall, the poll found, Americans remain broadly hostile to socialism and communism, even though 67 percent of the populace believes rich people don't pay "their fair share" and 52 percent believe America's economic system works against them. ..."
November 16, 2016 | rashidmod.com

Filed under: United Panther Movement and tagged with: United Panther Movement

...The U.S. Military is deployed globally with bases in the majority of countries and "partnership" arrangements to train and advise most of the world's armed forces. The U.S. is the dominant force in NATO and of the United Nations' armed forces. A recent report by the Institute for Economics and Peace found a mere ten nations on the planet are not at war and completely free from conflict. The report cites an historic 10-year deterioration in world peace, with the "number of refugees and displaced persons increased dramatically over the decade, doubling from 2007 to 2015, to approximately 60 million people. There are nine countries with more than 10 per cent of their population classified as refugees or displaced persons with Somalia and South Sudan having more than 20 per cent of their population displaced and Syria with over 60 per cent displaced." [1] According to the report, the United States spends an outrageously high percentage of the globe's military expenditures -- 38 percent -- while the next largest military spender, China, accounted for considerably less, 10 percent of the global share. [2]

....As George Monbiot explained:

"The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938 . Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and the gradual development of Britain's welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

"In The Road to Serfdom , published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises's book Bureaucracy , The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism!the Mont Pelerin Society!it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

"With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as "a kind of neoliberal International": a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement's rich backers funded a series of think tanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

"As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek's view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way, among American apostles such as Milton Friedman, to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency." [3]

As an ideology, neoliberalism borrows heavily from Trotskyism. "One can view neoliberalism as Trotskyism refashioned for elite." [4] Instead of " proletarians of all countries unite " we have [the] slogan " neoliberal elites of all countries unite. [5] Stalin purged Trotsky, but some of his disciples made the transition to become founding intellectuals of neoliberal ideology, and in particular its "neo-conservative" wing. "Neoliberalism is also an example of emergence of ideologies, not from their persuasive power or inner logic, but from the private interests of the ruling elite. Political pressure and money created the situation in which intellectually bankrupt ideas could prevail much like Catholicism prevailed during Dark Ages in Europe. In a way, this is return to Dark Ages on a new level." [6]

Trotsky's elitism and contempt for the masses led naturally to neoliberalism. As M.J. Olgin pointed out: Today Trotskyism no more confines itself to "informing" the bourgeoisie. Today Trotskyism is the center and the rallying point for the enemies of the Soviet Union, of the proletarian revolution in capitalist countries, of the Communist International. Trotskyism is trying not only to disintegrate the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, but also to disintegrate the forces that make for the dictatorship of the proletariat the world over. [7] Neoliberalism also borrows from the ideology of fascism. As Giovanni Gentile, "The Philosopher of Fascism" expressed in a quote often attributed to Mussolini: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism , since it is the merger of state and corporate power." Gentile also stated in The Origins and Doctrine of Fascism , that "mankind only progresses through division, and progress is achieved through the clash and victory of one side over another." [8]

Neoliberalism is a new form of corporatism based on the ideology of market fundamentalism, dominance of finance and cult of rich ("greed is good") instead of the ideology on racial or national superiority typical for classic corporatism. Actually, some elements of the idea of "national superiority" were preserved in a form superiority of "corporate management" and top speculators over other people. In a way, neoliberalism considers bankers and corporations top management to be a new Aryan race. As it relies on financial mechanisms and banks instead of brute force of subduing people the practice of neoliberalism outside of the G7 is also called neocolonialism. Neoliberal practice within G7 is called casino capitalism, an apt term that underscore [s] the role of finance and stock exchange in this new social order. Neoliberalism is an example of emergence of ideologies not from their persuasive power or inner logic, but from the private interests of ruling elite. Political pressure and money created the situation in which intellectually bankrupt ideas could prevail .

Neoliberalism is not a collection of theories meant to improve the economy. Instead, it should be understood as a class strategy designed to redistribute wealth upward toward an increasingly narrow fraction of population (top 1%). It is the Marxist idea of "class struggle" turned on its head and converted into a perverted "revolt of the elite," unsatisfied with the peace of the pie it is getting from the society. While previously excessive greed was morally condemned, neoliberalism employed a slick trick of adopting "reverse," Nietzschean Ubermench morality in bastartized form propagated in the USA under the name of Randism. [9]

This neoliberal transformation of the society into a top 1% (or, more correctly, 0.01%) "have and have more" and "the rest" undermined and exploited by financial oligarchy with near complete indifference to what happens with the most unprotected lower quintile of the population. The neoliberal reformers don't care about failures and contradictions of the economic system which drive the majority of country population into abject poverty, as it happened in Russia. Nor do they care about their actions such as blowing financial bubbles, like in the USA in 2008 can move national economics toward disaster. They have a somewhat childish, simplistic "greed is good" mentality: they just want to have their (as large as possible) piece of economic pie fast and everything else be damned. In a way, they are criminals and neoliberalism is a highly criminogenic creed, but it tried to conceal the racket and plunder it inflicts of the societies under the dense smoke screen of "free market" newspeak.

That means that in most countries neoliberalism is an unstable social order as plunder can't continue indefinitely. It was partially reversed in Chile, Russia, and several other countries. It was never fully adopted in northern Europe.

One can see an example of this smoke screen in Thatcher's dictum of neoliberalism: "There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals and families." In foreign policy neoliberalism behaves like brutal imperialism which subdue countries either by debt slavery or direct military intervention. In a neoliberal view the world consist of four concentric cycles which in order of diminishing importance are .

Finance is accepted as the most important institution of the civilization which should govern all other spheres of life. It is clear that such a one-dimensional view is wrong, but neoliberals like communists before them have a keen sense of mission and made its "long march through the institutions" and changed the way Americans think (Using the four "M" strategy -- money, media, marketing, and management)

A well-oiled machine of foundations, lobbies, think-tanks, economic departments of major universities, publications, political cadres, lawyers and activist organizations slowly and strategically took over nation after nation. A broad alliance of neo-liberals, neo-conservatives and the religious right successfully manufactured a new common sense, assaulted Enlightenment values and formed a new elite, the top layer of society, where this "greed is good" culture is created and legitimized. [10]

Donald Trump is a visible product of this culture, but clearly is not the choice of the elite ruling class to serve as their "front man" for President. Rather, his role seems to have been to polarize the electorate in such a way as to assure Hillary Clinton the election, just as Bernie Sanders played a role of mobilizing the left-neoliberal camp and then sheep-dogging it into Hillary's camp. As Bruce A. Dixon explained:

"Bernie Sanders is this election's Democratic sheepdog. The sheepdog is a card the Democratic party plays every presidential primary season when there's no White House Democrat running for re-election. The sheepdog is a presidential candidate running ostensibly to the left of the establishment Democrat to whom the billionaires will award the nomination. Sheepdogs are herders, and the sheepdog candidate is charged with herding activists and voters back into the Democratic fold who might otherwise drift leftward and outside of the Democratic party, either staying home or trying to build something outside the two-party box." [11]

Once you realize what the principle contradiction in the world is, and how the game of bourgeois "democracy" is played, the current election become as predictable and blatantly scripted as professional wrestling. As Victor Wallace explained:

"An extraordinary feature of the U.S. electoral process is that the two dominant parties collude to dictate – via their own bipartisan "commission" – who is allowed to participate in the officially recognized presidential debates. Needless to say, the two parties set impossible barriers to the participation of any candidates other than their own . Most potential voters are thereby prevented from acquainting themselves with alternatives to the dominant consensus.

"This practice has taken on glaring proportions in the 2016 campaign, which has been marked by justified public distrust of both the dominant-party tickets. Preventing election-theft would initially require breaking up the bipartisan stranglehold over who can access the tens of millions of voters.

"Another distinctive U.S. trait is the absence of any constitutional guarantee of the right to vote. Instead, a multiplicity of state laws govern voter-eligibility, as well as ballot-access. A few states set ballot-access requirements so high as to effectively disqualify their residents from supporting otherwise viable national candidacies. As for voter-eligibility, it is deliberately narrowed through the time-honored practice of using "states' rights" to impose racist agendas. Most states deny voting rights to ex-convicts, a practice that currently disenfranchises some 6 million citizens, disproportionately from communities of color. More recently, targeting the same constituencies, many states have passed onerous and unnecessary voter-ID laws.

"The role of money in filtering out viable candidacies is well known. It was reinforced by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision of 2010, which opened the gate to unlimited corporate contributions.

"The priorities of corporate media point in a similar direction. Even apart from their taste for campaign-advertising, their orientation toward celebrity and sensationalism prompts them to give far more air-time to well known figures – the more outrageous, the better – than to even the most viable candidates who present serious alternatives. Trump's candidacy was thus "made" by the media, even as they kept the Sanders challenge to Clinton as deep in the shadows as possible ." [12]

Moreover, the media, which in the U.S. is 90% owned by just six mega-corporations, [13] cooperates closely with the dominant establishment of the two parties in framing the questions that are posed in the debates. And they explicitly maintain the fiction that the "commission" running the debates is "non-partisan" when in fact it is bipartisan. [14]

"Turning finally to the voting process itself, the longest-running scandal is the holding of elections on a workday. In recent years, the resulting inconvenience has been partially offset by the institution of early voting, which however has the disadvantage of facilitating premature choices and of being subject to varied and volatile rules set by state legislatures.

"The actual casting of votes on Election Day is further subject to a number of possible abuses. These include: 1) insufficient polling places in poor neighborhoods, sometimes resulting in waiting periods so long that individuals no longer have the time to vote; 2) the sometimes aggressive challenging of voters' eligibility by interested parties; 3) the use of provisional ballots which may easily end up not being counted; and 4), perhaps most significantly, the increasingly complete reliance on computerized voting, which allows for manipulation of the results (via "proprietary" programs) in a manner that cannot be detected. (The probability of such manipulation – based on discrepancies between exit-polls and official tallies – was documented by Marc Crispin Miller in his book on the 2004 election.

"The corporate media add a final abuse in their rush – in presidential races – to announce results in some states before the voting process has been completed throughout the country." [15]

Despite multiple releases of hacked e-mails by WikiLeaks revealing the whole process in detail, it seems to have little effect on the masses or on the game. The most recent batch come from Obama's personal e-mail account and reveal that the Bush administration contacted the future president multiple times before the election in 2008, secretly organizing the transition of power. In one e-mail President Bush states:

" We are now at the point of deciding how to staff economic policy during the transition, who should be the point of contact with Treasury and how to blend the transition and campaign economic policy talent.

Normally these decisions could be made after the election, and ideally after the selection of a National Economic Advisor, but, of course, these are not normal times. " [16]

Hillary Clinton's response has been to claim that the WikiLeaks' exposures come from the "highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election," [17] and to accuse Trump of being Putin's puppet. Not exactly a denial of the accuracy of the content of the e-mails, nor does she present proof of Russia's involvement. And even if true, is this any different than the well-documented cases of Israel's long-standing involvement in spying on the U.S. and acting to influence U.S. elections or the recent allegations of U.S. interference in Israel's election, [18] or for that matter U.S. interference with elections and forced regime changes in countries all over the world. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has recently released a video on YouTube , asserting that his sources are DNC whistleblowers not Russians. [19]

The strategy of picking the "lesser evil" is a losing strategy. Is it a coincidence that all the corporate CEO's and most of the "left-wing" neoliberals agree on Trump being the "lesser evil?" In reality, Trump is less hawkish than Hillary. At least he doesn't seem to have any ambition to lock horns with Russia over Syria. Indeed, the WikiLeaks' exposures show Trump to be Hillary's puppet, not Putin's. This was alleged by Jeb Bush, back during the Republican primaries: Jeb stated that Trump previously was one of Clinton's largest supporters, not only by verbally expressing that he hoped she won the election, but financially contributing to her campaign. Bush explained that it seems "too good to be true" that Trump suddenly doesn't support Hillary and has a plan "to make America great again." He believes it is much more likely that he is part of the Hillary campaign and is doing "his part" to ensure his friend elected in November. [20] Nonetheless, the Bush family have, since Jeb's defeat, made known their preference for Hillary as have many of the Republican Party establishment. The illusion of "democracy" is wearing thin:

Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an "oligarchy" in which "unlimited political bribery" has created "a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors." Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, "look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves."

Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United .

Transcript:

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, "unlimited money in politics." It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we've just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election's over. The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody's who's already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who's just a challenger . [21]

Not only is the illusion of democracy wearing thin, but so is the effectiveness of anti-communist brainwashing:

More than one in five U.S. millennials would be open to backing a communist candidate, and a third believe George W. Bush killed more people than Joseph Stalin, according to a new poll released Monday.

The poll , commissioned by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and carried out by YouGov, surveyed Americans of all ages about their attitudes towards communism, socialism, and the American economic system in general.

Overall, the poll found, Americans remain broadly hostile to socialism and communism, even though 67 percent of the populace believes rich people don't pay "their fair share" and 52 percent believe America's economic system works against them. [22]

... ... ...

Notes

[Sep 05, 2017] Is the World Slouching Toward a Grave Systemic Crisis by Philip Zelikow

Highly recommended!
This is a weak and way too long article. That demonstrated inability to think in scientific terms such neoliberalism, neocolonialism and end of cheap oil. Intead it quckly deteriorated into muchy propaganda. But it touches on legacy of Troskyst Burnham, who was one of God fathers of neoliberalism.
Zelikov is the guy who whitewashed 9/11. This neocon does not use the term neoliberalism even once but he writes like a real neoliberal Trotskyite.
Notable quotes:
"... The Managerial State ..."
"... Orwell was profoundly disturbed by Burnham's vision of the emerging "managerial state." All too convincing. Yet he also noticed how, when Burnham described the new superstates and their demigod rulers, Burnham exhibited "a sort of fascinated admiration." ..."
"... Burnham had predicted Nazi victory. Later, Burnham had predicted the Soviet conquest of all Eurasia. By 1947 Burnham was calling for the U.S. to launch a preventive nuclear war against the Soviet Union to head off the coming disaster. ..."
"... Orwell saw a pattern. Such views seemed symptoms of "a major mental disease, and its roots," he argued, which, "lie partly in cowardice and partly in the worship of power, which is not fully separable from cowardice." ..."
"... Orwell had another critique. He deplored the fact that, "The tendency of writers like Burnham, whose key concept is 'realism,' is to overrate the part played in human affairs by sheer force." Orwell went on. "I do not say that he is wrong all the time. But somehow his picture of the world is always slightly distorted." ..."
"... "the fact that certain rules of conduct have to be observed if human society is to hold together at all." ..."
"... Nineteen Eighty-Four. ..."
"... By that time, Burnham had become a consultant to the CIA, advising its new office for covert action. That was the capacity in which Burnham met the young William F. Buckley. Burnham mentored Buckley. It was with Buckley that Burnham became one of the original editors of the National Review ..."
"... Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism ..."
"... What about our current president? Last month he urged his listeners to be ready to fight to the death for the "values" of the West. He named two: "individual freedom and sovereignty. ..."
"... Certainly our history counsels modesty. Americans and the American government have a very mixed and confusing record in the way we have, in practice, related values in foreign governance to what our ..."
"... "A stable world order needs a careful balance between power and legitimacy. Legitimacy is upheld when states, no matter how powerful, observe norms of state behavior." India, Saran said, had the "civilizational attributes." ..."
Sep 05, 2017 | www.theatlantic.com

My first prophet was a man named James Burnham. In 1941 Burnham was 35 years old. From a wealthy family -- railroad money -- he was a star student at Princeton, then on to Balliol College, Oxford. Burnham was an avowed Communist. He joined with Trotsky during the 1930s.

By 1941, Burnham had moved on, as he published his first great book of prophecy, called The Managerial State . The book made him a celebrity. It was widely discussed on both sides of the Atlantic.

Burnham's vision of the future is one where the old ideologies, like socialism, have been left behind. The rulers are really beyond all that. They are the managerial elite, the technocrats, the scientists, and the bureaucrats who manage the all-powerful enterprises and agencies.

You know this vision. You have seen it so often at the movies. It is the vision in all those science fiction dystopias. You know, with the gilded masterminds ruling all from their swank towers and conference rooms.

It's a quite contemporary vision. For instance, it is not far at all from the way I think the rulers of China imagine themselves and their future.

In this and other writings, Burnham held up Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany as the pure exemplars of these emerging managerial states. They were showing the way to the future. By comparison, FDR's New Deal was a primitive version. And he thought it would lose.

Burnham's views were not so unusual among the leading thinkers of the 1940s, like Joseph Schumpeter or Karl Polanyi. All were pessimistic about the future of free societies, including Friedrich Hayek, who really believed that once-free countries were on the "road to serfdom." But Burnham took the logic further.

Just after the second world war ended, my other prophet decided to answer Burnham. You know him as George Orwell.

Eric Blair, who used George Orwell as his pen name, was about Burnham's age. Their backgrounds were very different. Orwell was English. Poor. Orwell's lungs were pretty rotten and he would not live long. Orwell was a democratic socialist who came to loathe Soviet communism. He had volunteered to fight in Spain, was shot through the throat. Didn't stop his writing.

Orwell was profoundly disturbed by Burnham's vision of the emerging "managerial state." All too convincing. Yet he also noticed how, when Burnham described the new superstates and their demigod rulers, Burnham exhibited "a sort of fascinated admiration."

Orwell wrote : For Burnham, "Communism may be wicked, but at any rate it is big: it is a terrible, all-devouring monster which one fights against but which one cannot help admiring." To Orwell, Burnham's mystical picture of "terrifying, irresistible power" amounted to "an act of homage, and even of self-abasement." irresistible power" amounted to "an act of homage, and even of self-abasement."

Burnham had predicted Nazi victory. Later, Burnham had predicted the Soviet conquest of all Eurasia. By 1947 Burnham was calling for the U.S. to launch a preventive nuclear war against the Soviet Union to head off the coming disaster.

Orwell saw a pattern. Such views seemed symptoms of "a major mental disease, and its roots," he argued, which, "lie partly in cowardice and partly in the worship of power, which is not fully separable from cowardice."

Orwell thought that "power worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible."

Orwell had another critique. He deplored the fact that, "The tendency of writers like Burnham, whose key concept is 'realism,' is to overrate the part played in human affairs by sheer force." Orwell went on. "I do not say that he is wrong all the time. But somehow his picture of the world is always slightly distorted."

Finally, Orwell thought Burnham overestimated the resilience of the managerial state model and underestimated the qualities of open and civilized societies. Burnham's vision did not allow enough play for "the fact that certain rules of conduct have to be observed if human society is to hold together at all."

Having written these critical essays, Orwell then tried to make his case against Burnham in another way. This anti-Burnham argument became a novel -- the novel called Nineteen Eighty-Four.

That book came out in 1949. Orwell died the next year.

By that time, Burnham had become a consultant to the CIA, advising its new office for covert action. That was the capacity in which Burnham met the young William F. Buckley. Burnham mentored Buckley. It was with Buckley that Burnham became one of the original editors of the National Review and a major conservative commentator. In 1983, President Reagan awarded Burnham the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Not that Burnham's core vision had changed. In 1964, he published another book of prophecy. This was entitled Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism . The Soviet Union and its allies had the will to power. Liberalism and its defenders did not. "The primary issue before Western civilization today, and before its member nations, is survival." (Sound familiar?)

And it was liberalism, Burnham argued, with its self-criticism and lack of commitment, that would pull our civilization down from within. Suicide.

So was Burnham wrong? Was Orwell right? This is a first-class historical question. Burnham's ideal of the "managerial state" is so alive today.

State the questions another way: Do open societies really work better than closed ones? Is a more open and civilized world really safer and better for Americans? If we think yes, then what is the best way to prove that point?

My answer comes in three parts. The first is about how to express our core values. American leaders tend to describe their global aims as the promotion of the right values. Notice that these are values in how other countries are governed. President Obama's call for an "international order of laws and institutions," had the objective of winning a clash of domestic governance models around the world. This clash he called: "authoritarianism versus liberalism."

Yet look at how many values he felt "liberalism" had to include. For Obama the "road of true democracy," included a commitment to "liberty, equality, justice, and fairness" and curbing the "excesses of capitalism."

What about our current president? Last month he urged his listeners to be ready to fight to the death for the "values" of the West. He named two: "individual freedom and sovereignty. "

A week later, two of his chief aides, Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster, doubled down on the theme that America was promoting, with its friends, the values that "drive progress throughout the world." They too had a laundry list. They omitted "sovereignty." But then, narrowing the list only to the "most important," they listed: "[T]he dignity of every person equality of women innovation freedom of speech and of religion and free and fair markets."

By contrast, the anti-liberal core values seem simple. The anti-liberals are for authority and against anarchy and disorder. And they are for community and against the subversive, disruptive outsider.

There are of course many ways to define a "community" -- including tribal, religious, political, or professional. It is a source of identity, of common norms of behavior, of shared ways of life.

Devotees of freedom and liberalism do not dwell as much on "community." Except to urge that everybody be included, and treated fairly.

But beliefs about "community" have always been vital to human societies. In many ways, the last 200 years have been battles about how local communities try to adapt or fight back against growing global pressures -- especially economic and cultural, but often political and even military.

So much of the divide between anti-liberals or liberals is cultural. Little has to do with "policy" preferences. Mass politics are defined around magnetic poles of cultural attraction. If Americans engage this culture war on a global scale, I plead for modesty and simplicity. As few words as possible, as fundamental as possible.

Certainly our history counsels modesty. Americans and the American government have a very mixed and confusing record in the way we have, in practice, related values in foreign governance to what our government does.

Also, until the late 19th century, "democracy" was never at the core of liberal thinking. Liberal thinkers were very interested in the design of republics. But classical liberal thinkers, including many of the American founders, always had a troubled relationship with democracy. There were always two issues.

First, liberals were devoted, above all, to liberty of thought and reason. Pace Tom Paine, the people were often regarded as intolerant, ill-informed, and superstitious -- unreliable judges of scientific truth, historical facts, moral duty, and legal disputes. The other problem is that democracy used to be considered a synonym for mob rule. Elections can be a supreme check on tyranny. But sometimes the people have exalted their dictators and have not cared overmuch about the rule of law. It therefore still puzzles me: Why is there so much debate about which people are "ready for democracy"? Few of the old theorists thought any people were ready for such a thing.

It was thought, though, that any civilized people might be persuaded to reject tyranny. Any civilized community might prefer a suitably designed and confining constitution, limiting powers and working at a reliable rule of law.

By the way, that "rule of law" was a value that Mr. Cohn and General McMaster left off of their "most important" list -- yet is anything more essential to our way of life?

Aside from the relation with democracy, the other great ideal that any liberal order finds necessary, yet troubling, is the one about community: nationalism.

Consider the case of Poland. For 250 years, Poland has been a great symbol to the rest of Europe. For much of Polish and European history, nationalism was an ally of liberalism. Versus Czarist tyranny, versus aristocratic oligarchs.

But sometimes not. Today, Poland's governing Law and Justice party is all about being anti-Russian, anti-Communist, and pro-Catholic. They are all about "authority" and "community." At the expense of ? Poland's president has just had to intervene when the rule of law itself seemed to be at stake.

We Americans and our friends should define what we stand for. Define it in a way that builds a really big tent. In 1989, working for the elder President Bush, I was able to get the phrase, "commonwealth of free nations," into a couple of the president's speeches. It didn't stick. Nearly 20 years later, in 2008, the late Harvard historian Ernest May and I came up with a better formulation. We thought that through human history the most adaptable and successful societies had turned out to be the ones that were "open and civilized."

Rather than the word, "liberal," the word "open" seems more useful. It is the essence of liberty. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi uses it in his speeches; Karl Popper puts it at the core of his philosophy; Anne-Marie Slaughter makes it a touchstone in her latest book. That's a big tent right there.

Also the ideal of being "civilized." Not such an old-fashioned ideal. It gestures to the yearning for community. Not only a rule of law, also community norms, the norms that reassure society and regulate rulers -- whether in a constitution or in holy scripture.

Chinese leaders extol the value of being civilized -- naturally, they commingle it with Sinification. Muslims take pride in a heritage that embraces norms of appropriate conduct by rulers. And, of course, in an open society, community norms can be contested and do evolve.

The retired Indian statesman, Shyam Saran, recently lectured on, "Is a China-centric world inevitable?" To Saran, "A stable world order needs a careful balance between power and legitimacy. Legitimacy is upheld when states, no matter how powerful, observe norms of state behavior." India, Saran said, had the "civilizational attributes."

... ... ...

Philip Zelikow is the White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia, and is a former executive director of the 9/11 Commission.

[Aug 15, 2017] The Neoconservative Movement is Trotskyism by Jonas E. Alexis

Notable quotes:
"... Weekly Standard ..."
"... Weltanschauung. ..."
"... The Neoconservative Persuasion ..."
"... Illustrated Sunday Herald ..."
"... Zombie Economics ..."
"... Serpa Pinto ..."
"... In that sense, the neoconservative movement as a political and intellectual movement represents a fifth column in the United States in that it subtly and deceptively seeks to undermine what the Founding Fathers have stood for and replace it with what the Founding Fathers would have considered horrible foreign policies!policies which have contributed to the demise of the respect America once had. ..."
"... For example, when two top AIPAC officials!Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman!were caught passing classified documents from the Pentagon to Israel, Gabriel Schoenfeld defended them. ..."
"... Weekly Standard ..."
"... Washington Post ..."
"... National Review ..."
"... Wall Street Journal ..."
Aug 15, 2017 | www.veteranstoday.com
Editors Note: Mr. Alexis has sent us a well written position with which VT totally agrees

Former neoconservative luminary Francis Fukuyama of Stanford (formerly of Johns Hopkins) compares the neoconservative movement to Leninism. Neoconservatism, according to Fukuyama, is the reincarnation to some extent of both Leninism and Bolshevism.

Fukuyama's observation makes sense when even Irving Kristol, who founded the movement, proudly admitted that the "honor I most prized was the fact that I was a member in good standing of the [Trotskyist] Young People's Socialist League (Fourth International)."

And this neoconservative movement, as Jewish writer Sidney Blumenthal has shown, found its political and intellectual ideology "in the disputatious heritage of the Talmud."

Even after the birth of the neoconservative movement, many of its members such as Stephen Schwartz of the Weekly Standard and Joan Wohlstetter of the RAND Corporation still had a burning thirst for Lev Davidovich Bronstein, known as Leon Trotsky.

In that sense, the neoconservative persuasion is a subversive movement which started out in the 1920s and 30s. Legal scholar Michael Lind pointed out some years ago that,

"Most neoconservative defense intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right. They are products of the influential Jewish-American sector of the Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history."

This was the case for Kristol, who bragged about how his Jewish intellectual comrades such as Nathan Glazer of Harvard, Philip Selznick of Berkley, Peter Rossi of Johns Hopkins, Merroe Berger of Princeton, I. Milton Sacks of Brandeis, and Seymour Melman of Columbia were not only Trotskyists but were "unquestionably the most feverishly articulate" in indoctrinating students into their Weltanschauung.

Irving Kristol

Kristol argues in his book The Neoconservative Persuasion that those Jewish intellectuals did not forsake their heritage (revolutionary ideology) when they gave up Communism and other revolutionary movements, but had to make some changes in their thinking. America is filled with such former Trotskyists who unleashed an unprecedented foreign policy that led to the collapse of the American economy.

We have to keep in mind that America and much of the Western world were scared to death of Bolshevism and Trotskyism in the 1920s and early 30s because of its subversive activity.

Winston Churchill himself wrote an article in 1920 in the British newspaper Illustrated Sunday Herald entitled "Zionism versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People."

The United States had document after document in archives (particularly at the Yale Law School) on Bolshevik Revolution. One of those documents is entitled "Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1918 Russia Vol. I – The Bolshevik 'Coup d'Etat' November 7, 1917." Virtually no one wanted to tolerate Bolshevism.

Noted Australian economist John Quiggin declares in his recent work Zombie Economics that "Ideas are long lived, often outliving their originators and taking new and different forms. Some ideas live on because they are useful. Others die and are forgotten. But even when they have proved themselves wrong and dangerous, ideas are very hard to kill. Even after the evidence seems to have killed them, they keep on coming back.

These ideas are neither alive nor dead; rather they are undead, or zombie, ideas." Bolshevism or Trotskyism is one of those zombie ideas that keeps coming back in different forms. It has ideologically reincarnated in the political disputations of the neoconservative movement.

If this sounds like an exaggeration and if you think the projectile motion of Trotskyism is over, listen to Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior advisor to the Mitt Romney for President campaign, as to why he supported Romney for president:

"My support for Mitt Romney has something to do with a ship called the Serpa Pinto and with an American Marxist revolutionary."

Schoenfeld later declared that his father was a Trotskyist in the revolutionary sense, and that Obama was too soft on the Middle East, and Romney was the better choice to take care of Iran. Schoenfeld was an editor for the neoconservative magazine Commentary.

As it turns out, neoconservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute are largely extensions of Trotskyism with respect to foreign policy. Other think tanks such as the Bradley Foundation were overtaken by the neoconservative machine back in 1984.

Some of those double agents have been known to have worked with Likud-supporting Jewish groups such as the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, an organization which has been known to have "co-opted" several "non-Jewish defense experts by sending them on trips to Israel. It flew out the retired general Jay Garner, now slated by Bush to be proconsul of occupied Iraq."

Philo-Semitic scholars Stephen Halper of Cambridge University and Jonathan Clarke of the CATO Institute agree that the neoconservative agendas "have taken American international relations on an unfortunate detour," which is another way of saying that this revolutionary movement is not what the Founding Fathers signed up for, who all maintained that the United States would serve the American people best by not entangling herself in alliances with foreign entities.

As soon as the Israel Lobby came along, as soon as the neoconservative movement began to shape U.S. foreign policy, as soon as Israel began to dictate to the U.S. what ought to be done in the Middle East, America was universally hated by the Muslim world.

Moreover, former secretary of defense Robert Gates made it clear to the United States that the Israelis do not and should not have a monopoly on the American interests in the Middle East. For that, he was chastised by neoconservative Elliott Abrams.

In that sense, the neoconservative movement as a political and intellectual movement represents a fifth column in the United States in that it subtly and deceptively seeks to undermine what the Founding Fathers have stood for and replace it with what the Founding Fathers would have considered horrible foreign policies!policies which have contributed to the demise of the respect America once had.

Halper and Clarke move on to say that the neoconservative movement is "in complete contrast to the general cast of the American temperament as embodied by the Declaration of Independence."

The neoconservative persuasion is horrible in the sense that much of the war in the Middle East has been based on colossal hoaxes and fabrications.

This point became more interesting when it was discovered that Israel has maintained covert operations against the U.S. on multiple levels, including smuggling illegal weapons for years, while the neoconservative machine says nothing about this issue and keeps propounding that Israel is a model of Western values in the Middle East.

Israel has been spying on the United States for years using various Israeli or Jewish individuals, including key Jewish neoconservative figures such as Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, who were under investigation for passing classified documents to Israel.

The FBI has numerous documents tracing Israel's espionage in the U.S., but no one has come forward and declared it explicitly in the media because most political pundits value mammon over truth.

For example, when two top AIPAC officials!Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman!were caught passing classified documents from the Pentagon to Israel, Gabriel Schoenfeld defended them.

In the annual FBI report called "Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage," Israel is a major country that pops up quite often. This is widely known among CIA and FBI agents and U.S. officials for years.

One former U.S. intelligence official declared, "There is a huge, aggressive, ongoing set of Israeli activities directed against the United States. Anybody who worked in counterintelligence in a professional capacity will tell you the Israelis are among the most aggressive and active countries targeting the United States.

They undertake a wide range of technical operations and human operations. People here as liaisons aggressively pursue classified intelligence from people. The denials are laughable."

In 1991, the Israelis tried to recruit a former U.S. intelligence official, but he declined. "I had an Israeli intelligence officer pitch me in Washington at the time of the first Gulf War. I said, 'No, go away,' and reported it to counterintelligence." Covert operations were done by the Israelis in "a 1997 case in which the National Security Agency bugged two Israeli intelligence officials in Washington discussing efforts to obtain a sensitive U.S. diplomatic document.

Israel denied wrongdoing in that case and all others, and no one has been prosecuted." Yet this has rarely seen the light of day in the popular media. Pointing these facts out, according to the reasoning of Omri Ceren of the fifth column magazine Commentary , is tantamount to anti-Semitism.

In 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the declaration that the United States had already conquered Iraq, and it was time that the U.S. marched against Iran, Syria, and Libya.

Under Obama, Sharon's prediction became a reality in Libya, and now the U.S. is destabilizing Syria by covertly supporting the Syrian rebels, while the war drum is being beaten against Iran.

In the process, Iran has been blamed for a cyber attack in the Middle East with little evidence. By the fall of 2012, the United States and Israel were even considering a "surgical strike" against Iran.

At the same time, the "democracy" which the neocons dreamed of establishing in Iraq has become "increasingly authoritarian and narrowly sectarian," according to twenty-eight-year CIA veteran and Georgetown University professor Paul R. Pillar. In his inaugural speech for his second term, President Obama suggested that the perpetual war has come to an end.

But by that time the U.S. was already marshalling some of our precious men in Mali, and British Prime Minister David Cameron has recently declared that the war in Mali will more than likely last for decades, which is another way of saying that perpetual wars are here to stay. And the people who will be paying for this are the American taxpayers, decent people who are trying to put food on the table and generational children who will be drown in massive debt and student loans.

What, then, are some of the outcomes of the neoconservative movement? What are some of its revolutionary or subversive offshoots? We will explore these questions in the upcoming articles, but one of the indirect by-products of this movement is that no person, democrat or republican, can be elected as president without being a Zionist or at least favoring Israel over the Founding Fathers. This point became clear when Obama won the presidential election in 2012.

Months before election, both Romney and Obama were competing as to who was going to give the biggest tribute to Israel. Romney went to Israel and declared that Iran was the biggest threat in the world, and Obama sent Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Israel right after Romney's departure to tell Israel that his administration is in agreement with Israeli officials with respect to Iran. Both Romney and Obama supported deploying troops to Syria if Assad, they said, used chemical weapons.

For Alan Dershowitz of Harvard, it was the Jews in Florida who helped reelect Obama. This is not without evidence, since it has been reported that at least 70 percent of Jewish voters sided with Obama. Dershowitz continues to say that Jews like himself "must now realize that our support for the president will be good for Israel over the next four years Jews vote for both parties.

Nobody is ignoring us. Every rational candidate knows that they and their party must earn our votes in every election." One would say that this absolutely means nothing, since Jews are less than five percent of the population. But as we shall show in the next article, Jewish billionaires were largely the main vehicles supporting both Democrats and so-called Republicans.

Dershowitz then declared something that would have been a shock to the Founding Fathers: "Most Americans, regardless of religion, are united in support of Israel's security, but divided about social and economic issues. It is critically important that support for Israel's security remains a bipartisan issue, and never becomes a wedge issue that divides voters along party lines, as it has in some European countries."

In other words, even though the economy is a dismal failure, even though Americans are out of work, even though people are being cheated out of their retirement plans, even though student loans have been skyrocketed, Americans must support Israel (it has been at least $3 billion a year). Just like the Pharisees and rabbis who had to tell Pilate what to do in the first century, Dershowitz declares, "I and others who support [Obama] will have his ear over the next four years."

Almost two months before he won the presidential election, Obama invited Dershowitz to the White House and told him, "I don't bluff." Obama also invited Edgar Bronfman, former president of the World Jewish Congress, to the White House and told him, "My commitment to Israel's security is bone deep." What would George Washington, Thomas Edison and others say? Let us hear them.

George Washington: "The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns.

Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities." Thomas Jefferson: "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations!entangling alliances with none," Grover Cleveland: "It is the policy of Monroe and of Washington and Jefferson: Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliance with none."

Does any president have the courage to pronounce these statements today? The answer is a resounding no. The only former presidential candidate who tried to implement that foreign policy was Ron Paul, but he was castigated as "a vicious anti-Semite" for doing so.

In a nutshell, if you are a follower of the Founding Fathers when it comes to foreign policy, you are a "vicious anti-Semite." Moreover, if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would be all anti-Semites! Over the past few weeks, more than 60 articles have been written against Chuck Hagel by two neoconservative magazines alone, Commentary and the Weekly Standard (not to mention the Washington Post , National Review , the Wall Street Journal , etc.).

This brings us to an essentially critical point that will be explored in more details later in the series: the word anti-Semitism has carelessly been applied in the political landscape to shut down rational arguments and important issues. It has become a weapon in the blessed hands of those who seek to destabilize thoughtful discussion. You either support the neoconservative ideology, or else

[Jul 01, 2017] The Corporate Contradictions of Neoliberalism by David Ciepley

Notable quotes:
"... This article originally appeared in ..."
"... Volume I, Number 2 (Summer 2017): 58–71. ..."
consortiumnews.com
In The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism -a canonical work of economic sociology in the 1970s and '80s-Daniel Bell argued that the productive and consumptive sides of capitalism had fallen into contradiction. Capitalism continued to rely on the Protestant ethic of sobriety and delayed gratification in the sphere of production, yet, contradictorily, had come to rely on modernist hedonism and credit purchasing in the sphere of consumption. Modern capitalism needed people to be sober by day and swingers by night. What is more, the displacement of the Protestant ethic by hedonism, Bell argued, was primarily the work of capitalism itself. Its mass production urbanized the population and created an economy of abundance, the continuation of which relied on ever increasing demand, stimulated through marketing and the extension of credit. This pulled the middle class away from small town, Protestant values. In other words, capitalism was undermining the conditions of its own existence. The economy's contradictory need for both prudence and prodigality from its participants was "the deepest challenge to the society."

I first read and taught Bell as a graduate student in the 1990s. Already by then the urgency of Bell's thesis had receded. Capitalism had weathered this putative internal contradiction for a generation, with no signs of implosion. The perceived threat to American capitalism at the time came instead from the outside, from Japan. Japan's integrated industrial policy, "quality circles," and knack for translating American technological advances into desirable consumer products had created an economic juggernaut that seemed to be rolling right over American industry. It seemed emblematic when President George H. W. Bush led a pugnacious trade delegation to Japan in 1992 only to fall ill and, at a state dinner, cast the craw and faint into the lap of the Japanese prime minister.

Japan's economic miracle, moreover, could itself be read as putting Bell's thesis in question. At that time, the routine of the Japanese salaryman was to work very long and grave hours at the office followed by almost daily late-night drinking parties and the occasional group outing to the hot spring baths, the night girls, or the geisha: sober by day, swinger by night. This behavior was not seen as contradictory. Nor did it have to be. The compartmentalization of value spheres and conduct is commonplace in most human societies; the demand for consistency is the real anomaly. The case could thus be made that Bell's sense of foreboding was but an artifact of the American tendency to misconstrue as a human norm the peculiarly Puritan aspiration for consistency of personality across all spheres, rationalizing all life according to one supreme value. Setting aside that assumption, it seemed to me not so much that American capitalism was becoming self-contradictory as that it was becoming more "Japanese," with the undergraduate ethos of "work hard play hard" as its training ground.

Whatever the shortcomings of Bell's specific thesis, however, one should not dismiss the more general possibility Bell raises of a system-threatening contradiction between a cultural system and an economic system. In particular, there can be a contradiction between a society's economic ideology, or cultural system of economic legitimation, and its economic reality. I argue that we are experiencing this in an acute way under neoliberalism-a contradiction between the market ideology neoliberalism espouses and the corporate reality it fosters.

Any system exhibiting a contradiction between its legitimation system and its reality is set up for sudden delegitimation. But in the case of neoliberalism, the contradiction does more. Neoliberalism was born in reaction against totalitarian statism, and matured at the University of Chicago into a program of state-reduction that was directed not just against the totalitarian state and the socialist state but also (and especially) against the New Deal regulatory and welfare state. Neoliberalism sought to privatize public services, deregulate private services, and shrink social spending. 1 It is thus unusual among ideologies in that it does not seek to rationalize the status quo. It is a self-consciously reactionary ideology that seeks to roll back the status quo and institutionalize (or, on its own understanding, re-institutionalize) the "natural" principles of the market. In other words, it is transformative. But the contradiction between its individualist ideals and our corporate reality means that the effort to institutionalize it, oblivious to this contradiction, has induced deep dysfunction in our corporate system, producing weakened growth, intense inequality, and coercion. This makes neoliberalism's position all the more precarious. And when the ideological support of a system collapses-as appears to be happening with neoliberalism-then either the system will collapse, or new levels of coercion and manipulation will be deployed to maintain it. This appears to be the juncture at which we have arrived.

The Corporation as a Franchised Government

For the contradiction between neoliberalism and the corporation to be clear, it is necessary to say a few words about the nature of the business corporation.

The business corporation, like any corporation, is a little government. Its deepest roots run back to the municipality of Rome, the first corporation in law, which was at the same time the civitas , or Roman state. More proximately, the business corporation was modeled on the incorporated medieval town, and it carries forward its central legal features.

(1) As is true of the town, a corporate firm's assets are not owned by natural persons, but by an abstract legal entity -the "artificial person" of the corporation, which assumes the legal position of sole proprietor. This fact should immediately explode the most insidious myth about the business corporation, that it is owned by its stockholders. The whole point of the legal form is to transfer ownership of the business assets to this legal entity, which in principle "never dies." This prevents investors from pulling these assets out and liquidating the firm, and it allows all economic liabilities generated by the firm to be shifted from natural persons to this entity. Since the legal entity owns the assets of the business corporation, the stockholders obviously do not.

In the case of a university or other incorporated nonprofit, it is obvious that the assets are owned by a legal entity, since there are no stockholders to whom one could ascribe ownership. The business corporation, however, is commonly read through the lens of the partnership (due in good measure to the efforts of the neoliberals, as we will see), as if the stockholders were a species of partner and thus co-owners of the firm. Yet this is precisely what they are not, lacking the ownership rights, the liabilities, and the responsibilities of partners.

The misconception that stockholders are owners akin to partners in a partnership seems to stem from two things. First, stockholders have purchased stock, which is imagined to be tantamount to acquiring part ownership. But stock is just a financial instrument-a special form of good that a corporation is privileged to sell. And purchasing a good sold by a firm-whether stocks, blocks, or socks-does not give one ownership rights in the firm. In the United States, as in most countries, stockholders, whether acting individually or jointly, cannot use, lend out, exclude others from, collateralize, sell, or alienate corporate assets. In other words, stock ownership does not convey any rights of ownership over the firm or its assets. And this has been true from the beginning (despite legal ideology sometimes to the contrary). Stockholders have no legal claim whatsoever on these assets except at bankruptcy, when they are last in line as heirs, not first in line as owners. Nor do stockholders have a legal right to profits or dividends. Dividends are issued at the discretion of the board-as Apple demonstrated quarter after quarter to its long-suffering stockholders.

The second source of the confusion is that stockholders appear to have ultimate control of the firm, and ultimate control is a right of owners. This view, however, rests on a double misconception. First, while ownership implies control rights, control rights do not necessarily imply ownership. If they did, the boards of charitable foundations would be the owners, as would the bishops and elders of churches, the principals of schools, the mayors of towns, and the presidents and parliaments of countries. As this should make clear, control can derive from jurisdictional authority no less than from ownership. Therefore, one cannot infer shareholder ownership from whatever control rights shareholders might have. Second, stockholders do not in fact have any control rights, whether proximate or ultimate, over the firm-at least not in the United States nor in most other countries. In the business corporation, as in the university, the ultimate right to control the property and to create, fill, and prescribe the duties of all positions lies with the board, as is expressly stated in the corporate charter or general incorporation statute. (Holders of a majority of the stock must consent to a firm's liquidation or its merger with another firm, because this involves the death of the firm. But they have no right to initiate or force these actions.)

It is true that the holders of common stock (although not the holders of preferred stock or other nonvoting shares) get to elect all members of the board other than the members of the first board. And this appears to give them ultimate control. If they are well organized, it will indeed likely give them de facto control. But this is not a legally enforceable control right . Imagine that all the common stock is held by a single stockholder, who therefore can place on the board whomever she will. If this board nonetheless subsequently decides to defy her, all she can do is wait for the next board election and replace it-just as the citizens of a town must wait for the next election to replace their city council or mayor (assuming no criminal activity). She cannot overrule the board, nor remove the offending board members, nor sue them (all things she could do if she were the owner and they her legal agent). All control rights lie with the board (just as all control rights lie with a sovereign parliament, not with the citizenry that elects it).

It might yet be thought that, although the right of election does not convey genuine control rights, it is itself evidence of ownership. But this is not correct either-as if the cardinals who elect the pope "own" the papacy, or the citizens who elect the mayor or president "own" the town or the state and its assets. True owners don't get a vote, but a veto, which is why the governance rule for general partnerships (whose members are true owners of the firm's assets) is unanimity on all major questions affecting the firm. The right of shareholders to participate in board elections is a charter right, not a property right.

In light of this, it is correct to argue, as did Adolf Berle and Gardner Means in their 1932 tour de force The Modern Corporation and Private Property , that the modern corporation exhibits a "separation of ownership and control." But Berle and Means were wrong to suggest that this separation occurred gradually, as shareholders became more numerous and geographically dispersed. Rather, the separation is inherent to the corporate form. Ownership is with the entity; control is with the board, which acts on behalf of the entity. What Berle and Means meant to underscore is that all but the largest shareholders have lost meaningful participation in the election of the board, and thus have lost their influence over it, leaving hired managers a free hand. But properly put, this is not a separation of ownership and control (which obtains regardless of the shareholders' level of participation), but a separation of shareholder and de facto control, or more precisely, a separation of shareholder and "influence" through election. Control of a corporation is simply not a function of who "owns" it, any more than control of a town is. (If it were, control would rest with the legal entity; but an abstract entity cannot act and a fortiori cannot control.) Rather, control rights are established by the charter.

As noted above, the point of having assets owned by a legal entity is to prevent assets from being pulled out by investors, forcing partial or complete liquidation of the firm. That is the Achilles heel of the general partnership as a business form. In contrast, with a corporation, assets are locked in permanently and can be specialized to the production process, allowing for increased scale and productivity. Historically, this is the main advantage of the corporate form for business. Marx was thus right to hold that bourgeois property would become a fetter on the productive powers of capital, to be burst asunder and replaced with socialized property. But it has been socialized primarily at the level of the corporation, not at the level of the state. Corporate property is a form of socialized property.

(2) The next legal feature that the business corporation carried over from the town is that, like the officers of a town, the managers and investors of a business corporation are exempt from liability for corporate debts , and in practice almost always escape liability for corporate harms, or torts. This is a second advantage of the corporate form for business. Debts and damages are paid by the corporate entity, not by natural persons. Here, however, an important distinction must be noted between the corporate town and the corporate firm. The officers of the town are elected by those over whom they rule and upon whom they act. Therefore, if they cause harm, it is at their own political risk, regardless of their protection from normal economic and legal risk. The officers of the corporate firm, in contrast, neither rule over nor act upon those who elect them, but rather rule over disenfranchised employees and act on numerous third parties. This relieves those who control corporate firms of most of their personal incentive to avoid causing harm when it is otherwise profitable.

(3) If neither the shareholders nor the managers own the assets of the corporate firm, whence derives management's authority? Like a town, every corporation receives from the state a jurisdiction within which its officers legislate and rule. A university's board of trustees, for example, legislates and rules over the property and personnel of the university-an authority it receives from the state, via the corporate charter. Similarly, in a business corporation, the board of directors legislates and rules over the property and personnel of the firm, even though the directors may not own any of it. This authority of the board, too, is delegated to it by the state, via a charter. It does not come from the shareholders (who, although they select the occupants of the seats on the board going forward, do not create the board's structure, procedures, powers, or duties). Indeed, the board is created and begins to operate the business before shares are even issued. The board creates the shareholders; shareholders do not create the board. And prior to that, the state creates the board, and endows it with its authority. This does not make the board and the firm it controls an agent of the state. Rather, it is the state's franchisee. To spell this out: the corporate firm gets its "personhood" (its right to own and contract as a separate legal entity), its liability regime, its governance structure, and its governing authority from the state, but it hires its own personnel and secures its own financing. This is a franchising relationship, and for this reason, I refer to corporations as "franchise governments." 2

The Neoliberal Corporation

The above exposition of corporations as governing authorities franchised by the civil government is, with slight modification, the classic view of corporations, as expounded, for example, in Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England . "None but the king can make a corporation," which the king does either directly or through delegation to others such as the legislature. The authority the corporation wields, Blackstone continues, is a "franchise" of the king, analogous in this respect to the authority that the feudal vassal wields, also delegated from the king. Like lordships, corporations are part of the overall system of government established by the king. 3 And this is part of the reason that classical liberals, including Adam Smith, were so suspicious of corporations and wished to circumscribe them. 4 They recognized that they were not part of the free market, but represented state interventions in the market.

This is, of course, not the view of corporations espoused by neoliberals. The problem that the corporation posed for neoliberals, when neoliberalism first emerged as a self-conscious ideological movement at the end of World War II, is that one could hardly put over a free market agenda if one's leading business actors were seen as state-created entities. So neoliberals had to retheorize the corporation as a creation of private contract (or at least something that could in principle be created by private contract). Accordingly, stockholders-rechristened "shareholders"-were theorized as owners who hire a board to act on their behalf. (Again, remember how wrong this is; shareholders are not owners of corporate assets, and the board gets its authority before they even exist.) In other words, neoliberals cast the corporation as a glorified partnership, to be operated in the interest of its imagined owners and principals, the stockholders.

This account superficially squares the corporation with market principles of private property and contract. But the social cost has been high. The institutionalization of this account in recent decades has transformed both the boardroom and the workplace, producing what I call the "neoliberal corporation." And this is responsible for many of the economic inequities and dislocations that plague us today.

First it transformed the boardroom. Starting in the 1980s, under the influence of the Chicago school of "law and economics"-one of the founding strongholds of neoliberal thought-both law and norms changed to reorient corporations towards maximizing "shareholder value." This was done partly by empowering stockholders in the boardroom-although unfortunately at a time when the character of the typical stockholder was changing, from an individual long-term investor to an institutional investor (a pension fund, mutual fund, hedge fund, or private equity fund) working under quarterly profit imperatives. Executives who didn't look out for this new (and impatient) Number One were liable to find themselves replaced.

Even more effectively, this reorientation was done by bribing executives with compensation packages heavily skewed towards stock and stock options. A generation ago, stock compensation was an insignificant part of CEO pay. Today, in Fortune 500 companies, it constitutes over 80 percent of a CEO's pay. 5 In the tinted view of human psychology typical of Chicago School neoliberalism, it is assumed that CEOs will strive narrowly to maximize their personal income, not the welfare of the firm. Therefore, the Chicago neoliberal reasons, structure their pay so that, in maximizing it, they simultaneously maximize (short-term) stockholder returns.

Two effective means of quickly juicing a stock price are to increase dividend payments and to buy back stock. As William Lazonick details, stock buybacks-that is, corporate repurchases of its previous stock issues, which decrease the supply of outstanding stock, and thus increase its price-have become so popular with executives that buybacks now consume on average over 50 percent of the profits of S&P 500 firms. In some years, the buybacks of some firms have topped 100 percent of corporate profits. 6 That is, the companies spent more on repurchasing their stock than they earned for the year, which is done by cutting into their reserves, taking on debt, or selling off assets. Increasing dividend payments, even when profits are not rising, similarly robs the future to pay off the present. This is what I call "vampire management," sucking out the accumulated life force of the company to feed current stockholders. Others have likened it to cannibalism-of stockholders eating the corporate body. What it means, in Bell's terms, is that the hedonism and immediate gratification of the rentier has gained control over the arena of production.

The societal consequences have been overwhelmingly negative. On the one hand, it means that the revenues of the firm have been massively reallocated, with much of what used to be shared with workers now disgorged to shareholders and executives. Wages stagnated even when productivity continued to climb. This is at the root of our growing economic inequality. But it also affects the rate of economic growth itself. Production is still an arena wherein focus on the long term-that is, delayed gratification-works best. But the refocus on short-term share price means that research and development get cut, reinvestment in plant expansion gets cut, and worker training gets cut, because their payoffs are not immediate. The result is slower growth. What is more, the pressure against worker training encourages, as an alternative, the de-skilling of the production process, which in turn facilitates the offshoring of jobs, further suppressing domestic wages.

In short, when the short-term focus of the hedonist gains control of the arena of production, all lose out in the long term, but the worker loses out disproportionately, in both long term and short term. There is no longer a "cultural contradiction" between production and consumption, as both are now ruled by an ethos of immediate gratification. It turns out we were better off when there was a contradiction.

Second, neoliberal retheorization of the corporation has transformed the workplace. As part of this retheorization, neoliberals adopted a newfangled principal-agent theory indebted to game theory, according to which principal and agent always act opportunistically towards one another. In the neoliberal view, shareholders are assumed to be the principals (rather than the corporate entity and its authorized purpose), and the employees-whether top managers or line employees-are assumed to be their agents, who will shirk if left to their own vices. Fortunately for top managers, boards primarily use the carrot of stock and stock options to align the managers' interests with the shareholders (although this is arguably the most expensive way to motivate managers). But there aren't enough carrots to go around. So line workers get the stick-that is, an increasingly coercive workplace with electronic monitoring, shaming, and so forth. This of course decreases their actual commitment to their employer and, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, can turn them into actual shirkers.

In sum, the rise of the neoliberal corporation creates a slow-growth, high-inequality, high-coercion economy.

Neoliberalism and the New Scarcity

What neoliberalism has done to the realm of production must also be placed in the context of what neoliberalism has done to the realm of consumption. This can be summarized by saying that neoliberalism reimposes the logic of scarcity on the economy of abundance. It does so in several ways.

First, as just explained, are the distributive effects of neoliberalism. Workers are deprived of their productivity gains, with almost all of it conferred upon the executives and the rentiers. So their purchasing power remains stagnant even as wealth explodes all around them. This is both a material and psychological reimposition of scarcity.

Second are the privatization effects of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism shrinks the sphere of public services and "privatizes"-or rather, corporatizes-the provision of the public services that remain. In most instances, corporate provision has proven to be more expensive than public provision, since the rentier investor needs his cut. Think of privately operated toll roads, or Chicago's privately operated parking. And it shifts the cost of service from the wealthy taxpayer to the general public of users, which pays cost plus profit. Relatedly, college has gotten so expensive, as its own managerial costs have exploded while state legislatures have cut public funding, that parents' expectation of a "return on investment" becomes understandable. Students feel forced into the moneymaking occupations, rather than artistic or care occupations, because of student debt, and because essential goods increasingly must be purchased, including education for the students' own anticipated children. The tightening of personal bankruptcy laws increases this pressure. There is limited public provision of the basics to liberate one for risk-taking, including entrepreneurial risk-taking, and fewer second chances if one gets in financial trouble. So even the youth become extremely risk averse. With fewer going into the helping professions and creative professions, there is less help for those in need, and an impoverishment of the culture.

Third are the monopoly effects of neoliberalism. One of the first targets of the Chicago neoliberals, both on the law faculty and the economics faculty, was the country's antitrust regime. Breaking up monopolies was just one more unnecessary government intervention in the market. Given enough time, the market would itself undermine monopolies, as new entrants brought disruptive technologies to bear. Their recommended rollback of antitrust enforcement was finally institutionalized under President Reagan.

Unfortunately, neoliberal argumentation on this point was always tendentious. Firms naturally pursue "pricing power," and when industry concentration can occur through acquisition even more easily than through organic growth, it is foolhardy to imagine that new entrants will keep markets competitive. They can simply be bought out. Indeed, in a corporate economy, this can be done even against the will of the target company's management. And sure enough, monopoly has returned to the United States with a vengeance, as Barry Lynn and Philip Longman of New America have argued. Commodity food producers are hit especially hard. Their productive inputs-seeds and sprays, for example-are in the hands of a few suppliers. Meanwhile, their productive outputs-chicken, beef, pork, corn, soy, dairy, and so on-often have only one local buyer. A few enormous processors operate as monopsonists with respect to the food producers, and monopolists with respect to the consumer, lowering incomes on the one end, and raising prices on the other. Monopoly pricing pervades other consumer markets as well-cable television and Internet service, eyewear, beer, breakfast cereal, pet food, department stores and office supply stores, and so on-where monopoly is often concealed behind a veneer of brand diversity. Standing at the end of supply chains riddled with unchecked monopolies, the consumer finds the reach of her dollar considerably foreshortened. Lynn and Longman also argue persuasively that monopoly has suppressed innovation and job creation. Monopoly is thus a double burden, producing fewer good incomes in an economy of overpriced goods.

Fourth are the globalization effects of neoliberalism. For those who control corporations, the new mobility of corporate capital has been a race to the top, as national jurisdictions compete to offer ever more favorable terms of operation for those who control. For everyone else, that means a race to the bottom, as corporate tax rates are cut along with environmental regulations, health and safety regulations, and worker wages. The decline in tax receipts means a decline of funding for what still remains in the public sphere, even as the other declines mean these funds are more needed. It may be the case that there are productive efficiencies to be gained through the mobility of capital-although as we've seen, if this comes at the expense of long-term investments in productivity, this may not be true on balance. But even supposing there are, the costs and benefits of these productivity gains are being distributed most unequally.

In this new neoliberal world, the economic drive elicited by the siren song of hedonism is replaced by the spur of deprivation, as wages fail to keep up with the cost of living. 7 American households have the highest credit card debt load in the world (over $6,000 on average, but over $16,000 on average among those that have credit card debt), which is perhaps not surprising given that over half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, with an estimated 62 percent lacking liquid funds sufficient to cover a $1,000 emergency expenditure. 8 Debt that was racked up to live large becomes debt racked up to stay afloat. It is all the same to the creditor rentier. The economic ideal of the financier, banker, and rentier in general is that all purchases, whether of private individuals or governments, be made on credit, so that all income streams are channeled to themselves, the debt holders, to pay interest and principal. Why the debts are being contracted is immaterial.

In sum, the neoliberal effort to square the corporation with free market principles of private property, contract, and self-interest has had the consequence of increasing inequality, coercion, and mediocrity in the corporation. And since the neoliberal push for "privatization" really means corporatization, these maladies of the neoliberal corporation are pushed ever further into American life. The American worker and consumer is then undermined further by the exodus of capital abroad and the return of monopoly at home. Neoliberalism has thus created a world that is almost the inverse of the world Bell was diagnosing. The short-term orientation of the hedonist has been imposed on the production process, while the logic of scarcity has been reimposed upon the working class and middle class in the sphere of consumption, even as productivity continues to rise, but is siphoned off by plutocrats. It is an economy of abundance for the few, but of scarcity and coercion for the many.

There is no virtue today in poverty and abstinence. Work, as Bell notes, is no longer proof of salvation, nor an end in itself as a "calling," but a means to consumption and social status. Stagnant or declining wages, especially when set next to the exploding wealth of those at the top, is therefore only experienced as great frustration. And so one gets the kind of elections we have been seeing around the world.

The Contradictions of Neoliberalism

Because modern economies are corporate, not atomistic, there is a yawning chasm between the legitimating ideals of neoliberalism and the reality it creates. And this chasm is even wider than first appears if the true nature of the business corporation is kept in view. For example:

(1) Neoliberalism idealizes an individualistic, private property economy. But the economy it actually promotes is a socialized, corporate property economy, where property is controlled by, but unowned by, natural persons, with all the problems of moral hazard that this raises.

(2) Neoliberalism idealizes a free market economy, with minimal state intervention, beyond protecting property and contract. Yet the economy it promotes is dominated by state-created legal entities. State intervention makes the corporation.

(3) Neoliberalism holds that the state is a sphere of coercion, while the market is a sphere of freedom. But in most contexts, the state only makes general laws that must be followed as one pursues one's own ends. In contrast, the corporation, for which most people must now work, issues direct commands to its ends, and under neoliberalism it has only become more coercive in seeing that these commands are carried out.

(4) Neoliberalism promises to increase economic growth. But corporations reconstructed on neoliberal lines retard growth, in favor of redirecting revenues to those who control and finance.

(5) Neoliberalism advocates an ethic of individual responsibility. If you fail in the market, you should accept the consequences, and not expect the wealth generated by others to be redistributed to you. But thanks to the principle of limited liability, the corporate form spares those who control the corporation from the legal or direct economic consequences of their actions. The corporation is institutionalized irresponsibility. In the neoliberal economy, individual responsibility is imposed on the weak (with a downsized social safety net, tightened personal bankruptcy laws, etc.); freedom from responsibility is enjoyed by the strong-those who invest, and those who control.

It is hard to exaggerate how far neoliberal ideology is contradicted by our economic reality. The contradiction ultimately stems from the failure of neoliberals to understand the corporate form, and thus a failure to understand the corporate economy. Indeed, it means a failure to understand the modern world as a whole, which is fundamentally corporate in its construction. Its corporatization began in medieval Europe in the wake of the recovery of the Roman law of corporations. The corporate form first transformed the semi-subordinate bodies of the Church (its monasteries, cathedral chapters, confraternities, chantries), and eventually the Church as a whole, all modeled as corporations. It then transformed civil society (its towns, universities, and guilds). And then it transformed the state (inspiring the positing of an abstract and sovereign juridical person, the "state," distinct from the ruler).

Briefly, it looked like that would be the end of the line for the corporate form. Rhetoric, and to an extent, reality, suggested that the corporate form would be swept away, with corporate rights replaced by the rights of man. In the Age of Enlightenment, corporate bodies came under attack as remnants of the ancien régime-examples of legal privilege obnoxious to the demand for equality under the law. At the Constitutional Convention, America's founders, fearing the rise of monopoly and a monied aristocracy, refused to grant the power of incorporation to the federal government. 9 The French Constitution of 1791 went so far as to dissolve all corporations for being "injurious to liberty and equality of rights." But, in America, federal incorporation was later held to be an implied power, and, in France, the corporate ban would prove to be short-lived.

The problem with neoliberalism is that it construes the idealized, individualist world of eighteenth-century rhetoric as a good approximation of twenty-first-century reality. But in the nineteenth-century United States especially, a new corporate age was birthed as the corporate form made its final and most potent conquest, transforming the business firm and economy. In our "social imaginary," to use a coinage of Charles Taylor, the United States is the individualist society sans pareil -the most modern of modern societies because it is the most thorough in its realization of the individualist impulses of the Renaissance and the radical Reformation. Yet, in reality, it is now the most corporate of societies, teeming with franchised governments large and small: towns, state governments, and the federal government (franchised by "the People"), but also and especially our myriad for-profit and non-profit corporations (business firms, churches, foundations, and other "non-governmental," yet actually quite governmental, associations).

Our ability to come to grips with our current predicament requires as its first step a fundamental reworking of our picture of modern society. Ours is not the world of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill. It is a world in which the means of production and the means of rule are owned by juridical entities, not natural persons. A world wherein control is exercised by officeholders, not owners; wherein the officeholders-of corporate government no less than of civil government-dodge direct economic and legal responsibility for the consequences of their control; and wherein the officeholders are therefore supposed to be guided by a fiduciary duty to the organization's authorized purposes, not by individual self-interest. This is the world we inhabit, and it is a world that falls into dysfunction and exploitation when neoliberal categories and prescriptions are imposed upon it.

This article originally appeared in American Affairs Volume I, Number 2 (Summer 2017): 58–71.

Notes
1 See Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe, eds., The Road from Mont Pèlerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).

2 For further detail on this view of corporations, see my "Beyond Public and Private: Toward a Political Theory of the Corporation," American Political Science Review 107, no. 1 (Feb. 2013): 139–58.

3 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, in Four Books , vol. 1 (1753; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1893), 297, 324; see also 180–81.

4 Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations , vol. 2 of The Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), pt. 2, pp. 225–30, 246–47.

5 William Lazonick, "Profits without Prosperity," Harvard Business Review 92, no. 9 (Sept. 2014): 46–55.

6 Ibid.

7 Erin El Issa, "2016 American Household Credit Card Debt Study," NerdWallet , https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/.

8 Ibid.; Scott Dylan, "American Credit Card Debt at Record High-Should You Be Worried?," Get , May 24, 2016, https://www.get.com/news/american-credit-card-debt/; Quentin Fottrell, "Most Americans Are One Paycheck Away from the Street," MarketWatch , January 7, 2015, https://secure.marketwatch.com/story/most-americans-are-one-paycheck-away-from-the-street-2015-01-07.

9 Pauline Maier, "The Revolutionary Origins of the American Corporation," William and Mary Quarterly 50, no. 1 (Jan. 1993): 51–84.

David Ciepley is associate professor of political science at the University of Denver. He is the author of Liberalism in the Shadow of Totalitarianism (Harvard University Press, 2006) as well as of "Beyond Public and Private: Toward a Political Theory of the Corporation," American Political Science Review 107, no. 1 (February 2013): 139–58.

[Jun 28, 2017] After Fire, Britain Asks if Deregulation Has Gone Too Far

Jun 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne, June 28, 2017 at 08:08 AM

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/world/europe/uk-grenfell-tower-fire-deregulation.html

June 28, 2017

After Fire, Britain Asks if Deregulation Has Gone Too Far
By STEVEN ERLANGER

The deadly blaze at a high rise has helped crystallize resentment over the country's embrace of neoliberalism, privatization and austerity.

[ That dozens of high-rise apartment buildings in Britain could have been legally wrapped in flammable coatings, is beyond what I would have thought possible. ]

[Jun 20, 2017] Deregulation in action

Notable quotes:
"... The Aluminium cladding on the Grenfell Tower had oxygen all the way round it was mounted with an air gap and a flammable polystyrene inner. The cladding is under the windows that can be opened. Once the polystyrene is exposed, say from rupture of the aluminium coating. ..."
"... 'Like other organic compounds, polystyrene is flammable. Polystyrene is classified according to DIN4102 as a "B3" product, meaning highly flammable or "Easily Ignited." ..."
"... This is off-topic and should be in the MF Cafe. Pls take the conversation there. Thx. Mod ..."
www.informationclearinghouse.info

ph on June 15, 2017 , · at 9:35 am UTC

Jun 20, 2017 | thesaker.is
Regarding the media presentation of the fire in London:

The Aluminium cladding on the Grenfell Tower had oxygen all the way round it was mounted with an air gap and a flammable polystyrene inner. The cladding is under the windows that can be opened. Once the polystyrene is exposed, say from rupture of the aluminium coating.

The expanded polystyrene core melts at 240 C so at this point the cladding loses its structural integrity.

'Like other organic compounds, polystyrene is flammable. Polystyrene is classified according to DIN4102 as a "B3" product, meaning highly flammable or "Easily Ignited."

As a consequence, although it is an efficient insulator at low temperatures, its use is prohibited in any exposed installations in building construction if the material is not flame-retardant. It must be concealed behind drywall, sheet metal, or concrete.[citation needed]

Foamed polystyrene plastic materials have been accidentally ignited and caused huge fires and losses, for example at the Düsseldorf International Airport and the Channel tunnel (where polystyrene was inside a railcar that caught fire).'

'Like all organic compounds, polystyrene burns to give carbon dioxide and water vapor.'

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polystyrene

US Department of Energy report

'In the vicinity of room temperature, the reaction between aluminum metal and water to form aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen is the following: 2Al + 6H2O = 2Al(OH)3 + 3H2. The gravimetric hydrogen capacity from this reaction is 3.7 wt.% and the volumetric hydrogen capacity is 46 g H2/L.

Although this reaction is thermodynamically favorable, it does not proceed due to the presence of a coherent and adherent layer of aluminum oxide which forms on the surface of aluminum particles which prevents water from cominginto direct contact with the aluminum metal.

The key to inducing and maintaining the reaction of aluminum with water near room temperature is the continual removal and/or disruption of this coherent/adherent aluminum oxide layer. '

'In this case, the molten nature of the [aluminium] alloy prevents the development of a coherent and adherent aluminum oxide layer. '
.

'Thus, an engineering approach might be a continuous water stream to maintain a roughly steady state hydrogen generation rate'

'The Al/water reaction is highly exothermic with an enthalpy of reaction of about 280 kJ/mol H2 at ~50-100 C '

https://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/aluminium_water_hydrogen.pdf

Aluminium has a melting point of 660 C. When the aluminium melts its protective oxide outer layer is removed causing any steam or water such as from the burning of the polystyrene to cause a highly exothermic reaction that releases hydrogen. This saw the rapid spread of the flames over the skin of the building.

The firefighters adding water to areas they could not quench acted as an accelerant to the fire once it had rose as steam and reacted with the molten aluminium.

Any iron or copper used as building material with rust or oxidation or impurities could even cause small thermite reactions with the aluminium oxide. This exothermic reaction can be seen on the Hindenberg disaster.

There could be a creation of higly volatile triorganoaluminium compounds:

"trimethylaluminium" has the formula Al2(CH3)6 (see figure). With large organic groups, triorganoaluminium compounds exist as three-coordinate monomers, such as triisobutylaluminium. Such compounds are widely used in industrial chemistry, despite the fact that they are often highly pyrophoric.'

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium#Organoaluminium_compounds_and_related_hydrides

Simple large life nets could have been used with springs to save the people.

The fact the outer layer of the building is in an exothermic reaction can be clearly seen:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ThermiteReaction.jpg

Compare video of the Grenfell Tower and Hindenburg – that was using aluminium paint according to A NASA scientist.

Chemical analysis of the cladding might help further at this stage.

This is off-topic and should be in the MF Cafe. Pls take the conversation there. Thx. Mod

[Jun 17, 2017] Trotskyism and cultural Marxism

Jun 12, 2017 | en.wikipedia.org
which sees the Frankfurt School as part of an ongoing movement to take over and destroy Western society . [53] [54] [55] [56]

Originally the term 'cultural Marxism' had a niche academic usage within cultural studies where it referred to the Frankfurt School's critiques of the culture industry , an industry they claimed was able to reify an individual's self-interests, diverting individuals away from developing a more authentic sense of human values . [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] [ excessive citations ] British theorists such as Richard Hoggart of The Birmingham School developed a working class sense of 'British Cultural Marxism' which objected to the "massification" and "drift" away from local cultures, a process of commercialization Hoggart saw as being enabled by tabloid newspapers, advertising , and the American film industry . [62]

However, the term remained niche and rarely used until the late 1990s when it was appropriated by paleoconservatives as part of an ongoing Culture War in which it is claimed that the very same theorists who were analysing and objecting to the "massification" and mass control via commercialization of culture were in fact in control and staging their own attack on Western society , using 1960s counter culture , multiculturalism , progressive politics and political correctness as their methods. [55] [63] [64] This conspiracy theory version of the term is associated with American religious paleoconservatives such as William S. Lind , Pat Buchanan , and Paul Weyrich , but also holds currency among alt-right / white nationalist groups and the neo-reactionary movement. [64] [56] [65]

Weyrich first aired his conception of Cultural Marxism in a 1998 speech to the Civitas Institute's Conservative Leadership Conference , later repeating this usage in his widely syndicated Culture War Letter . [64] [66] [67] At Weyrich's request William S. Lind wrote a short history of his conception of Cultural Marxism for The Free Congress Foundation ; in it Lind identifies the presence of homosexuals on television as proof of Cultural Marxist control over the mass media and claims that Herbert Marcuse considered a coalition of "blacks, students, feminist women and homosexuals" as a vanguard of cultural revolution. [55] [63] [68] Lind has since published his own depiction of a fictional Cultural Marxist apocalypse. [69] [70] Lind and Weyrich's writings on this subject advocate fighting what they perceive as Cultural Marxism with "a vibrant cultural conservatism " composed of "retroculture" fashions from the past, a return to rail systems as public transport and an agrarian culture of self-reliance modeled after the Amish . [55] [70] [71] [72] [73] [74] [75] [ excessive citations ] Paul Weyrich and his protégé Eric Heubeck later openly advocated for a more direct form of "taking over political structures" by the "New Traditionalist Movement" in his 2001 paper The Integration of Theory and Practice written for Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation . [76] [77] [78]

In 1999 Lind led the creation of an hour-long program entitled "Political Correctness: The Frankfurt School" . [53] Some of Lind's content went on to be reproduced by James Jaeger in his YouTube film "CULTURAL MARXISM: The Corruption of America" . [79]

The intellectual historian Martin Jay commented on this phenomenon saying that Lind's original documentary:

"... spawned a number of condensed textual versions, which were reproduced on a number of radical right-wing sites. These in turn led to a welter of new videos now available on YouTube, which feature an odd cast of pseudo-experts regurgitating exactly the same line. The message is numbingly simplistic: all the ills of modern American culture, from feminism, affirmative action, sexual liberation and gay rights to the decay of traditional education and even environmentalism are ultimately attributable to the insidious influence of the members of the Institute for Social Research who came to America in the 1930's." [53]

Dr. Heidi Beirich likewise claims the conspiracy theory is used to demonize various conservative "bêtes noires" including "feminists, homosexuals, secular humanists, multiculturalist, sex educators, environmentalist, immigrants, and black nationalists." [80]

According to Chip Berlet , who specializes in the study of extreme right-wing movements , the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory found fertile ground within the Tea Party movement of 2009, with contributions published in the American Thinker and WorldNetDaily highlighted by some Tea Party websites. [81] [82] [83]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that William S. Lind in 2002 gave a speech to a Holocaust denial conference on the topic of Cultural Marxism. In this speech Lind noted that all the members of The Frankfurt School were "to a man, Jewish", but it is reported that Lind claims not to "question whether the Holocaust occurred" and suggests he was present in an official capacity for the Free Congress Foundation "to work with a wide variety of groups on an issue-by-issue basis". [84] [85]

Adherents of the theory often seem to mean that the existence of things like modern feminism , anti-white racism, and sexualization are dependent on the Frankfurt School, even though these processes and movements predate the 1920s. Although the theory became more widespread in the late 1990s and through the 2000s, the modern iteration of the theory originated in Michael Minnicino's 1992 essay "New Dark Age: Frankfurt School and 'Political Correctness'", published in Fidelio Magazine by the Schiller Institute . [53] [86] [87] The Schiller Institute, a branch of the LaRouche movement , further promoted the idea in 1994. [88] The Minnicino article charges that the Frankfurt School promoted Modernism in the arts as a form of Cultural pessimism , and shaped the Counterculture of the 1960s (such as the British pop band The Beatles ) after the Wandervogel of the Ascona commune . [86] The Larouche movement is otherwise mostly known for believing that the British Empire still exists, is trying to take control of the world (mostly, but not exclusively by economical means), and, among other things, also controls the global drug trade . [89] [90]

More recently, the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik included the term in his document "2083: A European Declaration of Independence" , which along with The Free Congress Foundation 's "Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology" was e-mailed to 1,003 addresses approximately 90 minutes before the 2011 bomb blast in Oslo for which Breivik was responsible. [91] [92] [93] Segments of William S. Lind's writings on Cultural Marxism have been found within Breivik's manifesto. [94]

Philosopher and political science lecturer Jérôme Jamin has stated, "Next to the global dimension of the Cultural Marxism conspiracy theory, there is its innovative and original dimension, which lets its authors avoid racist discourses and pretend to be defenders of democracy". [54] Professor and Oxford Fellow Matthew Feldman has traced the terminology back to the pre-war German concept of Cultural Bolshevism locating it as part of the degeneration theory that aided in Hitler's rise to power . [95] William S. Lind confirms this as his period of interest, claiming that "It [Cultural Marxism] is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I." [85]

[May 25, 2017] Yes, Virginia (Dare) There is a Cultural Marxism–and Its Taking Over Conservatism Inc by Paul Gottfried

Notable quotes:
"... Spencer's ..."
"... Georgetown professor confronts white nationalist Richard Spencer at the gym - which terminates his membership , ..."
"... National Review ..."
"... French election: American Conservatives Should Support Macron ..."
"... The Closing of the American Mind ..."
"... Gay Marriage vs. goodwill ..."
"... National Review ..."
"... Why John Podhoretz is Wrong on Gay Marriage ..."
"... First Things, ..."
"... The Power of Marriage ..."
"... New York Times, ..."
"... Why Putin's Defense of "Traditional Values" Is Really A War on Freedom ..."
"... Foreign Policy, ..."
"... National Review ..."
"... Ukrainians are still alone in their heroic fight for freedom ..."
"... , New York Post, ..."
May 25, 2017 | www.unz.com
Cultural Marxist commissars refusing to admit that dissidents are to be treated as fellow citizens is the crazed female professor who accosted the NPI's Richard Spencer while he was exercising at a Alexandria gym. She, recognizing him from coverage of the election campaign, started haranguing him and calling him a "Nazi."

Instead of having her ejected for this behavior, the gym's management terminated Spencer's membership. [ Georgetown professor confronts white nationalist Richard Spencer at the gym - which terminates his membership , By Faiz Siddiqui May 21, 2017]

Back in 2011 VDARE posted a commentary of mine on the legitimacy of the "Cultural Marxist" concept. (I reluctantly accepted the term only because I couldn't think of a better one.)

As I pointed out, this ideology was very far from orthodox Marxism and was viewed by serious Marxists as a kind of bastard child. Yet many of those designated as "Cultural Marxists" still viewed themselves as classical Marxists and some still do.

Exponents of what the Frankfurt School called "critical theory"- like Herbert Marcuse , Theodor Adorno , and Erich Fromm -- were considered by orthodox Marxists to be fake or ersatz Marxists. But they did adopt orthodox Marxist-Leninist theory in key aspects:

These disciples of the Frankfurt School, like Marx, were eager to replace what they defined as bourgeois society by a new social order. In this envisaged new order, humankind would experience true equality for the first time. This would be possible because, in a politically and socially reconstructed society, we would no longer be alienated from our real selves, which had been warped by the inequalities that existed until now.

But unlike authentic Marxists, Cultural Marxists have been principally opposed to the culture of bourgeois societies -- and only secondarily to their material arrangements. Homophobia , nationalism , Christianity, masculinity , and anti-Semitism have been the prime villains in the Cultural Marxist script.

This is especially true as one moves from the philosophy of the interwar German founders of the Frankfurt school, like Theodore Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse, to the second generation. This second generation is represented by Jürgen Habermas and most of the multicultural theorists ensconced in Western universities.

For these more advanced Cultural Marxists, the crusade against capitalism has been increasingly subordinated to the war against "prejudice" and "discrimination." They justify the need for a centralized bureaucratic state commanding material resources not because it will bring the working class to power, but to fight "racism," "fascism," and the other residues of the Western past.

If they can't accomplish such radical change, Cultural Marxists are happy to work toward revolutionizing our consciousness with the help of Leftist moneybags– hedge fund managers, Mark Zuckerberg etc. Ironically, nationalizing productive forces and the creation of a workers' state, i.e. the leftovers from classical Marxism, turn out to be the most expendable part of their revolutionary program, perhaps because of the collapse of the embarrassing collapse of command economies in the Soviet bloc . Instead, what is essential to Cultural Marxism is the rooting-out of bourgeois national structures, the obliteration of gender roles and the utter devastation of "the patriarchal family."

Not only does Cultural Marxism exist, but it now appears to be taking over Conservatism Inc. Thus even with Paris burning , National Review was still attacking the Right . In the second round of the French election, Tom Rogan urged a vote for Emmanuel Macron on the grounds Marine Le Pen is insufficiently hostile to Vladimir Putin and is a "socialist" because she "supports protectionism." Macron's actual onetime membership in the Socialist Party, and his view that there was no such thing as French culture, apparently was not a problem [ French election: American Conservatives Should Support Macron , April 24, 2017].

Conservatism Inc. goes along because these goals are partially achieved through corporate capitalists, who actively push Leftist social agendas and punish entire communities if they're insufficiently enthusiastic about gay marriage, gay scout leaders, transgendered rest rooms, sanctuary cities etc.. Wedded as it is to a clichéd defense of the "free market," the Beltway Right not only won't oppose this plutocratic agenda, but instead offers tax cuts to the wealthiest and most malevolent actors.

It is because Cultural Marxism can co-exist with our current economic and political structure that our so-called "conservatives" are far more likely to align with the New Left than the Old Right. The behavior of our own captains of industry shows the rot is deep and that multiculturalism is very much part of American "liberal democratic" thinking, even informing our bogus conservatism. "Conservatism" is now defined as waging endless wars in the name of universalist values that any other generation would have called radically leftist. And Cultural Marxists themselves now define what we call "Western values"-for example, accepting homosexuality

The takeover is so complete, we might even say "Cultural Marxism" has outlived its usefulness as a label or as a description of a hostile foreign ideology. Instead, we're dealing with "conservatives," who are, in many ways, more extreme and more destructive than the Frankfurt School itself.

Many conservatives seem to believe Cultural Marxism is just a foreign eccentricity somehow smuggled into our country. Allan Bloom's " conservative " bestseller The Closing of the American Mind [ PDF ] contended that multiculturalism was just another example of "The German Connection." This is ludicrous.

Case in point: unlike Horkheimer, or my onetime teacher Herbert Marcuse, leading writers within Conservatism Inc. are sympathetic to something like gay marriage . These include:

Indeed, homosexual liberation is so central to modern conservatism that the Beltway Right's pundits urge American soldiers to impose it at bayonet point around the world. Kirchick complains we haven't pressed the Russian "thug" Vladimir Putin hard enough to accept such "conservative" features of public life as gay pride parades. [ Why Putin's Defense of "Traditional Values" Is Really A War on Freedom , by James Kirchick, Foreign Policy, January 3, 2014]

Another frequent contributor to National Review , Jillian Kay Melchior, expressed concern that American withdrawal from Ukraine might expose that region to greater Russian control and thereby diminish rights for the transgendered. [ Ukrainians are still alone in their heroic fight for freedom , New York Post, October 8, 2015]

If that's how our Respectable Right reacts to social issues, then it may be ridiculous to continue denouncing the original Cultural Marxists. Our revolutionary thinking has whizzed past those iconoclastic German Jews who created the Frankfurt Institute in the 1920s and then moved their enterprise to the US in the 1930s. Blaming these long-dead intellectuals for our present aberrations may be like blaming Nazi atrocities on Latin fascists in 1920. We're better served by examining those who selectively adopted the original model to find out what really happened.

At this point we should ask not whether the Frankfurt School continues to cast a shadow over us but instead ask why are "conservatives" acquiescing to or even championing reforms more radical than anything one encounters in Adorno and Horkheimer?

Admittedly, Conservatism Inc. has drifted so far to the Left that one no longer blinks in surprise when a respected conservative journalist extolls Leon Trotsky and the Communist Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. Yet it's still startling to see just how far left the Beltway "Right" has moved on social issues. Even more noteworthy is how unwilling the movement is to see any contradiction between this process and the claim they are "conservatives."

And let's not pretend that Conservatism Inc. is simply running a "Big Tent." Those who direct the top-down Beltway Right are eager to reach out to the Left, providing those they recruit share their belligerent interventionist foreign policy views and do nothing to offend neoconservative benefactors, while purging everything on their right .

This post-Christian, post-bourgeois consensus is now centered in the US and in affiliate Western countries and transmitted through our culture industry, educational system, Deep-State bureaucracy, and Establishment political parties.

The Beltway Right operates like front parties under the old Soviet system. Like those parties, our Establishment Right tries to "fit in" by dutifully undermining those to its the Right and slowly absorbing the social positions and heroes of the Left .

Occasionally it catches hell for not moving fast enough to the Left. But this only bolsters the image of Conservatism, Inc. as defenders of traditional America against the Left-an image that it won't lose even as it veers farther in the direction of its supposed adversary.

In short, Conservatism Inc. is not just a scam-but it's become a Cultural Marxist puppet. And the Dissident Right consists of those who can see through it.

Paul Gottfried [ email him ] is a retired Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America .

[Apr 27, 2017] Yes, Minister was a neoliberal attack on government as such. It set the "entrepreneurial" political hero/leader against the corrupt "civil service"

Apr 27, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Chris , April 27, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Years ago, while working in an Australian state public service department, we considered 'Yes Minister' to be a documentary, and used it amongst ourselves as training material.

Lambert Strether Post author , April 27, 2017 at 4:26 pm

My favorite episode is "Jobs for the Boys." My favorite line: "Great courage of course. But whatever possessed you?"

(Messing about with the VPN to get the full page )

RUKidding , April 27, 2017 at 5:11 pm

Indeed. I have used it as such, myself! Not snark.

A most excellent book and series. Should be required viewing.

witters , April 27, 2017 at 8:19 pm

Yes, Minister was a neoliberal attack on government as such. It set the "entrepreneurial" political hero/leader against the corrupt "civil service". It made the latter the "deep state", thereby tainting forever the welfare state as an evil hidden conspiracy that (mysteriously) pandered to the meritocratically worthless. If that is what you mean by "Deep State" then you can have it.

Huey Long , April 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm

It is now known that a perfection of planned layout is achieved only by institutions on the point of collapse . [P]erfection of planning is a symptom of decay. During a period of exciting discovery or progress there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters. The time for that comes later, when all the important work has been done. Perfection, we know, is finality; and finality is death.

Following this line of reasoning, it seems to me that the US military establishment has been in decline ever since the Pentagon was built and the temporary Navy Dept. buildings erected on the National Mall were razed. Being that the Pentagon opened in 1943 and the buildings on the Mall were razed in 1970, which roughly coincides with our costly imperial adventures in Korea and Vietnam, I think Parkinson's Law #6 is dead on here.

[Apr 18, 2017] Atomization of workforce as a part of atomization of society under neoliberalism

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness. ..."
"... And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves. ..."
"... The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling. ..."
"... Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation. ..."
"... So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church. ..."
Apr 18, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:09 am
Neoliberalism is creating loneliness. That's what's wrenching society apart George Monbiot, Guardian

George Monbiot on human loneliness and its toll. I agree with his observations. I have been cataloguing them in my head for years, especially after a friend of mine, born in Venice and a long-time resident of Rome, pointed out to me that dogs are a sign of loneliness.

A couple of recent trips to Rome have made that point ever more obvious to me: Compared to my North Side neighborhood in Chicago, where every other person seems to have a dog, and on weekends Clark Street is awash in dogs (on their way to the dog boutiques and the dog food truck), Rome has few dogs. Rome is much more densely populated, and the Italians still have each other, for good or for ill. And Americans use the dog as an odd means of making human contact, at least with other dog owners.

But Americanization advances: I was surprised to see people bring dogs into the dining room of a fairly upscale restaurant in Turin. I haven't seen that before. (Most Italian cafes and restaurants are just too small to accommodate a dog, and the owners don't have much patience for disruptions.) The dogs barked at each other for while–violating a cardinal rule in Italy that mealtime is sacred and tranquil. Loneliness rules.

And the cafes and restaurants on weekends in Chicago–chockfull of people, each on his or her own Powerbook, surfing the WWW all by themselves.

That's why the comments about March on Everywhere in Harper's, recommended by Lambert, fascinated me. Maybe, to be less lonely, you just have to attend the occasional march, no matter how disorganized (and the Chicago Women's March organizers made a few big logistical mistakes), no matter how incoherent. Safety in numbers? (And as Monbiot points out, overeating at home alone is a sign of loneliness: Another argument for a walk with a placard.)

Katharine , April 17, 2017 at 11:39 am

I particularly liked this point:

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet.

With different imagery, the same is true in this country. The preaching of self-reliance by those who have never had to practice it is galling.

DJG , April 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

Katherine: Agreed. It is also one of the reasons why I am skeptical of various evangelical / fundi pastors, who are living at the expense of their churches, preaching about individual salvation.

So you have the upper crust (often with inheritances and trust funds) preaching economic self-reliances, and you have divines preaching individual salvation as they go back to the house provided by the members of the church.

[Mar 25, 2017] What is Economism and why it is so damaging

Notable quotes:
"... Ugh what an awful display of pop economism. Globalization and technology are "impersonal forces." No mention of the rise of inequality or the SecStags. No mention of monetary policy fail in Europe. The biggest lies of economism are the lies of omission. ..."
"... Looks like this concept of "Economism" introduced by James Kwak in his book Economism is very important conceptual tool for understanding the tremendous effectiveness of neoliberal propaganda. ..."
"... When competitive free markets and rational well-informed actors are the baseline assumption, the burden of proof shifts unfairly onto anyone proposing a government policy. ..."
"... For example, the basic Econ 101 theory of supply and demand is fine for some products, but it doesn't work very well for labor markets. It is incapable of simultaneously explaining both the small effect of minimum wage increases and the small impact of low-skilled immigration. Some more complicated, advanced theory is called for. ..."
"... But no matter how much evidence piles up, people keep talking about "the labor supply curve" and "the labor demand curve" as if these are real objects, and to analyze policies -- for example, overtime rules -- using the same old framework. ..."
"... An idea that we believe in despite all evidence to the contrary isn't a scientific theory -- it's an infectious meme. ..."
"... Academic economists are unsure about how to respond to the abuse of simplistic econ theories for political ends. On one hand, it gives them enormous prestige. The popularity of simplistic econ ideas has made economists the toast of America's intellectual classes. ..."
"... It has sustained enormous demand for the undergraduate econ major, which serves, in the words of writer Michael Lewis, as a "standardized test of general intelligence" for future businesspeople. But as Kwak points out, the simple theories promulgated by politicians and on the Wall Street Journal editorial page often bear little resemblance to the sophisticated theories used by real economists. ..."
"... And when things go wrong -- when the financial system crashes, or millions of workers displaced by Chinese imports fail to find new careers -- it's academic economists who often get blamed, not the blasé and misleading popularizers. ..."
Jan 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Peter K. : January 20, 2017 at 04:35 AM

Noah Smith: The Ways That Pop Economics Hurt America - Noah Smith

"So I wonder if economism was really as unrealistic and useless as Kwak seems to imply. Did countries that resisted economism -- Japan, for example, or France [Germany?] -- do better for their poor and middle classes than the U.S.? Wages have stagnated in those countries, and inequality has increased, even as those countries remain poorer than the U.S. Did the U.S.'s problems really all come from economism, or did forces such as globalization and technological change play a part? Cross-country comparisons suggest that the deregulation and tax cuts of the 1980s and 1990s, although ultimately excessive, probably increased economic output somewhat."

Ugh what an awful display of pop economism. Globalization and technology are "impersonal forces." No mention of the rise of inequality or the SecStags. No mention of monetary policy fail in Europe. The biggest lies of economism are the lies of omission.

libezkova -> Peter K.... , -1
Thank you --

Looks like this concept of "Economism" introduced by James Kwak in his book Economism is very important conceptual tool for understanding the tremendous effectiveness of neoliberal propaganda.

I think it is proper to view Economism as a flavor of Lysenkoism. As such it is not very effective in acquiring the dominant position and suppressing of dissent, but it also can be very damaging.

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-19/the-ways-that-pop-economics-hurt-america

== quote ==

...When competitive free markets and rational well-informed actors are the baseline assumption, the burden of proof shifts unfairly onto anyone proposing a government policy. For far too many years, free-marketers have gotten away with winning debates by just sitting back and saying "Oh yeah? Show me the market failure!" That deck-stacking has long forced public intellectuals on the left have to work twice as hard as those safely ensconced in think tanks on the free-market right, and given the latter a louder voice in public life than their ideas warrant.

It's also true that simple theories, especially those we learn in our formative years, can maintain an almost unshakeable grip on our thinking.

For example, the basic Econ 101 theory of supply and demand is fine for some products, but it doesn't work very well for labor markets. It is incapable of simultaneously explaining both the small effect of minimum wage increases and the small impact of low-skilled immigration. Some more complicated, advanced theory is called for.

But no matter how much evidence piles up, people keep talking about "the labor supply curve" and "the labor demand curve" as if these are real objects, and to analyze policies -- for example, overtime rules -- using the same old framework.

An idea that we believe in despite all evidence to the contrary isn't a scientific theory -- it's an infectious meme.

Academic economists are unsure about how to respond to the abuse of simplistic econ theories for political ends. On one hand, it gives them enormous prestige. The popularity of simplistic econ ideas has made economists the toast of America's intellectual classes.

It has sustained enormous demand for the undergraduate econ major, which serves, in the words of writer Michael Lewis, as a "standardized test of general intelligence" for future businesspeople. But as Kwak points out, the simple theories promulgated by politicians and on the Wall Street Journal editorial page often bear little resemblance to the sophisticated theories used by real economists.

And when things go wrong -- when the financial system crashes, or millions of workers displaced by Chinese imports fail to find new careers -- it's academic economists who often get blamed, not the blasé and misleading popularizers.

... ... ...

Russia and China have given up communism not because they stopped having working classes, but because it became obvious that their communist systems were keeping them in poverty. And Americans are now starting to question economism because of declining median income, spiraling inequality and a huge financial and economic crisis.

[Mar 23, 2017] Neoliberalism as a flavor of economism

Wikipedia

Economism is reduction of all social facts to economic dimensions. The term is often used to criticize economics as an ideology, in which supply and demand are the only important factors in decisions, and outstrip or permit ignoring all other factors.

It is believed to be a side effect of neoclassical economics and blind faith in an "invisible hand" or "laissez-faire" means of making decisions, extended far beyond controlled and regulated markets, and used to make political and military decisions.

Conventional ethics would play no role in decisions under pure economism, except insofar as supply would be withheld, demand curtailed, by moral choices of individuals. Thus, critics of economism insist on political and other cultural dimensions in society.

[Mar 11, 2017] Apparently, most Democrats are now defending the CIA [and bashing the US constitution] and trashing WikiLeaks

CIA and militarism loving Democrats are what is called Vichy left...
Notable quotes:
"... "Apparently, most Democrats are now defending the CIA [and bashing the US constitution] and trashing WikiLeaks (who have never had to retract a single story in all their years). The brainwashing is complete. Take a valium and watch your Rachel Maddow [read your poor pk]. I can no longer help you. You have become The Borg." ..."
"... There is a large amount of ground between being a Victoria Nuland neocon hawk going around picking unnecessary fights with Russia and engaging in aggression overt or covert against her or her allies ..."
"... I happen to support reasonable engagement with Russia on matters of mutual interest, and I think there are many of those. I do not support cheerleading when Russia commits aggression against neighbors, which it has, and then lies about it. There is a middle ground, but you and ilsm both seem to have let your brains fall out of your heads onto the sidewalk and then stepped on them hard regarding all this. ..."
"... US Deep state analogy to Stalin's machinations against his rivals seems reasonable. ..."
Mar 11, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Clinton wing of Democratic Party was always undistinguishable from Vichy left

ilsm : March 11, 2017 at 03:26 AM

pk love the dog, the rest is same-o-same, jumped the shark Stalinist rant except instead of Putin! it's Ryan!!

reading vox.....

feed your cognitive dissonance

standards.......

ilsm -> ilsm... , March 11, 2017 at 04:18 AM
"Apparently, most Democrats are now defending the CIA [and bashing the US constitution] and trashing WikiLeaks (who have never had to retract a single story in all their years). The brainwashing is complete. Take a valium and watch your Rachel Maddow [read your poor pk]. I can no longer help you. You have become The Borg."

[my edits]

ken melvin said in reply to ilsm... , March 11, 2017 at 09:13 AM
Actually - Prof Rosser said it to you

Barkley Rosser :

anne and ilsm,

I am going to make one more point, a substantive one. There is a large amount of ground between being a Victoria Nuland neocon hawk going around picking unnecessary fights with Russia and engaging in aggression overt or covert against her or her allies and simply rolling over to be a patsy for the worst fort of RT propaganda and saying that there is no problem whatsoever with having a president who is in deep financial hock to a murderous lying Russian president and who has made inane and incomprehensible remarks about this, along with having staff and aides who lie to the public about their dealings with people from Russia.

I happen to support reasonable engagement with Russia on matters of mutual interest, and I think there are many of those. I do not support cheerleading when Russia commits aggression against neighbors, which it has, and then lies about it. There is a middle ground, but you and ilsm both seem to have let your brains fall out of your heads onto the sidewalk and then stepped on them hard regarding all this.

If you find this offensive or intimidating, anne, sorry, but I am not going to apologize. Frankly, I think you should apologize for the stupid and offensive things you have said on this subject, about which I do not think you have the intimately personal knowledge that I have.
Reply Wednesday, March 08, 2017 at 12:36 AM

Paine -> ilsm... , March 11, 2017 at 08:19 AM
My dear interlocutor
As a once overt and future sleeper cell Stalinist
I'm perplexed by your artful use of Stalinist

In my experience that label was restricted to pinko circles notably
Trotskyists pinning the dirty tag on various shades of commie types
On the other side of the great divide of the early thirties

Buy you --

To you it seems synonymous with Orwellian demons of all stripes

A part can of course stand in for a whole

But can uncle joe really stand in for the DLC ?

Paine -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 08:21 AM
The new left extended fascist to fit Hubert Humphrey
So I confess the stretch is conceivable but is it catalytic
RGC -> Paine... , March 11, 2017 at 08:31 AM
US Deep state analogy to Stalin's machinations against his rivals seems reasonable.

Maybe you are more a Bukharinist than Stalinist.

[Mar 10, 2017] As Joan Robinson said you should study economics to protect yourself from the lies of economists

That's not so much about Eurocentric modernism as America-centric neoliberalism
Notable quotes:
"... He first caught the scent that something was off as an economics student in India, wondering why, despite his mastery of the mathematics and technology of the discipline, the logic always escaped him. Then one day he had an epiphany: the whole thing was "cockeyed from start to finish." To his amazement, his best teachers agreed. "Then why are we studying economics?" demanded the pupil. "To protect ourselves from the lies of economists," replied the great economist Joan Robinson. ..."
"... Kanth realized that people are not at all like Adam Smith's homo economicus , a narrowly self-interested agent trucking and bartering through life. Smith had turned the human race - a species capable of wondrous caring, creativity, and conviviality - into a nasty horde of instinctive materialists: a society of hustlers. ..."
"... how this way of thinking took hold of us, and how it delivered a society which is essentially asocial - one in which everybody sees everybody else as a means to their own private ends. ..."
"... he argues, consigned us to an endless and exhausting Hobbesian competition. For every expansion of the market, we found our social space shrunk and our natural environment spoiled. For every benefit we received, there came a new way to pit us against each other. Have the costs become too high? ..."
"... "That's our big dream," says Kanth. "Everyone and everything is a stepping stone to our personal glorification." When others get in our way, we end up with a grim take on life described succinctly by Jean Paul Sartre: "Hell is other people." ..."
"... Mr. Kanth makes some valid points, but his criticism of the European Enlightenment is mistaken. Many of the horrors of modernity had their origins in the Counter-Enlightenment and in the Church Inquisitions, not the Enlightenment. The modern police state is a refinement of and a descendant of the struggles against heresy. ..."
"... Agreed. Parramore's phrase 'history of a set of bad ideas' does seem a bit harsh for a description of the Enlightenment. ..."
"... Like most big ideas, the problem isn't with the original idea so much as the corruption of it over the years as it's put into practice. Massive reform is necessary for sure but I'll take the Enlightenment over nasty, brutish, and short any day. ..."
"... I read somewhere that some Native Americans looking down on the ruins of San Fransisco after the great quake of 1906, thought that at last the crazy white people would realize the folly of their ways, and become normal humans. ..."
"... So they were amazed that before the ruins even stopped smoking, the crazy white people, ignoring the obvious displeasure of the Great Spirit, were busy rebuilding the same mess that had just been destroyed. ..."
"... I have a strong suspicion that evil empires do not come to their senses, rather, one way or another, they get flattened. ..."
"... I can remember arguing over this in my philosophy classes way back in the 80's – that Objectivism and the Enlightenment were two sides of the same coin, and that those Enlightenment writers were writing tomes to justify their own greed and prejudices, while cloaking their greed and prejudices in "morality". ..."
"... At the time (I was young) it seemed to me that the Enlightenment was an attempt to destroy the basis of Jesus's and Buddha's philosophy – that the most moral position of humanity was to care for its members, just as clans, tribes, families, and other human societies did. ..."
"... "They didn't accomplish much" meaning they lost militarily to cultures with more aggression and better weapons. ..."
"... It seems to me that humans, as hierarchical mammals, really do have a desire to compete with each other for status and respect. The trouble is in organizing all of society around this one struggle, forcing everyone into explicit competition and making the stakes too high. When the losers can't afford to buy food, when they and their little children live on the street and die in the cold, when their kids can never compete on an equal field to improve their own status, things have gone too far. And in addition to material needs, humans also have a need for independence, an escape from being constantly ordered around by the winners and under someone else's thumb. ..."
"... Note, as an aside, how granting economic rights to outgroups like women and Blacks brought them into the same market competition. Well, a lot of men don't want to compete with women for status. They want to compete with each other. The more competitors you add the harder it is to win. But when all resources ..."
"... I think you're right about that and if we do ever manage to abolish capitalism and develop a less violent and more egalitarian society, there will need to be an outlet for that innate desire. I propose hockey. Beats starting a war . ..."
"... When President Trump defeated his rival in the last election, among the many ways in which the event was captured was a representation of the President as Perseus carrying the head of Medusa (Clinton) in his outstretched left hand. Medusa was a monster gorgon of the Greek mythology; a representation in this case by Clinton (a woman) who dared to take real power in this essentially male world and silenced for trying to participate in the public discourse (election). ..."
"... The point is that what passes as Modernism has never entered modern life. In support of my proposition I cite an encounter between a journalist and Mahatma Gandhi in 1930s: The journalist asked Gandhi, "Mr. Gandhi, what is your opinion of the western civilization?" Gandhi replied instantaneously "It would be a good idea". ..."
"... I think he's right about Eurocentric modernism being incompatible with human civilization. But it can't be just an evolutionary accident that civilization is so aggressive. It served a purpose. We refer to it as 'survival'. I used to tell my daughter not to make fun of those 'dorky little boys' too much because they all had a way of growing up to be very nice men. And I told her women are the reason we have all survived, but men have made it so much easier! And etc. ..."
"... I believe that one element of modern life that should be removed forever is the infinite search for maximizing profits. ..."
"... On more than one occasion I've compared the rent-seeking profit mongers to Molocks that cultivate us milder Eloi and cannabalize us. ..."
"... But the economics profession's problem isn't "blind faith in science." It's a massive failure to apply the scientific method, combined with an expectation that we all put our blind faith in THEM anyway. ..."
"... Essentially a post-modern critique of modernism without all the jargon of p-m critical theory (yay!!). I don't think we have enough data from the pre-modern huddling societies to determine if that's how we want to live. Yes, my boss at work exploits me, but on the other hand, I can walk into an air-conditioned supermarket and survey row after row of steaks that I can afford to buy. I love to drive cars. The cinema is enchanting. Dying of a plague is a very remote possibility. We could give it all up, but there's no guarantee our lives would be richer or fuller–just different, at best. ..."
"... Just how dark were the Dark Ages? Or, to borrow Churchill's phrase, how dark would a NEW Dark Age be? ..."
"... Two possibles: the cargo cult children of Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, or the society depicted in Aldous Huxley's Ape and Essence. At least the Church in Rome and Constantinople provided some kind of lifeline of civilization during the collapse of the Roman Empire. What similar institution have we now? ..."
"... Sounds like bog-standard post-modernist tosh to me, just without the obscure ProfSpeak jargon that usually accompanies it. I fail to see how this is helpful. ..."
"... The only thing missing in this post is Bambi. Of course the Bushmen would kill Bambi dead with spears and roast her flesh over a fire. So would we, actually. hmmmm. ..."
"... I agree dude is right that the values now unraveling (democracy, pluralism, individualism, free speech, international-ism (in both the good and bad ways)) go all the way back to that time. ..."
"... But this article is a perfect example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Surely none of the third world cultures he praises got where they are by totally throwing out previous systems, the good parts and bad, every time they faced a crisis. ..."
"... IMO the problem is enlightenment values have been hollowed out, narrowed to only those superficial aspects of those values which benefit the marketplace. Like how real food got turned into Mosanto fast-food so gradually, nobody noticed that the nutrients are missing. ..."
"... Adam Smith had some good points that have been lost along the way, namely penalizing rent seeking. ..."
"... Smith has been seriously misrepresented. The Theory of Moral Sentiments shows a very different side to that presented by those who selectively quote from The Wealth of Nations. ..."
"... It's hard to tell from the rather incoherent summary of what looks like an incoherent argument, but the "everything went wrong after the Enlightenment" meme has been circulating for ages. It was speared pretty effectively by Domenico Losurdo in "War and Revolution" some years ago. The author seems to be jumbling all sorts of arguments together, some valid and some not, but the valid arguments are in general criticisms of liberalism, which is not the same of the Enlightenment. ..."
"... This is a very good point, as the Enlightenment was not merely a straight line connection to the blight of NeoLiberalism ..."
"... The naked embrace of selfishness, while never absent over these centuries, did have countervailing currents and forces with which to contend that were sometimes able to at least minimize the damage. But more recently, with supposedly scientific NeoLiberal economic thought sweeping the field throughout much of the first world, and with the overall decline of religious and moral systems as a counterpoise, things have reached an unlovely pass. ..."
"... homo economicus ..."
"... For further reading, I strongly recommend John Ralston Saul's "Voltaire's Bastards". ..."
"... I think that people who are interested in how the Enlightenment may or may not have contributed to the problems of modernity would do well to read Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity , by Darrin McMahon. Another book of value is The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters , by Anthony Pagden. ..."
"... I should have mentioned that the full title is "Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West". ..."
Mar 10, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

Across the globe, a collective freak-out spanning the whole political system is picking up steam with every new "surprise" election, rush of tormented souls across borders, and tweet from the star of America's great unreality show, Donald Trump.

But what exactly is the force that seems to be pushing us towards Armageddon? Is it capitalism gone wild? Globalization? Political corruption? Techno-nightmares?

Rajani Kanth, a political economist, social thinker, and poet , goes beyond any of these explanations for the answer. In his view, what's throwing most of us off kilter - whether we think of ourselves as on the left or right, capitalist or socialist -was birthed 400 years ago during the period of the Enlightenment. It's a set of assumptions, a particular way of looking at the world that pushed out previous modes of existence, many quite ancient and time-tested, and eventually rose to dominate the world in its Anglo-American form.

We're taught to think of the Enlightenment as the blessed end to the Dark Ages, a splendid blossoming of human reason. But what if instead of bringing us to a better world, some of this period's key ideas ended up producing something even darker?

Kanth argues that this framework, which he calls Eurocentric modernism, is collapsing, and unless we understand why and how it has distorted our reality, we might just end up burnt to a crisp as this misanthropic Death Star starts to bulge and blaze in its dying throes.

A Mass Incarceration of Humanity

Kanth's latest book, Farewell to Modernism: On Human Devolution in the Twenty-First Century , tells the history of a set of bad ideas. He first caught the scent that something was off as an economics student in India, wondering why, despite his mastery of the mathematics and technology of the discipline, the logic always escaped him. Then one day he had an epiphany: the whole thing was "cockeyed from start to finish." To his amazement, his best teachers agreed. "Then why are we studying economics?" demanded the pupil. "To protect ourselves from the lies of economists," replied the great economist Joan Robinson.

Kanth realized that people are not at all like Adam Smith's homo economicus , a narrowly self-interested agent trucking and bartering through life. Smith had turned the human race - a species capable of wondrous caring, creativity, and conviviality - into a nasty horde of instinctive materialists: a society of hustlers.

Using his training in history and cultural theory, Kanth dedicated himself to investigating how this way of thinking took hold of us, and how it delivered a society which is essentially asocial - one in which everybody sees everybody else as a means to their own private ends. Eurocentric modernism, he argues, consigned us to an endless and exhausting Hobbesian competition. For every expansion of the market, we found our social space shrunk and our natural environment spoiled. For every benefit we received, there came a new way to pit us against each other. Have the costs become too high?

The Creed of Capture

The Eurocentric modernist program, according to Kanth, has four planks: a blind faith in science; a self-serving belief in progress; rampant materialism; and a penchant for using state violence to achieve its ends. In a nutshell, it's a habit of placing individual self-interest above the welfare of community and society.

To illustrate one of its signature follies, Kanth refers to that great Hollywood ode to the Western spirit, "The Sound of Music." Early in the film, the Mother Superior bursts into song, calling on the nun Maria to "climb every mountain, ford every stream."

Sounds exhilarating, but to what end? Why exactly do we need to ford every stream? From the Eurocentric modernist viewpoint, Kanth says, the answer is not so innocent: we secretly do it so that we can say to ourselves, "Look, I achieved something that's beyond the reach of somebody else." Hooray for me!

"That's our big dream," says Kanth. "Everyone and everything is a stepping stone to our personal glorification." When others get in our way, we end up with a grim take on life described succinctly by Jean Paul Sartre: "Hell is other people."

Sounds bad, but didn't Eurocentric modernism also give us our great democratic ideals of equality and liberty to elevate and protect us?

Maybe these notions are not really our salvation, suggests Kanth. He notes that when we replace the vital ties of kinship and community with abstract contractual relations, or when we find that the only sanctioned paths in life are that of consumer or producer, we become alienated and depressed in spirit. Abstract rights like liberty and equality turn out to be rather cold comfort. These ideas, however lofty, may not get at the most basic human wants and needs. .

... ... ...

Kanth, like many, senses that a global financial crisis, or some other equivalent catastrophe, like war or natural disaster, may soon produce painful and seismic economic and political disruptions. Perhaps only then will human nature reassert itself as we come to rediscover the crucial nexus of reciprocities that is our real heritage. That's what will enable us to survive.

... ... ...

DJG , March 10, 2017 at 10:27 am

Oh?

"The Eurocentric modernist program, according to Kanth, has four planks: a blind faith in science; a self-serving belief in progress; rampant materialism; and a penchant for using state violence to achieve its ends. In a nutshell, it's a habit of placing individual self-interest above the welfare of community and society."

Kanth hasn't dealt much with the wild skepticism of Enlightenment and modernist thinkers: That would put a strain on such simplistic thinking. He's never heard of Kant or Rousseau? Pascal? He's never even read Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach"? Dickens? A speech by Abraham Lincoln? The novels of Jane Austen? Maybe some articles by Antonio Gramsci? The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa? Anything about Einstein? Or even Freud for that matter? Looked at a painting or etching or work in ceramic by Picasso?

Just because economics has devolved into looting and excuse-making for looting isn't a critique of the cultural and scientific flowering that were part of the Enlightenment and Modernism. Are we really supposed to think that Milton Friedman and his delusions have destroyed all aspects of the enormous changes since 1600 or so? And I, for one, don't want to backslide into the Baroque–when states used their power for religious wars so virulent that Silesia and Alsace were depopulated.

kgw , March 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Alienation is not the name of a river in Egypt BTW, Did any of your examples lead to anything other than this?
The sum of individuals adds up to the bizarre creature we call "culture." A flower in the air, to be sure.

craazyman , March 10, 2017 at 12:12 pm

They didn't even have food delivery! This post isn't the best evah in the history of NC - I mean it shouldn't be censored or taken down or anything and everybody has a right to an opinion, but "Oy Vey what a shock to a reader's delicate intellectual sensibilities."

You wonder if it's Beer Goggles that are being looked through or if this is a case of transference and projection. The fact that the post author is a poet raises suspicion, since they aren't the most reliable sources when it come so sober factual analysis.

Vatch , March 10, 2017 at 10:35 am

Mr. Kanth makes some valid points, but his criticism of the European Enlightenment is mistaken. Many of the horrors of modernity had their origins in the Counter-Enlightenment and in the Church Inquisitions, not the Enlightenment. The modern police state is a refinement of and a descendant of the struggles against heresy.

If one is going to criticize societies for lacking "moral economies", it's not just the European (and American) based societies that need to be targeted. Other societies have deep failures that extend back for millennia, such as the caste system of India.

lyman alpha blob , March 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Agreed. Parramore's phrase 'history of a set of bad ideas' does seem a bit harsh for a description of the Enlightenment.

Been a while since I read Candide , but the end where he meets the world famous sage and asks for the secret of happiness in a terrible world only to be told 'Tend your own garden' and then having the gate slammed in his face has always stuck with me.

You could interpret that to mean isolate yourself from your fellow human beings and just look out for yourself, but I don't think that's what Voltaire was getting at.

Like most big ideas, the problem isn't with the original idea so much as the corruption of it over the years as it's put into practice. Massive reform is necessary for sure but I'll take the Enlightenment over nasty, brutish, and short any day.

Mark P. , March 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm

http://www.kashgar.com.au/articles/life-in-india-the-practice-of-sati-or-widow-burning

Widow-burning - a wonderful holistic Indian practice that those evil post-enlightenment European imperialists obstructed.

steelhead23 , March 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

Perhaps, beyond anthropology, there are lessons in evolutionary biology. Individual humans are fairly weak animals. Our ancestors were obligated to "huddle" to survive, or as Richard Dawkins might suggest, huddling, banding together in families and groups, was an evolutionarily successful strategy. Those well adapted to communal living were more likely to survive, so that tendency was selected for. However, "cheaters" can also survive. That is, it is not uncommon in the natural world to find individuals and groups of individuals who cheat the group – expend less energy to reproduce, such as male sunfish that display the secondary sexual characteristics of females, so are not driven off by nest building males, make a mad dash in to fertilize eggs when a real female shows up, but provides no protection for the young – the adult male does that. In human culture, there are also cheaters, those who provide little to the larger society, yet reap a disproportionate level of resources.

So, learning more of our cultural roots and adopting positive measures for social cohesion is a good idea, but much like Jesus' view that the poor will always be with us, cheaters, from banksters to dictators, will too.

MtnLife , March 10, 2017 at 10:43 am

As Kanth sees it, most of our utopian visions carry on the errors and limitations born of a misguided view of human nature. That's why communism, as it was practiced in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, projected a materialist perspective on progress while ignoring the natural human instinct for autonomy- the ability to decide for ourselves where to go and what to say and create. On flip side, capitalism runs against our instinct to trust and take care of each other.

I think this paragraph speaks volumes for transitioning to a society with a BGI with libertarian socialist leanings. Let people be free to create what they are passionate about while allowing humans to express their innate desire to care for one another without it signifying weakness or at their time own personal expense. I don't think this approach necessarily precludes rockets to Mars either. The engineers who are passionate will still get together and build one. It may take a little longer if they can't convince others to help but hopefully this will foster more cooperative approaches and less viewing of other humans as consumables.

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

JTMcPhee , March 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

And where does "libertarian socialism" end up taking us? Hmmm http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-i-%e2%80%93the-vision.html

No thanks. We're pretty well there already.

MtnLife , March 10, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Libertarianism and libertarian socialism are two different things. Libertarianism is a less authoritative conservatism while libertarian socialism is a less authoritative social democracy. Think Chomsky, not Ron Paul. Or think of it as a more relaxed Bernie who thinks things should be done on a smaller, more local scale.

Watt4Bob , March 10, 2017 at 10:44 am

Kanth, like many, senses that a global financial crisis, or some other equivalent catastrophe, like war or natural disaster, may soon produce painful and seismic economic and political disruptions. Perhaps only then will human nature reassert itself as we come to rediscover the crucial nexus of reciprocities that is our real heritage. That's what will enable us to survive.

I read somewhere that some Native Americans looking down on the ruins of San Fransisco after the great quake of 1906, thought that at last the crazy white people would realize the folly of their ways, and become normal humans.

So they were amazed that before the ruins even stopped smoking, the crazy white people, ignoring the obvious displeasure of the Great Spirit, were busy rebuilding the same mess that had just been destroyed.

I have a strong suspicion that evil empires do not come to their senses, rather, one way or another, they get flattened.

justanotherprogressive , March 10, 2017 at 10:45 am

Yes, yes, yes! THIS!

I can remember arguing over this in my philosophy classes way back in the 80's – that Objectivism and the Enlightenment were two sides of the same coin, and that those Enlightenment writers were writing tomes to justify their own greed and prejudices, while cloaking their greed and prejudices in "morality".

At the time (I was young) it seemed to me that the Enlightenment was an attempt to destroy the basis of Jesus's and Buddha's philosophy – that the most moral position of humanity was to care for its members, just as clans, tribes, families, and other human societies did.

The most frequent response from professors and classmates to my thesis? But those clans, tribes, families, etc., didn't accomplish much, did they? As if the only reason for humanity's existence was to compete against itself

Needless to say, I didn't stick with Philosophy ..

Darius , March 10, 2017 at 12:13 pm

And we need new syntheses, at which this is an attempt.

It's not a stretch to say the trend since the renaissance has been to exalt the individual. Kanth is aiming for a communitarian philosophy. An interesting departure point for discussion. I don't see what people find so offensive.

reslez , March 10, 2017 at 12:09 pm

"They didn't accomplish much" meaning they lost militarily to cultures with more aggression and better weapons.

It seems to me that humans, as hierarchical mammals, really do have a desire to compete with each other for status and respect. The trouble is in organizing all of society around this one struggle, forcing everyone into explicit competition and making the stakes too high. When the losers can't afford to buy food, when they and their little children live on the street and die in the cold, when their kids can never compete on an equal field to improve their own status, things have gone too far. And in addition to material needs, humans also have a need for independence, an escape from being constantly ordered around by the winners and under someone else's thumb.

Capitalism made the stakes too high. But it was designed by the winners.

You might argue that there were plenty of "hopeless losers" in the systems that preceded capitalism - the orphans, elderly crones, and beggars without livelihoods who used to wander the hedgerows in medieval times. We have more resources now which also means no excuses.

Note, as an aside, how granting economic rights to outgroups like women and Blacks brought them into the same market competition. Well, a lot of men don't want to compete with women for status. They want to compete with each other. The more competitors you add the harder it is to win. But when all resources are restricted to the market, it's unjust to exclude any group from access. Once again the stakes are too high. Social democracies are better places to live for exactly this reason.

lyman alpha blob , March 10, 2017 at 1:18 pm

It seems to me that humans, as hierarchical mammals, really do have a desire to compete with each other for status and respect.

I think you're right about that and if we do ever manage to abolish capitalism and develop a less violent and more egalitarian society, there will need to be an outlet for that innate desire. I propose hockey. Beats starting a war .

Hemang , March 10, 2017 at 10:50 am

When President Trump defeated his rival in the last election, among the many ways in which the event was captured was a representation of the President as Perseus carrying the head of Medusa (Clinton) in his outstretched left hand. Medusa was a monster gorgon of the Greek mythology; a representation in this case by Clinton (a woman) who dared to take real power in this essentially male world and silenced for trying to participate in the public discourse (election).

I take this example to point out that both Lynn Parramore and Rajni Kanth declaring in a version of mumbo-jumbo are sadly wrong-modernism has always been skin-deep excepting in accommodating the technological element in the tone of life. Voltaire and Rousseau aside, both Kanth and Parramore know which side of the mumbo-jumbo bread is their butter; even bemoaning the collapsing supposed ruins of modernism they do not fail to take advantage! "Eurocentric modernism has unhinged us from our human nature" asserts Kanth in his "book" but I would like to bluntly ask him: Please define your "us" and "our" in that proposition and clarify if poor Indians like Yours Truly find a dot in that set.

The point is that what passes as Modernism has never entered modern life. In support of my proposition I cite an encounter between a journalist and Mahatma Gandhi in 1930s: The journalist asked Gandhi, "Mr. Gandhi, what is your opinion of the western civilization?" Gandhi replied instantaneously "It would be a good idea".

Stephanie , March 10, 2017 at 11:04 am

"The Eurocentric modernist program, according to Kanth, has a penchant for using state violence to achieve its ends."

I'm not entirely sure how this differentiates Eurocentric modernism from any other civilization.

Hemang , March 10, 2017 at 11:45 am

It does not at all. This is the price one pays as an innocent reader by reading social science mumbo jumbo which is so irksome. It lacks the grace of the real mumbo jumbo too. Kanth is bluffing; the author misunderstands his stupid linguistic constructions of Kanth and incomprehension and chaos follow. The whole article seems to be a bluff about a bluff(the book).

susan the other , March 10, 2017 at 11:15 am

I think he's right about Eurocentric modernism being incompatible with human civilization. But it can't be just an evolutionary accident that civilization is so aggressive. It served a purpose. We refer to it as 'survival'. I used to tell my daughter not to make fun of those 'dorky little boys' too much because they all had a way of growing up to be very nice men. And I told her women are the reason we have all survived, but men have made it so much easier! And etc.

We have been very successful as a species; surviving all of our own inquisitions, pogroms, hallucinations and yes, this is a serious situation we are in. We might even try to guide ourselves out of it, using science and technology, as we huddle.

JEHR , March 10, 2017 at 11:18 am

I believe that one element of modern life that should be removed forever is the infinite search for maximizing profits.

Art Eclectic , March 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

On more than one occasion I've compared the rent-seeking profit mongers to Molocks that cultivate us milder Eloi and cannabalize us.

readerOfTeaLeaves , March 10, 2017 at 11:56 am

I suspect there was a fatal error long, long ago: you lend me your ram so my ewe can have offspring. If there are twins, we each get one; if not, we agree upon future breeding rights and grazing areas. After generations of this sort of breeding activity, I have in my mind the notion that there is a 'natural increase' from lending or swapping.

Along comes a scribe with a tablet, whom I have now hired to list the number of my flocks (wealth on the hoof); I lend you forms of wealth (rams, ewes, oxen, axes, boats) , and the scribe assumes there must be some 'natural increase' as the outcome of this lending and swapping. Consequently, the scribe carves cuneiform markings to represent what we might call 'compound interest' that result from lending and swapping of non-biological resources - despite the fact that if you sit two clay tablets in the sun, they do not (and never will!) create an additional clay tablet. Ditto heaps of dollar bills; it's not the money that creates increase; it's the assumption of 'increase' (originating in breeding activity of flocks and herds) that makes the money generate surplus - not any property of those scraps of paper themselves.

BTW: FWIW, double entry bookkeeping seems to trace the earliest period of modernism, which IMVHO adds heft to Kanth's argument about something shifting probably earlier than 400 years ago.

It's possible that Michael Hudson has covered this; if so, I've not had time to read it yet. I hope to in future. David Graeber's work on redemption ('buying back' someone enslaved or indentured) and his anthropological findings also lend heft to Kanth's analysis.

Karen , March 10, 2017 at 11:28 am

I certainly agree with this:

"He first caught the scent that something was off as an economics student in India, wondering why, despite his mastery of the mathematics and technology of the discipline, the logic always escaped him. Then one day he had an epiphany: the whole thing was "cockeyed from start to finish.""

But the economics profession's problem isn't "blind faith in science." It's a massive failure to apply the scientific method, combined with an expectation that we all put our blind faith in THEM anyway.

I think our problems do not stem from any theories or ideologies, they are the predictable result of human nature – specifically of the fact that the balance between the loving side of human nature and the aggressive side is not evenly distributed among individuals. It is precisely the most aggressive among us who most desire, and work the hardest, to dominate and control others.

jrs , March 10, 2017 at 12:39 pm

I had the same experience as he had with economics with law, ok I only studied it when studying business and that does not a lawyer make, but it made no sense for me. But I do think I maybe just have the wrong kind of brain for it, expect a logic that isn't there.

Phil in KC , March 10, 2017 at 11:33 am

Essentially a post-modern critique of modernism without all the jargon of p-m critical theory (yay!!). I don't think we have enough data from the pre-modern huddling societies to determine if that's how we want to live. Yes, my boss at work exploits me, but on the other hand, I can walk into an air-conditioned supermarket and survey row after row of steaks that I can afford to buy. I love to drive cars. The cinema is enchanting. Dying of a plague is a very remote possibility. We could give it all up, but there's no guarantee our lives would be richer or fuller–just different, at best.

Just how dark were the Dark Ages? Or, to borrow Churchill's phrase, how dark would a NEW Dark Age be? I don't think you can get rid of Modernism very easily, for certain parts would survive. Science and tech, for example. Ideas of surveillance and control. But along with this, new prejudices, new superstitions, perhaps? What perverse new form of religion or philosophy might arise from the ashes of our civilization?

Two possibles: the cargo cult children of Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome, or the society depicted in Aldous Huxley's Ape and Essence. At least the Church in Rome and Constantinople provided some kind of lifeline of civilization during the collapse of the Roman Empire. What similar institution have we now?

Anonymous , March 10, 2017 at 11:58 am

Sounds like bog-standard post-modernist tosh to me, just without the obscure ProfSpeak jargon that usually accompanies it. I fail to see how this is helpful.

craazyman , March 10, 2017 at 11:38 am

The only thing missing in this post is Bambi. Of course the Bushmen would kill Bambi dead with spears and roast her flesh over a fire. So would we, actually. hmmmm.

Ivy , March 10, 2017 at 11:38 am

To illustrate one of its signature follies, Kanth refers to that great Hollywood ode to the Western spirit, "The Sound of Music." Early in the film, the Mother Superior bursts into song, calling on the nun Maria to "climb every mountain, ford every stream."

Sounds exhilarating, but to what end? Why exactly do we need to ford every stream? From the Eurocentric modernist viewpoint, Kanth says, the answer is not so innocent: we secretly do it so that we can say to ourselves, "Look, I achieved something that's beyond the reach of somebody else." Hooray for me!

Many would part company with Kanth over the above characterization. There are many reasons why people climb mountains and ford streams that do not include, or even consider, that element of exclusive personal achievement. Some might even aver that climbing and fording and so many other human activities are done "because it is there", while others appreciate a spiritual or other inspirational aspect.

Will we climbers and forders be told that we are selfish or otherwise deficient or on the wrong side of history or whatever the mal du jour is because we like a little bit of hygge or Gemütlichkeit as we live our lives?

windsock , March 10, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Quite that is indeed the point where I stopped reading and started skimming someone who mistakes metaphors in a musical for physical actions is not going to enlighten my world (no matter how much I dislike the film).

jrs , March 10, 2017 at 12:48 pm

climbing every mountain and fording every stream is probably impossible in the literal sense (aren't there way too many streams for this? and mountains probably too), and certainly it is impossible in the metaphoric one.

So mostly it's completely unrealistic bilge.

Musicismath , March 10, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I don't see why poor Julie Andrews, of all people, has to be singled out here as exemplifying malign post-Enlightenment discourses of proprietorship and exploitation. That's just mean . Surely those ideologies are better examined through a close reading of the Shamen's inexcusable '90s electro hit "Move Every Mountain"?

schultzzz , March 10, 2017 at 11:45 am

I agree dude is right that the values now unraveling (democracy, pluralism, individualism, free speech, international-ism (in both the good and bad ways)) go all the way back to that time.

But this article is a perfect example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Surely none of the third world cultures he praises got where they are by totally throwing out previous systems, the good parts and bad, every time they faced a crisis.

IMO the problem is enlightenment values have been hollowed out, narrowed to only those superficial aspects of those values which benefit the marketplace. Like how real food got turned into Mosanto fast-food so gradually, nobody noticed that the nutrients are missing.

PKMKII , March 10, 2017 at 11:47 am

While it's obvious how this thesis deflates modern capitalism, it would also appear to me that the idea of refocusing on "kinship and community" would present a challenge to the "global solidarity" mentality underlying most leftist thinking as well. You cannot simultaneously have an emphasis on the huddled community, while also arguing that workers worldwide have a deeper and more important connection than the business owner and his or her employees (assuming both are from within the same community, natch). Either you assume humans have a universal commonness, which effectively obliterates the notion of community, or you accept humans tend towards tribalism, which both discounts any notion of creating a global, uniform leftist economics, but also suggests a troubling tendency towards xenophobia.

cojo , March 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Good point, "kinship and community" are analogous to tribalism and nationalism on a larger scale unless you rephrase it to mean kinship with your family and neighbors on the local level, and with humanity on a national/global level. Unfortunately, some of our current liberal globalists seem to be forgetting the part about local kinship and community while embracing global humanity. I dunno, may have something to do with cheaper labor abroad.

PKMKII , March 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Partly, but there's also an association in the minds of many liberals and leftists of localized control and thinking equating with oppression, historically. Things like segregation, discrimination, violations of the separation of church and state, anti-labor employment & worksite laws, etc.

cojo , March 10, 2017 at 11:48 am

I think Kanth is quick to criticize materialism and scientific progress for all our ills while seeming to have missed the horrid standards of living in his anthropological studies prior to scientific progress with enlightenment principles over theocracy. I'd like to know what the longevity of per-enlightenment citizens was compared to today. In fact, longevity in this country around 1900 was still in the mid 40's for most.

What I find would have been a better argument is to focus his critique not on scientific progress, but on how there always seems to be a certain small minority of the population which seems to have an out sized voice in how we choose to self govern. What we seem to be losing today is the silent majority of voices who are for universal health care, not eroding further entitlements, bodily security as well as economic security while still being able to encourage those who chose to take risks and put themselves through more work and strain to be fairly rewarded.

The problem as I see it today, is that the pendulum, both politically, and socially, has swung too far towards the selfish individualist.

PKMKII , March 10, 2017 at 1:04 pm

The problem with how science is seen in a modernist context is two-fold. The "blind faith" leads people to see it as all-encompassing, all-powerful, and not recognizing its scope and where that scope ends. Ergo, anything that is successfully sold to the public and TPTB as "science" gets said treatment and is viewed as being unquestionable (like, say, neoclassical economics).

Don Midwest USA , March 10, 2017 at 11:50 am

Bruno Latour has been on this for decades in 1991 the book "We Have Never Been Modern" This has been followed by many other books, prizes, invited lectures, and thought exhibition called Reset Modernity. The book, published last year, is related to the exhibition with that title. Published by MIT press with 60 authors.

Reset Modernity

Reset Modernity!
Edited by Bruno Latour and Christophe Leclerc

Overview
Modernity has had so many meanings and tries to combine so many contradictory sets of attitudes and values that it has become impossible to use it to define the future. It has ended up crashing like an overloaded computer. Hence the idea is that modernity might need a sort of reset. Not a clean break, not a "tabula rasa," not another iconoclastic gesture, but rather a restart of the complicated programs that have been accumulated, over the course of history, in what is often called the "modernist project." This operation has become all the more urgent now that the ecological mutation is forcing us to reorient ourselves toward an experience of the material world for which we don't seem to have good recording devices.

Reset Modernity! is organized around six procedures that might induce the readers to reset some of those instruments. Once this reset has been completed, readers might be better prepared for a series of new encounters with other cultures. After having been thrown into the modernist maelstrom, those cultures have difficulties that are just as grave as ours in orienting themselves within the notion of modernity. It is not impossible that the course of those encounters might be altered after modernizers have reset their own way of recording their experience of the world.

At the intersection of art, philosophy, and anthropology, Reset Modernity! has assembled close to sixty authors, most of whom have participated, in one way or another, in the Inquiry into Modes of Existence initiated by Bruno Latour. Together they try to see whether such a reset and such encounters have any practicality. Much like the two exhibitions Iconoclash and Making Things Public, this book documents and completes what could be called a "thought exhibition:" Reset Modernity! held at ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe from April to August 2016. Like the two others, this book, generously illustrated, includes contributions, excerpts, and works from many authors and artists.

Sam , March 10, 2017 at 11:51 am

Seems to me that the insight into the relevancy of anthropology vis a vis economics is a product of science. And Adam Smith had some good points that have been lost along the way, namely penalizing rent seeking.

Anonymous2 , March 10, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Smith has been seriously misrepresented. The Theory of Moral Sentiments shows a very different side to that presented by those who selectively quote from The Wealth of Nations.

David , March 10, 2017 at 12:01 pm

It's hard to tell from the rather incoherent summary of what looks like an incoherent argument, but the "everything went wrong after the Enlightenment" meme has been circulating for ages. It was speared pretty effectively by Domenico Losurdo in "War and Revolution" some years ago. The author seems to be jumbling all sorts of arguments together, some valid and some not, but the valid arguments are in general criticisms of liberalism, which is not the same of the Enlightenment.

JerseyJeffersonian , March 10, 2017 at 1:25 pm

This is a very good point, as the Enlightenment was not merely a straight line connection to the blight of NeoLiberalism. Rather, there were those, such as Burke, or some of our "Founding Fathers" who were students of history, and while discriminating observers of the deleterious elements of human nature, they were also cognizant of the more helpful elements of that same human nature.

They, however, tended toward the view that those helpful elements required deliberate nurturance in order to come to the fore. Some of this nurturance could be achieved by partially neutralizing the deleterious elements by balancing interests (you weren't going to get rid of the propensities, but you could limit the scope of their play by pitting societal forces one against the other in political structures, vide the doctrine of separation of powers), while nurturance could also be achieved through perpetuation of those societal institutions that address the individual conscience and behaviors like religious doctrine and examples.

The naked embrace of selfishness, while never absent over these centuries, did have countervailing currents and forces with which to contend that were sometimes able to at least minimize the damage. But more recently, with supposedly scientific NeoLiberal economic thought sweeping the field throughout much of the first world, and with the overall decline of religious and moral systems as a counterpoise, things have reached an unlovely pass.

But it would be incorrect to solely blame Enlightenment themes for where we are today. Much of what was presumed to be necessary to the proper, humane functioning of the ideal Enlightenment society has been pushed aside in favor of the degraded every-man-for-himself, homo economicus scourge that holds sway.

Fox Blew , March 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Great post. For further reading, I strongly recommend John Ralston Saul's "Voltaire's Bastards".

Vatch , March 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Joseph de Maistre, the conservative critic of Enlightenment values, deserves far more blame for the horrors of modernity than do Voltaire or his like minded colleagues. And I can't even find de Maistre mentioned in the index of Saul's book.

Since I haven't read Saul's book, I won't advise people against reading it. But I think that people who are interested in how the Enlightenment may or may not have contributed to the problems of modernity would do well to read Enemies of the Enlightenment: The French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity , by Darrin McMahon. Another book of value is The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters , by Anthony Pagden.

Fox Blew , March 10, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Thanks for mentioning Joseph de Maistre. I have never heard of him. I think you'd enjoy this book, nonetheless. Saul doesn't actually "blame" Voltaire. He blames those who came after Voltaire. For that matter, the bulk of the book is about the 20th century's (mis)interpretation of the Enlightment project. I should have mentioned that the full title is "Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West".

David , March 10, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Strongly recommend MacMahon's book – it's excellent.

Susan , March 10, 2017 at 12:26 pm

echoes: Marilyn Waring per his comment on women.
the book If Women Counted
the documentary: Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics

Interesting story Waring told when I heard her speak in Toronto – As she boarded a bus at the airport to travel to her hotel, and a young man (20s) recognized her because the film is shown to high school students throughout Canada.

And Capital Institute's John Fullerton FIELD GUIDE TO A REGENERATIVE ECONOMY Primarily due to reading George Monbiot's inane rejection of the work of Allan Savory and Capital Institute's work with Grasslands LLC. Brought to me this morning by Nicole Foss and the Guardian.

And for farmer's and lovers of the land, I couldn't help but hear Wendell Berry, "It all turns on affection."

Interesting to have these things intersect with this morning's coffee. Thank you.

[Feb 26, 2017] If one takes it as a matter of faith (religious or secular) that human activity inherently leads to good outcomes thatll be a huge influence on how you engage with the world. It blows away humility and restraint. It fosters a sense of entitlement

Notable quotes:
"... "Precarity" has become a popular way to refer to economic and labor conditions that force people-and particularly low-income service workers-into uncertainty. Temporary labor and flexwork offer examples. ..."
"... Such conditions are not new. As union-supported blue-collar labor declined in the 20th century, the service economy took over its mantle absent its benefits. But the information economy further accelerated precarity. ..."
"... ...Facebook and Google, so the saying goes, make their users into their products-the real customer is the advertiser or data speculator preying on the information generated by the companies' free services. ..."
"... Consider phone answering services. Its simple speech recognition, which was once at the forefront of artificial intelligence, has made them ubiquityous. Yet Dante would need a new circle for a person who said "I just heard you say 5...3...7...is this correct?" ..."
"... Some of these adaptations subtract from our quality of life, as the article nicely describes. Some add to it, e.g we no longer spend time at the mall arranging when and where to meet if we get separated. Some are interesting and hard to evaluate, e.g. Chessplayers' relation to the game has changed radically since computers became good at it. ..."
"... And there is one I find insidious: the homogeneization of human activity and even thought. The information we ALL get on a subject will be what sorts to the top among google answers; the rest might as well not exist, much like newspaper articles buried in a back page. ..."
"... And on the economic front, the same homogeneization, with giant multinationals and crossmarketing deals. You'll be in a country with great food, like Turkey, get into your rented Toyota, say "I want dinner", and end up at a Domino's because they have a deal with Toyota. ..."
Feb 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Chris G : February 24, 2017 at 04:48 AM
On the Crooked Timber piece: Quiggin makes a very astute observation about 'propertarians' and Divine Providence in his concluding paragraphs. If one takes it as a matter of faith (religious or secular) that human activity inherently leads to good outcomes that'll be a huge influence on how you engage with the world. It blows away humility and restraint. It fosters a sense of entitlement.
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Chris G ... , -1
Yep. All roads lead to scapegoating. The anti-social capabilities of base desires and greed are often paled in comparison to those of detached indifference supported by abstract high-mindedness. For example, both sides can blame the robots for the loss of decent blue collar jobs.
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , February 24, 2017 at 04:58 AM
Not sure that there are "both sides" any more in elite circles. There are at least two types though. There is very little presence among elites on the progressive side.
Chris G -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , February 24, 2017 at 05:11 AM
Hard to call this related but worth reading, Why Nothing Works Anymore - https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/02/the-singularity-in-the-toilet-stall/517551/
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Chris G ... , February 24, 2017 at 05:54 AM
[THANKS! This was LOL funny:]

"...When spun on its ungeared mechanism, an analogous, glorious measure of towel appears directly and immediately, as if sent from heaven..."

[This was highly relevant to today's lead article "The Jobs Americans Do:"]

... "Precarity" has become a popular way to refer to economic and labor conditions that force people-and particularly low-income service workers-into uncertainty. Temporary labor and flexwork offer examples.

That includes hourly service work in which schedules are adjusted ad-hoc and just-in-time, so that workers don't know when or how often they might be working. For low-wage food service and retail workers, for instance, that uncertainty makes budgeting and time-management difficult. Arranging for transit and childcare is difficult, and even more costly, for people who don't know when-or if-they'll be working.

Such conditions are not new. As union-supported blue-collar labor declined in the 20th century, the service economy took over its mantle absent its benefits. But the information economy further accelerated precarity. For one part, it consolidated existing businesses and made efficiency its primary concern. For another, economic downturns like the 2008 global recession facilitated austerity measures both deliberate and accidental. Immaterial labor also rose-everything from the unpaid, unseen work of women in and out of the workplace, to creative work done on-spec or for exposure, to the invisible work everyone does to construct the data infrastructure that technology companies like Google and Facebook sell to advertisers...

[This was very insightful into its own topic of the separation of technology "from serving human users to pushing them out of the way so that the technologized world can service its own ends," but I would rather classify that as serving owners of proprietary technology rights.]


...Facebook and Google, so the saying goes, make their users into their products-the real customer is the advertiser or data speculator preying on the information generated by the companies' free services. But things are bound to get even weirder than that. When automobiles drive themselves, for example, their human passengers will not become masters of a new form of urban freedom, but rather a fuel to drive the expansion of connected cities, in order to spread further the gospel of computerized automation.

If artificial intelligence ends up running the news, it will not do so in order to improve citizen's access to information necessary to make choices in a democracy, but to further cement the supremacy of machine automation over human editorial in establishing what is relevant...

[THANKS! It was an exceptionally good article in places despite that it wandered a bit off into the ozone at times.] ...

Julio -> Chris G ... , February 24, 2017 at 09:26 AM
Excellent article, thanks!

It hits on one of the reasons why I am less skeptical than Darryl that AI will succeed, an soon, in all kinds of fields: it may remain stupid in some ways, but we will adapt to it.

Consider phone answering services. Its simple speech recognition, which was once at the forefront of artificial intelligence, has made them ubiquityous. Yet Dante would need a new circle for a person who said "I just heard you say 5...3...7...is this correct?"

Some of these adaptations subtract from our quality of life, as the article nicely describes. Some add to it, e.g we no longer spend time at the mall arranging when and where to meet if we get separated. Some are interesting and hard to evaluate, e.g. Chessplayers' relation to the game has changed radically since computers became good at it.

And there is one I find insidious: the homogeneization of human activity and even thought. The information we ALL get on a subject will be what sorts to the top among google answers; the rest might as well not exist, much like newspaper articles buried in a back page.

On the political front, Winston will not be necessary, nobody will click through to the old information, we will all just know that we were always at war with Eurasia.

And on the economic front, the same homogeneization, with giant multinationals and crossmarketing deals. You'll be in a country with great food, like Turkey, get into your rented Toyota, say "I want dinner", and end up at a Domino's because they have a deal with Toyota.

Resist!

Paine -> Julio ... , February 24, 2017 at 09:55 AM
Humans are more contrarian then not

The middle third of the twentieth century was hysterical about the totalitarian state
And the erasure of micro scale cultural heritage

That seems laughable since at least 1965 as lots of old long dormant memes
Revived in these frightfully "totalized " civil societies

The Motions of human Society reveal underlying dialectics not mechanics

Paine -> Paine... , February 24, 2017 at 09:59 AM
"1984 " is way past it's sell by date. Much like Leviathan and the declaration of independence
cm -> Julio ... , February 25, 2017 at 12:01 AM
There was probably more than one movie about this topic - people not happy with their "peaceful" but bland, boring, and intellectually stifling environment.

Not too far from Huxley's "Brave New World" actually.

[Feb 20, 2017] Social contract is the key. And it was abolished with the ascendance of neoliberalism with its wolf eats wolf philosophy of individual responsibility read the law of jungles instituted in the job market

Feb 20, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
ken melvin -> sanjait... February 20, 2017 at 02:21 PM , 2017 at 02:21 PM
One would think that a Berkeley Prof would be better at arithmetic, or counting. In the early days, companies did indeed create tech bureaucracies that offset any gains in reduction of work force, say back in the 70s, maybe 80s. Today, these groups number in the tens. Point being, these are indeed middle class jobs, just no where near the number of jobs replaced.
jonny bakho -> sanjait... , February 20, 2017 at 04:03 PM
Many working- and middle-class Americans believe that free-trade agreements are why their incomes have stagnated over the past two decades. So Trump intends to provide them with "protection" by putting protectionists in charge.

But Trump and his triumvirate have misdiagnosed the problem. While globalization is an important factor in the hollowing out of the middle class, so, too, is automation.

Trump and his team are missing a simple point: twenty-first-century globalization is knowledge-led, not trade-led. Radically reduced communication costs have enabled US firms to move production to lower-wage countries. Meanwhile, to keep their production processes synced, firms have also offshored much of their technical, marketing, and managerial knowhow. This "knowledge offshoring" is what has really changed the game for American workers.

The information revolution changed the world in ways that tariffs cannot reverse. With US workers already competing against robots at home, and against low-wage workers abroad, disrupting imports will just create more jobs for robots.

Trump should be protecting individual workers, not individual jobs. The processes of twenty-first-century globalization are too sudden, unpredictable, and uncontrollable to rely on static measures like tariffs. Instead, the US needs to restore its social contract so that its workers have a fair shot at sharing in the gains generated by global openness and automation. Globalization and technological innovation are not painless processes, so there will always be a need for retraining initiatives, lifelong education, mobility and income-support programs, and regional transfers.

By pursuing such policies, the Trump administration would stand a much better chance of making America "great again" for the working and middle classes. Globalization has always created more opportunities for the most competitive workers, and more insecurity for others. This is why a strong social contract was established during the post-war period of liberalization in the West. In the 1960s and 1970s institutions such as unions expanded, and governments made new commitments to affordable education, social security, and progressive taxation. These all helped members of the middle class seize new opportunities as they emerged.

Over the last two decades, this situation has changed dramatically: globalization has continued, but the social contract has been torn up. Trump's top priority should be to stitch it back together; but his trade advisers do not understand this.

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/trump-trade-policy-tariffs-by-richard-baldwin-2017-02

libezkova -> jonny bakho... , February 20, 2017 at 05:33 PM
Jonny,

Thank you -- Social contract is the key. And it was abolished with the ascendance of neoliberalism with its wolf eats wolf philosophy of "individual responsibility" (read the law of jungles in job market).

For some times, while neoliberalism was eating the carcass of New Deal there was almost no rebellion against it. Even in 2008 none of the top honchos of financial institutions who caused the disaster went to jail, although rank-and-file employees of major banks and investment firms did feel very insecure. "Jump suckers" was the slogan on the corner NYC cafe close to Wall Street.

This time probably ended now. The problems is that financial oligarchy does not want to share spoils of their stealing with anybody.

And yes, communication technologies + huge growth of the power of personal computers since 1986 are two very important factors here.

They allowed new level of centralization, which was impossible before. With the corporate headquarters on a different continent then factories (among other things) and teams consisting of members of different continents.

[Jan 24, 2017] One way to sum up neoliberalism is to say that everything-everything-is to be made over in the image of the market, including the state, civil society, and of course human beings

Notable quotes:
"... People can perceive that her ideology is founded on a conception of human beings striving relentlessly to become human capital (as her opening campaign commercial so overtly depicted), which means that those who fail to come within the purview of neoliberalism should be rigorously ostracized, punished, and excluded. ..."
"... As the market becomes an abstraction, so does democracy, but the real playing field is somewhere else, in the realm of actual economic exchange-which is not, however, the market. We may say that all exchange takes place on the neoliberal surface. ..."
Jan 24, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
libezkova -> jonny bakho... January 23, 2017 at 04:55 PM , 2017 at 04:55 PM
You are wrong. Your definition of neoliberalism is formally right and we can argue along those lines that Hillary is a neoliberal too (Her track record as a senator suggests exactly that), it is way too narrow.

"One way to sum up neoliberalism is to say that everything-everything-is to be made over in the image of the market, including the state, civil society, and of course human beings." (see below)

"Another way to say it is that the state has become the market, the market has become the state, and therefore both have ceased to exist in the form we have classically understood them."

"In the current election campaign, Hillary Clinton has been the most perfect embodiment of neoliberalism among all the candidates, she is almost its all-time ideal avatar, and I believe this explains, even if not articulated this way, the widespread discomfort among the populace toward her ascendancy. People can perceive that her ideology is founded on a conception of human beings striving relentlessly to become human capital (as her opening campaign commercial so overtly depicted), which means that those who fail to come within the purview of neoliberalism should be rigorously ostracized, punished, and excluded.

This is the dark side of neoliberalism's ideological arm (a multiculturalism founded on human beings as capital), which is why this project has become increasingly associated with suppression of free speech and intolerance of those who refuse to go along with the kind of identity politics neoliberalism promotes.

And this explains why the 1990s saw the simultaneous and absolutely parallel rise, under the Clintons, of both neoliberal globalization and various regimes of neoliberal disciplining, such as the shaming and exclusion of former welfare recipients (every able-bodied person should be able to find work, therefore under TANF welfare was converted to a performance management system designed to enroll everyone in the workforce, even if it meant below-subsistence wages or the loss of parental responsibilities, all of it couched in the jargon of marketplace incentives)."

In this sense Hillary Clinton is 100% dyed-in-the-wool neoliberal and neocon ("neoliberal with the gun"). She promotes so called "neoliberal rationality" a perverted "market-based" rationality typical for neoliberalism:

See

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2017/01/links-for-01-23-17.html#comment-6a00d83451b33869e201bb09706856970d

== quote ==
When Hillary Clinton frequently retorts-in response to demands for reregulation of finance, for instance-that we have to abide by "the rule of law," this reflects a particular understanding of the law, the law as embodying the sense of the market, the law after it has undergone a revolution of reinterpretation in purely economic terms.

In this revolution of the law persons have no status compared to corporations, nation-states are on their way out, and everything in turn dissolves before the abstraction called the market.

One way to sum up neoliberalism is to say that everything-everything-is to be made over in the image of the market, including the state, civil society, and of course human beings. Democracy becomes reinterpreted as the market, and politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory, so we are speaking of the end of democratic politics as we have known it for two and a half centuries.

As the market becomes an abstraction, so does democracy, but the real playing field is somewhere else, in the realm of actual economic exchange-which is not, however, the market. We may say that all exchange takes place on the neoliberal surface.

Neoliberalism is often described-and this creates a lot of confusion-as "market fundamentalism," and while this may be true for neoliberal's self-promotion and self-presentation, i.e., the market as the ultimate and only myth, as were the gods of the past, I would argue that in neoliberalism there is no such thing as the market as we have understood it from previous ideologies.

The neoliberal state-actually, to utter the word state seems insufficient here, I would claim that a new entity is being created, which is not the state as we have known it, but an existence that incorporates potentially all the states in the world and is something that exceeds their sum-is all-powerful, it seeks to leave no space for individual self-conception in the way that classical liberalism, and even communism and fascism to some degree, were willing to allow.

There are competing understandings of neoliberal globalization, when it comes to the question of whether the state is strong or weak compared to the primary agent of globalization, i.e., the corporation, but I am taking this logic further, I am suggesting that the issue is not how strong the state is in the service of neoliberalism, but whether there is anything left over beyond the new definition of the state. Another way to say it is that the state has become the market, the market has become the state, and therefore both have ceased to exist in the form we have classically understood them.

Of course the word hasn't gotten around to the people yet, hence all the confusion about whether Hillary Clinton is more neoliberal than Barack Obama, or whether Donald Trump will be less neoliberal than Hillary Clinton.

The project of neoliberalism-i.e., the redefinition of the state, the institutions of society, and the self-has come so far along that neoliberalism is almost beyond the need of individual entities to make or break its case. Its penetration has gone too deep, and none of the democratic figureheads that come forward can fundamentally question its efficacy.

[Jan 23, 2017] This is our neoliberal nightmare Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and why the market and the wealthy win every time - Salon.com

Notable quotes:
"... everything ..."
"... loves ..."
Jan 23, 2017 | www.salon.com
Neoliberalism has been more successful than most past ideologies in redefining subjectivity, in making people alter their sense of themselves, their personhood, their identities, their hopes and expectations and dreams and idealizations. Classical liberalism was successful too, for two and a half centuries, in people's self-definition, although communism and fascism succeeded less well in realizing the "new man."

It cannot be emphasized enough that neoliberalism is not classical liberalism, or a return to a purer version of it, as is commonly misunderstood; it is a new thing, because the market, for one thing, is not at all free and untethered and dynamic in the sense that classical liberalism idealized it. Neoliberalism presumes a strong state, working only for the benefit of the wealthy, and as such it has little pretence to neutrality and universality, unlike the classical liberal state.

I would go so far as to say that neoliberalism is the final completion of capitalism's long-nascent project, in that the desire to transform everything -every object, every living thing, every fact on the planet-in its image had not been realized to the same extent by any preceding ideology. Neoliberalism happens to be the ideology-unlike the three major forerunners in the last 250 years-that has the fortune of coinciding with technological change on a scale that makes its complete penetration into every realm of being a possibility for the first time in human history.

From the early 1930s, when the Great Depression threatened the classical liberal consensus (the idea that markets were self-regulating, and the state should play no more than a night-watchman role), until the early 1970s, when global instability including currency chaos unraveled it, the democratic world lived under the Keynesian paradigm : markets were understood to be inherently unstable, and the interventionist hand of government, in the form of countercyclical policy, was necessary to make capitalism work, otherwise the economy had a tendency to get out of whack and crash.

It's an interesting question if it was the stagflation of the 1970s, following the unhitching of the United States from the gold standard and the arrival of the oil embargo, that brought on the neoliberal revolution, with Milton Friedman discrediting fiscal policy and advocating a by-the-numbers monetarist policy , or if it was neoliberalism itself, in the form of Friedmanite ideas that the Nixon administration was already pursuing, that made stagflation and the end of Keynesianism inevitable.

It should be said that neoliberalism thrives on prompting crisis after crisis, and has proven more adept than previous ideologies at exploiting these crises to its benefit, which then makes the situation worse, so that each succeeding crisis only erodes the power of the working class and makes the wealthy wealthier. There is a certain self-fulfilling aura to neoliberalism, couched in the jargon of economic orthodoxy, that has remained immune from political criticism, because of the dogma that was perpetuated- by Margaret Thatcher and her acolytes-that There Is No Alternative (TINA) .

Neoliberalism is excused for the crises it repeatedly brings on-one can think of a regular cycle of debt and speculation-fueled emergencies in the last forty years, such as the developing country debt overhang of the 1970s , the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s , the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s , and the subprime mortgage crisis of the 2000s-better than any ideology I know of. This is partly because its very existence as ruling ideology is not even noted by the population at large, which continues to derive some residual benefits from the welfare state inaugurated by Keynesianism but has been led to believe by neoliberal ideologues to think of their reliance on government as worthy of provoking guilt, shame, and melancholy, rather than something to which they have legitimate claim.

It is not surprising to find neoliberal multiculturalists- comfortably established in the academy -likewise demonizing, or othering, not Muslims, Mexicans, or African Americans, but working-class whites (the quintessential Trump proletariat) who have a difficult time accepting the fluidity of self-definition that goes well with neoliberalism, something that we might call the market capitalization of the self.

George W. Bush's useful function was to introduce necessary crisis into a system that had grown too stable for its own good; he injected desirable panic, which served as fuel to the fire of the neoliberal revolution. Trump is an apostate-at least until now-in desiring chaos on terms that do not sound neoliberal, which is unacceptable; hence Jeb Bush's characterization of him as the "candidate of chaos. " Neoliberalism loves chaos, that has been its modus operandi since the early 1970s, but only the kind of chaos it can direct and control.

To go back to origins, the Great Depression only ended conclusively with the onset of the second world war, after which Keynesianism had the upper hand for thirty-five years. But just as the global institutions of Keynesianism, specifically the IMF and the World Bank, were being founded at the New Hampshire resort of Bretton Woods in 1944, the founders of the neoliberal revolution, namely Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, and others were forming the Mount Pelerin Society (MPS) at the eponymous Swiss resort in 1947 , creating the ideology which eventually defeated Keynesianism and gained the upper hand during the 1970s.

So what exactly is neoliberalism, and how is it different from classical liberalism, whose final manifestation came under Keynesianism?

Neoliberalism believes that markets are self-sufficient unto themselves, that they do not need regulation, and that they are the best guarantors of human welfare. Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, needs to be encouraged, while everything that supposedly diminishes the market, i.e., government services, regulation, restrictions on finance and capital, and conceptualization of human beings in transcendent terms, is to be discouraged.

[Jan 23, 2017] January 23, 2017 at 04:55 PM

Notable quotes:
"... People can perceive that her ideology is founded on a conception of human beings striving relentlessly to become human capital (as her opening campaign commercial so overtly depicted), which means that those who fail to come within the purview of neoliberalism should be rigorously ostracized, punished, and excluded. ..."
Jan 23, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
, 2017 at 04:55 PM
You are wrong. Your definition of neoliberalism is formally right and we can argue along those lines that Hillary is a neoliberal too (Her track record as a senator suggests exactly that), it is way too narrow.

"One way to sum up neoliberalism is to say that everything-everything-is to be made over in the image of the market, including the state, civil society, and of course human beings." (see below)

"Another way to say it is that the state has become the market, the market has become the state, and therefore both have ceased to exist in the form we have classically understood them."

"In the current election campaign, Hillary Clinton has been the most perfect embodiment of neoliberalism among all the candidates, she is almost its all-time ideal avatar, and I believe this explains, even if not articulated this way, the widespread discomfort among the populace toward her ascendancy. People can perceive that her ideology is founded on a conception of human beings striving relentlessly to become human capital (as her opening campaign commercial so overtly depicted), which means that those who fail to come within the purview of neoliberalism should be rigorously ostracized, punished, and excluded.

This is the dark side of neoliberalism's ideological arm (a multiculturalism founded on human beings as capital), which is why this project has become increasingly associated with suppression of free speech and intolerance of those who refuse to go along with the kind of identity politics neoliberalism promotes.

And this explains why the 1990s saw the simultaneous and absolutely parallel rise, under the Clintons, of both neoliberal globalization and various regimes of neoliberal disciplining, such as the shaming and exclusion of former welfare recipients (every able-bodied person should be able to find work, therefore under TANF welfare was converted to a performance management system designed to enroll everyone in the workforce, even if it meant below-subsistence wages or the loss of parental responsibilities, all of it couched in the jargon of marketplace incentives)."

In this sense Hillary Clinton is 100% dyed-in-the-wool neoliberal and neocon ("neoliberal with the gun"). She promotes so called "neoliberal rationality" a perverted "market-based" rationality typical for neoliberalism:

See

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2017/01/links-for-01-23-17.html#comment-6a00d83451b33869e201bb09706856970d

== quote ==
When Hillary Clinton frequently retorts-in response to demands for reregulation of finance, for instance-that we have to abide by "the rule of law," this reflects a particular understanding of the law, the law as embodying the sense of the market, the law after it has undergone a revolution of reinterpretation in purely economic terms.

In this revolution of the law persons have no status compared to corporations, nation-states are on their way out, and everything in turn dissolves before the abstraction called the market.

One way to sum up neoliberalism is to say that everything-everything-is to be made over in the image of the market, including the state, civil society, and of course human beings. Democracy becomes reinterpreted as the market, and politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory, so we are speaking of the end of democratic politics as we have known it for two and a half centuries.

As the market becomes an abstraction, so does democracy, but the real playing field is somewhere else, in the realm of actual economic exchange-which is not, however, the market. We may say that all exchange takes place on the neoliberal surface.

Neoliberalism is often described-and this creates a lot of confusion-as "market fundamentalism," and while this may be true for neoliberal's self-promotion and self-presentation, i.e., the market as the ultimate and only myth, as were the gods of the past, I would argue that in neoliberalism there is no such thing as the market as we have understood it from previous ideologies.

The neoliberal state-actually, to utter the word state seems insufficient here, I would claim that a new entity is being created, which is not the state as we have known it, but an existence that incorporates potentially all the states in the world and is something that exceeds their sum-is all-powerful, it seeks to leave no space for individual self-conception in the way that classical liberalism, and even communism and fascism to some degree, were willing to allow.

There are competing understandings of neoliberal globalization, when it comes to the question of whether the state is strong or weak compared to the primary agent of globalization, i.e., the corporation, but I am taking this logic further, I am suggesting that the issue is not how strong the state is in the service of neoliberalism, but whether there is anything left over beyond the new definition of the state. Another way to say it is that the state has become the market, the market has become the state, and therefore both have ceased to exist in the form we have classically understood them.

Of course the word hasn't gotten around to the people yet, hence all the confusion about whether Hillary Clinton is more neoliberal than Barack Obama, or whether Donald Trump will be less neoliberal than Hillary Clinton.

The project of neoliberalism-i.e., the redefinition of the state, the institutions of society, and the self-has come so far along that neoliberalism is almost beyond the need of individual entities to make or break its case. Its penetration has gone too deep, and none of the democratic figureheads that come forward can fundamentally question its efficacy.

[Jan 22, 2017] Neoliberalism may have been in part so successful because it appeals to (and tries to explain many things in terms of) a narrative of competition (and assignment of reward and acknowedlgement) by merit

Neoliberals seem very concerned not to have a label. I posit this is because the founders of the malign ideology didn't want their victims be able to reliably identify them. The deliberately and misleadingly promote the view of the economy as an isolated scientific subject, like the interior of a test tube, and treat politics and policy as a sort of exterior force, that can be isolated from the world of the chemist and pushed off-to-one side. Neoclassic economists consistently and deliberately blinds itself to politics and the dynamics of power, despite the deep entanglement of politics with everything economic. "I look at politics and the economy and see one thing, not two things, and I am astonished at the extent to which economists focus on the part they like to play with intellectually, while deliberately looking away from what is probably the more important part. "
Notable quotes:
"... when left-wing people say that economists are defenders and supporters of the current order of things, they have a point: ignoring power relationships and their impact on the world supports the continued existence of those relationships. ..."
"... Neoliberalism may have been in part so successful because it appeals to (and tries to explain many things in terms of) a narrative of competition (and assignment of reward and acknowedlgement) by merit. ..."
"... Most people, esp. when young (still largely sheltered) or (still) successful, probably have an exaggerated assessment of their own merit (absolute and relative) - often actively instilled and encouraged by an "enabling" environment. ..."
"... It promises a lake Wobegon of sorts where everybody (even though not all!) are above average, and it is finally recognized. ..."
Jan 22, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

William Meyer, Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 12:49 PM

What Wren-Lewis misses, I think, is that something I've noticed in my roughly a decade of reading economic blogs on the Internet. Economists have blinkers on. They want to view the economy as an isolated scientific subject, like the interior of a test tube, and treat politics and policy as a sort of exterior force, that can be isolated from the world of the chemist and pushed off-to-one side. It seems fairly clear to me that the two elements--politics and the economy--are obviously continuously co-mingled, and have all sorts of feedback loops running between them.

The discipline really consistently and deliberately blinds itself to politics and the dynamics of power, despite the deep entanglement of politics with everything economic. Wren-Lewis admits that macroeconomists "missed" the impacts of very high financial sector leverage, but finds that now that economists have noticed it, and suggested remedies, that the power of bank lobby prevents those remedies from being enacted. But shouldn't the political power of the finance lobby been a part of economic analysis of the world along with the dangers of the financial sector's use of extreme leverage? Does he think the two phenomena are unrelated?

Shouldn't economics pay more attention to the ongoing attempts of various groups to orient government policy in their favor, just like they pay attention to the trade deficit and GDP numbers?

I look at politics and the economy and see one thing, not two things, and I am astonished at the extent to which economists focus on the part they like to play with intellectually, while deliberately looking away from what is probably the more important part. Its like economists obsessively focus on the part that can be studied via numbers (money) and don't' want to think about the part that is harder to look quantify (political policy). And there is a political issue there, which Mr. Wren-Lewis, keeps ignoring in his defense of "mainstream economics."

The neoclassical economics tendency of not looking at power relationships makes power imbalances and their great influence on economics seem like "givens" or "natural endowments", which is clearly an intellectual sin of omission.

Many people, even within the halls of mainstream economics, note economists are "uncomfortable" with distributional issues.

Whether they like the implication or not, economists need to acknowledge that this discomfort has a profoundly conservative intellectual bias, in the sense that it make the status quo arrangement of society seem "natural" and "normal", when it is obviously humanly constructed and not in any sense "natural." So when left-wing people say that economists are defenders and supporters of the current order of things, they have a point: ignoring power relationships and their impact on the world supports the continued existence of those relationships.

Mr. Wren-Lewis seems like a nice guy, but he needs to take that simple home truth in. I'm not sure why he seems to struggle so with acknowledging it.

KPl, January 21, 2017 at 11:37 PM

"...but failing to ignore their successes,..."

Oh you mean the success of being able to raise asset prices without the growth in wages, make education costly and unaffordable without student loans, not chargeable under bankruptcy, spruce up employment figures by not counting the people who have stopped look for jobs because they cannot find one, make people debt serfs, make savers miserable by keeping interest rates at zero and making them take risks that they may not want to take though it is picking pennies in front of a steamroller, keeping wages stagnant for decades and thus impoverishing people.

The list of successes is endless and you should be glad we are NOT talking about them. Because if we do, the clan called economists might well be torched.

cm -> cm... , January 22, 2017 at 08:40 AM
Neoliberalism may have been in part so successful because it appeals to (and tries to explain many things in terms of) a narrative of competition (and assignment of reward and acknowedlgement) by merit.

Most people, esp. when young (still largely sheltered) or (still) successful, probably have an exaggerated assessment of their own merit (absolute and relative) - often actively instilled and encouraged by an "enabling" environment.

A large part is probably the idea that "markets" are "objective" or at least "impartial" in bringing out and rewarding merit - also technology and "data driven" technocratic management, which are attributed "objectivity". All in the explicitly stated or implied service of impartially recognizing merit and its lack.

It promises a lake Wobegon of sorts where everybody (even though not all!) are above average, and it is finally recognized.

libezkova : , January 22, 2017 at 07:11 PM
"Neoliberalism may have been in part so successful because it appeals to (and tries to explain many things in terms of) a narrative of competition (and assignment of reward and acknowedlgement) by merit."

A very important observation. Thank you --

[Jan 21, 2017] Disillusioned in Davos

Jan 21, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Larry Summers:
Disillusioned in Davos : Edmund Burke famously cautioned that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I have been reminded of Burke's words as I have observed the behavior of US business leaders in Davos over the last few days. They know better but in their public rhetoric they have embraced and enabled our new President and his policies.

I understand and sympathize with the pressures they feel. ... Businesses who get on the wrong side of the new President have lost billions of dollars of value in sixty seconds because of a tweet. ...

Yet I am disturbed by (i) the spectacle of financiers who three months ago were telling anyone who would listen that they would never do business with a Trump company rushing to praise the new Administration (ii) the unwillingness of business leaders who rightly take pride in their corporate efforts to promote women and minorities to say anything about Presidentially sanctioned intolerance (iii) the failure of the leaders of global companies to say a critical word about US efforts to encourage the breakup of European unity and more generally to step away from underwriting an open global system (iv) the reluctance of business leaders who have a huge stake in the current global order to criticize provocative rhetoric with regard to China, Mexico or the Middle East (v) the willingness of too many to praise Trump nominees who advocate blatant protection merely because they have a business background.

I have my differences with the new Administration's economic policies and suspect the recent market rally and run of economic statistics is a sugar high. Reasonable people who I respect differ and time will tell. My objection is not to disagreements over economic policy. It is to enabling if not encouraging immoral and reckless policies in other spheres that ultimately bear on our prosperity. Burke was right. It is a lesson of human experience whether the issue is playground bullying, Enron or Europe in the 1930s that the worst outcomes occur when good people find reasons to accommodate themselves to what they know is wrong. That is what I think happened much too often in Davos this week.

JohnH -> Peter K.... , January 20, 2017 at 03:24 PM
Larry Summers lecturing us about bullies! Precious!

"Larry Summers Is An Unrepentant Bully"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-s-goodman/larry-summers-bully-fed_b_3653387.html

Like so much of the tit-for-tat between Democrats and Republicans, what's OK for to do is NOT OK for you to do!!!

anne : , January 20, 2017 at 12:24 PM
https://books.google.com/books?id=SFNADAAAQBAJ&pg=PT951&lpg=PT951&dq=%22No+man,+who+is+not+inflamed+by+vainglory+into+enthusiasm%22&source=bl&ots=ufx9GiMtls&sig=jJgSGfaCuCQFzBa9KiNBKCoaYgQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjE7YCOxtHRAhWjLMAKHVmSDFAQ6AEIHDAB#v=onepage&q=%22No%20man%2C%20who%20is%20not%20inflamed%20by%20vainglory%20into%20enthusiasm%22&f=false

1770

Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents

No man, who is not inflamed by vainglory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united Cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

-- Edmund Burke

anne -> anne... , -1
Edmund Burke famously cautioned that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

-- Lawrence Summers

[ Edmund Burke never cautioned this. ]

anne -> Chris G ... , January 20, 2017 at 06:42 PM
Notice the fear of association or community of Milton Friedman:

http://www.colorado.edu/studentgroups/libertarians/issues/friedman-soc-resp-business.html

September 13, 1970

The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits
By Milton Friedman - New York Times

When I hear businessmen speak eloquently about the "social responsibilities of business in a free-enterprise system," I am reminded of the wonderful line about the Frenchman who discovered at the age of 70 that he had been speaking prose all his life. The businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned "merely" with profit but also with promoting desirable "social" ends; that business has a "social conscience" and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers. In fact they are–or would be if they or anyone else took them seriously–preaching pure and unadulterated socialism. Businessmen who talk this way are unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades....

Gibbon1 -> anne... , January 20, 2017 at 07:37 PM
When I used to read Delong's blog before Delong went off on Sanders because Delong thought that Hillary Clinton would give Delongs son a job...

There was economics student that penned a response where he mentioned that the economics profession generally dislikes models with negative externalities. But truly loath models that incorporate positive externalities.

A positive externality is where some action on your part benefits you _and_ benefits some third party.

One can assume Milton Friedman and his followers find that concept revolting indeed.

anne -> anne... , January 20, 2017 at 12:52 PM
While I was not in Davos, I read about the proceedings and meeting in the Western European and Chinese press and was impressed by the community emphasis placed on social justice. Possibly there was considerable individual resistance to the public theme, and Lawrence Summers would readily sense such resistance, but the public theme from the speech by Xi Jinping on was encouraging and portrayed in Western Europe and China as encouraging.
kthomas -> anne... , January 20, 2017 at 02:19 PM
The headline of his post is somewhat misleading. He was not really talking about Davos.
Chris G -> kthomas... , January 20, 2017 at 05:53 PM
Let me rephrase: Name me some Fortune 500 companies who consider potential societal impacts of their actions and, as a result, sometimes make decisions which don't maximize their profits but are the "right" thing to do for the community/their workers/the environment/etc.? What Fortune 500 companies are motivated by things beyond maximizing profits for shareholders?

My point is that corporate leaders who are charged to act to maximize profits will always be cowards when it comes to moral and ethical issues. If their job is to maximize profits. If they don't want to lose their job then that's what they'll do - act to maximize profits. Where would Summers get the idea that they would act any differently? Do the people he's referring to have a track record of choosing the moral high ground over profits? If they do then I could understand surprise and disappointment that they're folding. But they've never had to face that choice before let alone chosen moral high ground over money, have they?

anne -> Chris G ... , January 20, 2017 at 05:55 PM
My point is that corporate leaders who are charged to act to maximize profits will always be cowards when it comes to moral and ethical issues. If their job is to maximize profits. If they don't want to lose their job then that's what they'll do - act to maximize profits. Where would Summers get the idea that they would act any differently? Do the people he's referring to have a track record of choosing the moral high ground over profits? ...

[ Properly argued, sadly. ]

Winslow R. : , January 20, 2017 at 02:02 PM
I recall Summers/Romer with both houses and Obama blowing their chances to do something for the middle/working class.

Summers/Delong said if the stimulus was too small we could always get another later, yet that chance to do something never came and he did nothing.....

I'd like Larry to ponder whether it was he who did nothing.

[Jan 16, 2017] The Cost of Davos Man's Protectionism

Jan 16, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : January 16, 2017 at 06:13 AM , 2017 at 06:13 AM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/the-cost-of-davos-man-s-protectionism?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+beat_the_press+%28Beat+the+Press%29

January 15, 2017

The Cost of Davos Man's Protectionism

I blogged yesterday * on how "Davos Man," the world's super-rich, is very supportive of all sorts of protectionist measures in spite of his reputation as a free trader. I pointed out that Davos Man is fond of items like ever stronger and longer patent and copyright protections and measures that protect doctors, dentists, and other highly paid professionals. Davos Man only dislikes protectionism when it might benefit folks like autoworkers or textile workers.

I thought it was worth pointing out that the protectionism supported by the Davos set is real money. The chart below shows the additional amount we pay for prescription drugs each year as a result of patent and related protections, the additional amount we pay for physicians as a result of excluding qualified foreign doctors, and the total annual wage income ** for the bottom 50 percent of wage earners. (I added 5 percent to the 2015 wage numbers to incorporate wage growth in the last year.)

[Graph *** ]

As can be seen, the extra amount we pay for doctors as a result of excluding foreign competition is roughly one-third of the total wage bill for the bottom half of all wage earners. The extra amount we pay for drugs as a result of patent protection is roughly twenty percent more than the total wage bill for the bottom half of wage earners. Of course we would have to pay for the research through another mechanism, but we also pay higher prices for medical equipment, software, and a wide variety of other products as a result of patent and copyright protections. In other words, there is real money here.

Davos Man isn't interested in nickel and dime protectionism, he wants to rake in the big bucks. And, the whole time he will run around saying he is a free trader (and get most of the media to believe him).

* http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/davos-man-is-a-neanderthal-protectionist

** https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2015

*** http://deanbaker.net/images/stories/documents/Rigged.pdf

-- Dean Baker

anne -> anne... , January 16, 2017 at 06:14 AM
http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/davos-man-is-a-neanderthal-protectionist?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+beat_the_press+%28Beat+the+Press%29

January 14, 2017

Davos Man Is a Neanderthal Protectionist

The New York Times had an article * on the annual meeting of the world's super-rich at Davos, Switzerland. It refers to Davos Man as "an economic elite who built unheard-of fortunes on the seemingly high-minded notions of free trade, low taxes and low regulation that they championed." While "Davos Man" may like to be described this way, it is not an accurate description.

Davos Man is actually totally supportive of protectionism that redistributes income upward. In particular Davos Man supports stronger and longer patent and copyright protection. These forms of protection raise the price of protected items by factors of tens or hundreds, making them equivalent to tariffs of several thousand percent or even tens of thousands of percent. In the case of prescription drugs these protections force us to spend more than $430 billion a year (2.3 percent of GDP) on drugs that would likely cost one tenth of this amount if they were sold in a free market. (Yes, we need alternative mechanisms to finance the development of new drugs. These are discussed in my free book "Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer." ** )

Davos Man is also just fine with protectionist barriers that raise the cost of physicians services as well as pay of other highly educated professionals. For example, Davos Man has never been known to object to the ban on foreign doctors practicing in the United States unless they complete a U.S. residency program or the ban on foreign dentists who did not complete a U.S. dental school (or recently a Canadian school). Davos Man is only bothered by protectionist barriers that raise the incomes of autoworkers, textile workers, or other non-college educated workers.

Davos Man is also fine with government regulations that reduce the bargaining power of ordinary workers. For example, Davos Man has not objected to central bank rules that target low inflation even at the cost of raising unemployment. Nor has Davos Man objected to meaningless caps on budget deficits, like those in the European Union, that have kept millions of workers from getting jobs.

Davos Man also strongly supported the bank bailouts in which governments provided trillions of dollars in loans and guarantees to the world's largest banks in order to protect them from the market. This kept too big to fail banks in business and protected the huge salaries received by their top executives.

In short, Davos Man has no particular interest in a free market or unregulated economic system. They only object to interventions that reduce their income. Of course, Davos Man is happy to have the New York Times and other news outlets describe him as a devotee of the free market, as opposed to simply getting incredibly rich.

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/14/business/world-economic-forum-davos-agenda-slap-in-the-face.html

** http://deanbaker.net/images/stories/documents/Rigged.pdf

-- Dean Baker

[Jan 13, 2017] Communitarianism or Populism The Ethic of Compassion and the Ethic of Respect

Notable quotes:
"... Instead of serving as a counter weight to the market, then, the family was invaded and undermined by the market. The sentimental veneration of motherhood, even at the peak of its influence in the late nineteenth century, could never quite obscure the reality that unpaid labour bears the stigma of social inferiority when money becomes the universal measure of value. ..."
"... Commercial television dramatizes in the most explicit terms the cynicism that was always implicit in the ideology of the marketplace. The sentimental convention that the best things in life are free has long since passed into oblivion. Since the best things clearly cost a great deal of money, people seek money, in the world depicted by commercial television, by fair means or foul. ..."
"... Throughout the twentieth century liberalism has been pulled in two directions at once: toward the market and (not withstanding its initial misgivings about government) toward the state. On the one hand, the market appears to be the ideal embodiment of the principle-the cardinal principle of liberalism-that individuals are the best judges of their own interests and that they must therefore be allowed to speak for themselves in matters that concern their happiness and well-being. But individuals cannot learn to speak for themselves at all, much less come to an intelligent understanding of their happiness and well-being, in a world in which there are no values except those of the market. Even liberal individuals require the character-forming discipline of the family, the neighbourhood, the school, and the church, all of which (not just the family) have been weakened by the encroachments of the market. ..."
"... The market notoriously tends to universalize itself. It does not easily coexist with institutions that operate according to principles antithetical to itself: schools and universities, newspapers and magazines, charities, families. Sooner or later the market tends to absorb them all. It puts an almost irresistible pres sure on every activity to justify itself in the only items it recognizes: to become a business proposition, to pay its own way, to show black ink on the bottom line. It turns news into entertainment, scholarship into professional careerism, social work into the scientific management of poverty. Inexorably it remodels every institution in its own image. ..."
"... In the attempt to restrict the scope of the market, liberals have therefore turned to the state. But the remedy often proves to be worse than the disease. The replacement of informal types of association by formal systems of socialization and control weakens social trust, undermines the willingness both assume responsibility for one's self and to hold others accountable for their actions destroys respect for authority and thus turns out to be self-defeating. Neighbourhoods, which can serve as intermediaries between the family and the larger world. Neighbourhoods have been destroyed not only by the market-by crime and drugs or less dramatically by suburban shopping malls-but also by enlightened social engineering. ..."
"... "The myth that playgrounds and grass and hired guards or supervisors are innately wholesome for children and that city streets, filled with ordinary people, are innately evil for children, boils down to a deep contempt for ordinary people." In their contempt planners lose sight of the way in which city streets, if they are working as they should, teach children a lesson that cannot be taught by educators or professional caretakers: that "people must take a modicum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other." When the corner grocer or the locksmith scolds a child for running into the street, the child learns something that can't be learned simply by formal instruction. ..."
"... The crisis of public funding is only one indication of the intrinsic weakness of organizations that can no longer count on informal, everyday mechanisms of social trust and control. ..."
Jan 13, 2017 | www.theworkingcentre.org

If terms like "populism" and "community" figure prominently in political discourse today, it is because the ideology of the Enlightenment, having come under attack from a variety of sources, has lost much of its appeal. The claims of universal reason are universally suspect. Hopes for a system of values that would transcend the particularism of class, nationality, religion, and race no longer carry much conviction. The Enlightenment's reason and morality are increasingly seen as a cover for power, and the prospect that the world can he governed by reason seems more remote than at any time since the eighteenth century. The citizen of the world-the prototype of mankind in the future, according to the Enlightenment philosophers-is not much in evidence. We have a universal market, but it does not carry with it the civilizing effects that were so confidently expected by Hume and Voltaire. Instead of generating a new appreciation of common interests and inclinations-if the essential sameness of human beings everywhere-the global market seems to intensify the awareness of ethnic and national differences. The unification of the market goes hand in hand with the fragmentation of culture.

The waning of the Enlightenment manifests itself politically in the waning of liberalism, in many ways the most attractive product of the Enlightenment and the carrier of its best hopes. Through all the permutations and transformations of liberal ideology, two of its central features have persisted over the years: its commitment to progress and its belief that a liberal state could dispense with civic virtue. The two ideas were linked in a chain of reasoning having as its premise that capitalism had made it reason able for everyone to aspire to a level of comfort formerly accessible only to the rich. Henceforth men would devote themselves to their private business, reducing the need for government, which could more or less take care of itself. It was the idea of progress that made it possible to believe that societies blessed with material abundance could dispense with the active participation of ordinary citizens in government.

After the American Revolution liberals began to argue-in opposition to the older view that "public virtue is the only foundation of republics," in the words of John Adams -- that proper constitutional checks and balances would make it advantageous even for bad men to act for the public good," as James Wilson put it. According to John Taylor, "an avaricious society can form a government able to defend itself against the avarice of its members" by enlisting the "interest of vice ...on the side of virtue." Virtue lay in the "principles of government," Taylor argued, not in the "evanescent qualities of individuals." The institutions and "principles of a society may be virtuous, though the individuals composing it are vicious."

Meeting minimal conditions

The paradox of a virtuous society based on vicious individuals, however agree able in theory, was never adhered to very consistently. Liberals took for granted a good deal more in the way of private virtue than they were willing to acknowledge. Even to day liberals who adhere to this minimal view of citizenship smuggle a certain amount of citizenship between the cracks of their free- market ideology. Milton Friedman himself admits that a liberal society requires a "minimum degree of literacy and knowledge" along with a "widespread acceptance of some common set of values." It is not clear that our society can meet even these minimal conditions, as things stand today, but it has always been clear, in any case, that a liberal society needs more virtue than Friedman allows for.

A system that relies so heavily on the concept of rights presupposes individuals who respect the rights of others, if only because they expect others to respect their own rights in return. The market itself, the central institution of a liberal society, presupposes, at the very least, sharp-eyed, calculating, and clearheaded individuals-paragons of rational choice. It presupposes not just self interest but enlightened self-interest. It was for this reason that nineteenth-century liberals attached so much importance to the family. The obligation to support a wife and children, in their view, would discipline possessive individualism and transform the potential gambler, speculator, dandy, or confidence man into a conscientious provider. Having abandoned the old republican ideal of citizenship along with the republican indictment of luxury, liberals lacked any grounds on which to appeal to individuals to subordinate private interest to the public good.

But at least they could appeal to the higher selfishness of marriage and parenthood. They could ask, if not for the suspension of self-interest, for its elevation and refinement. The hope that rising expectations would lead men and women to invest their ambitions in their offspring was destined to be disappointed in the long run. The more closely capitalism came to be identified with immediate gratification and planned obsolescence, the more relentlessly it wore away the moral foundations of family life. The rising divorce rate, already a source of alarm in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, seemed to reflect a growing impatience with the constraints imposed by long responsibilities and commitments.

The passion to get ahead had begun to imply the right to make a fresh start whenever earlier commitments became unduly burden some. Material abundance weakened the economic as well as the moral foundations of the "well-'ordered family state" admired by nineteenth-century liberals. The family business gave way to the corporation, the family farm (more slowly and painfully) to a collectivized agriculture ultimately controlled by the same banking houses that had engineered the consolidation of industry. The agrarian uprising of the 1870s, 1880s, and l890s proved to be the first round in a long, losing struggle to save the family farm, enshrined in American mythology, even today, as the sine qua non of a good society but subjected into practice to a ruinous cycle of mechanization, indebtedness, and overproduction.

The family invaded

Instead of serving as a counter weight to the market, then, the family was invaded and undermined by the market. The sentimental veneration of motherhood, even at the peak of its influence in the late nineteenth century, could never quite obscure the reality that unpaid labour bears the stigma of social inferiority when money becomes the universal measure of value.

In the long run women were forced into the workplace not only because their families needed extra income but because paid labour seemed to represent their only hope of gaining equality with men. In our time it is increasingly clear that children pay the price for this invasion of the family by the market. With both parents in the workplace and grandparents conspicuous by their absence, the family is no longer capable of sheltering children from the market. The television set becomes the principal baby-sitter by default. Its invasive presence deals the final blow to any lingering hope that the family can provide a sheltered space for children to grow up in.

Children are now exposed to the out side world from the time they are old enough to be left unattended in front of the tube. They are exposed to it, moreover, in a brutal yet seductive form that reduces the values of the marketplace to their simplest terms. Commercial television dramatizes in the most explicit terms the cynicism that was always implicit in the ideology of the marketplace. The sentimental convention that the best things in life are free has long since passed into oblivion. Since the best things clearly cost a great deal of money, people seek money, in the world depicted by commercial television, by fair means or foul.

Throughout the twentieth century liberalism has been pulled in two directions at once: toward the market and (not withstanding its initial misgivings about government) toward the state. On the one hand, the market appears to be the ideal embodiment of the principle-the cardinal principle of liberalism-that individuals are the best judges of their own interests and that they must therefore be allowed to speak for themselves in matters that concern their happiness and well-being. But individuals cannot learn to speak for themselves at all, much less come to an intelligent understanding of their happiness and well-being, in a world in which there are no values except those of the market. Even liberal individuals require the character-forming discipline of the family, the neighbourhood, the school, and the church, all of which (not just the family) have been weakened by the encroachments of the market.

The market notoriously tends to universalize itself. It does not easily coexist with institutions that operate according to principles antithetical to itself: schools and universities, newspapers and magazines, charities, families. Sooner or later the market tends to absorb them all. It puts an almost irresistible pres sure on every activity to justify itself in the only items it recognizes: to become a business proposition, to pay its own way, to show black ink on the bottom line. It turns news into entertainment, scholarship into professional careerism, social work into the scientific management of poverty. Inexorably it remodels every institution in its own image.

Weakening social trust

In the attempt to restrict the scope of the market, liberals have therefore turned to the state. But the remedy often proves to be worse than the disease. The replacement of informal types of association by formal systems of socialization and control weakens social trust, undermines the willingness both assume responsibility for one's self and to hold others accountable for their actions destroys respect for authority and thus turns out to be self-defeating. Neighbourhoods, which can serve as intermediaries between the family and the larger world. Neighbourhoods have been destroyed not only by the market-by crime and drugs or less dramatically by suburban shopping malls-but also by enlightened social engineering.

The main thrust of social policy, ever since the first crusades against child labour, has been to transfer the care of children from informal settings to institutions designed specifically for pedagogical and custodial purposes. Today this trend continues in the movement for daycare, often justified on the undeniable grounds that working mothers need it but also on the grounds that daycare centers can take advantage of the latest innovations in pedagogy and child psychology. This policy of segregating children in age-graded institutions under professional supervision has been a massive failure, for reasons suggested some time ago by Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, an attack on city planning that applies to social planning in general.

"The myth that playgrounds and grass and hired guards or supervisors are innately wholesome for children and that city streets, filled with ordinary people, are innately evil for children, boils down to a deep contempt for ordinary people." In their contempt planners lose sight of the way in which city streets, if they are working as they should, teach children a lesson that cannot be taught by educators or professional caretakers: that "people must take a modicum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other." When the corner grocer or the locksmith scolds a child for running into the street, the child learns something that can't be learned simply by formal instruction.

What the child learns is that adults unrelated to one another except by the accident of propinquity uphold certain standards and assume responsibility for the neighbourhood. With good reason, Jacobs calls this the "first fundamental of successful city life," one that "people hired to look after children cannot teach because the essence of this responsibility is that you do it without being hired."

Neighbourhoods encourage "casual public trust," according to Jacobs. In its absence the everyday maintenance of life has to be turned over to professional bureaucrats. The atrophy of informal controls leads irresistibly to the expansion of bureaucratic controls. This development threatens to extinguish the very privacy liberals have always set such store by. It also loads the organizational sector with burdens it cannot support. The crisis of public funding is only one indication of the intrinsic weakness of organizations that can no longer count on informal, everyday mechanisms of social trust and control.

The taxpayers' revolt, although itself informed by an ideology of privatism resistant to any kind of civic appeals, at the same time grows out of a well-founded suspicion that tax money merely sustains bureaucratic self-aggrandizement

The lost habit of self-help

As formal organizations break down, people will have to improvise ways of meeting their immediate needs: patrolling their own neighbourhoods, withdrawing their children from public schools in order to educate them at home. The default of the state will thus contribute in its own right to the restoration of informal mechanisms of self-help. But it is hard to see how the foundations of civic life can be restored unless this work becomes an overriding goal of public policy. We have heard a good deal of talk about the repair of our material infrastructure, but our cultural infrastructure needs attention too, and more than just the rhetorical attention of politicians who praise "family values" while pursuing economic policies that undermine them. It is either naive or cynical to lead the public to think that dismantling the welfare state is enough to ensure a revival of informal cooperation-"a thousand points of light." People who have lost the habit of self-help, who live in cities and suburbs where shopping malls have replaced neighbourhoods, and who prefer the company of close friends (or simply the company of television) to the informal sociability of the street, the coffee shop, and the tavern are not likely to reinvent communities just because the state has proved such an unsatisfactory substitute. Market mechanisms will not repair the fabric of public trust. On the contrary the market's effect on the cultural infrastructure is just as corrosive as that of the state.

A third way

We can now begin to appreciate the appeal of populism and communitarianism. They reject both the market and the welfare state in pursuit of a third way. This is why they are so difficult to classify on the conventional spectrum of political opinion. Their opposition to free-market ideologies seems to align them with the left, but 'their criticism of the welfare state (whenever this criticism becomes open and explicit) makes them sound right-wing. In fact, these positions belong to neither the left nor the right, and for that very reason they seem to many people to hold out the best hope of breaking the deadlock of current debate, which has been institutionalized in the two major parties and their divided control of the federal government. At a time when political debate consists of largely of ideological slogans endlessly repeated to audiences composed mainly of the party faithful, fresh thinking is desperately needed. It is not likely to emerge, however, from those with a vested interest in 'the old orthodoxies. We need a "third way of thinking about moral obligation," as Alan Wolfe puts it, one that locates moral obligation neither in the state nor in the market but "in common sense, ordinary emotions, and everyday life."

Wolfe's plea for a political program designed to strengthen civil society, which closely resembles the ideas advanced in The Good Society by Robert Bellah and his collaborators, should be welcomed by the growing numbers of people who find themselves dissatisfied with the alternatives defined by conventional debate. These authors illustrate the strengths of the communitarian position along with some of its characteristic weaknesses. They make it clear that both the market and the state presuppose the strength of "non-economic ties of trust and solidarity" as Wolfe puts it. Yet the expansion of these institutions weakens ties of trust and thus undermines the preconditions for their own success. The market and the "job culture," Bellah writes, are "invading our private lives," eroding our "moral infrastructure" of "social trust." Nor does the welfare state repair the damage. "The example of more successful welfare states ... suggests that money and bureaucratic assistance alone do not halt the decline of the family" or strengthen any of the other "sustaining institutions that make interdependence morally significant." None of this means that a politics that really mattered-a politics rooted in popular common sense instead of the ideologies that appeal to elites-would painlessly resolve all the conflicts that threaten to tear the country apart. Communitarians underestimate the difficulty of finding an approach to family issues, say, that is both profamily and profeminist.

That may be what the public wants in theory. In practice, however, it requires a restructuring of the workplace designed to make work schedules far more flexible, career patterns less rigid and predictable, and criteria for advancement less destructive to family and community obligations. Such reforms imply interference with the market and a redefinition of success, neither of which will be achieved without a great deal of controversy.

Back to Course Content

[Jan 13, 2017] Making America Great Again Isnt Just About Money and Power

Notable quotes:
"... Excellent article by an economist who understands that economic extends beyond markets and intersects with political enlightenment. Were more economists that inclusive and divorced from self promotion the study would have more effective application. ..."
"... For many today, greatness is simply a government in the business of actively governing, as opposed to shying away from it under one excuse or the other. One example: the meteoric rise of incomes for the wealthy, which is a direct result of less financial regulation. First discovered by Reagan, then perfected by Clinton, the method involves highlighting regulation as a dirty word and overstating its link to American Capitalism, and in the bargain achieving less work for government, plus bag brownie points for patriotism. ..."
"... But what it really was, was a reluctance to govern for almost thirty years. Thank goodness Trump called it out for the fraud it was, and Obama decided he would spend his last month making a show of "governing". ..."
"... So that's what greatness means to most today: Government, please show up for work every day and just do your job. Not draw lines in sand and unlock every bathroom in sight and let illegals in. Just your job please, that's all. Yes? Grrreaat, thank you Donald. ..."
"... I doubt many think that the greatness of America is just about money and power. But many corporations are run on exactly this limited idea of the greatness of corporations. ..."
"... And, unfortunately, these same misguided bottom-line corporations now control Congress and the GOP. Corporate control of Congress should not be primarily for increasing corporate profits. Part of the profits stemming from automation should be used to mitigate the tremendous disappearance of jobs that corporations are causing by introducing AI and automation. ..."
"... I have traveled overseas enough to have an idea of life in other countries. My father shared something with other veterans--a sense of belonging to something bigger than them based on being "in the service." ..."
"... That comradeship, born of intense experience while young, is rare. In terms of the sense of belonging to a city or state, the most successful of us move around and cities have lost most of what made them unique. ..."
"... there is no central cultural core to being American--as compared to being French or British--other than technology and the meritocracy of money, a personal sense of ownership in America on the part of a majority of Americans runs contrary to contemporary experience. ..."
"... The first step on this path is real social & economic justice for all in our wonderful country. The current economic inequality in the U.S. is a disgrace to any just & civil society. We must figure out a way to fairly deal with that & our other inequalities of education, opportunity & racial injustices, if we are to achieve our potential of being that 'shining city on the hill' that the rest of the world will want to follow. ..."
"... A Great Society cannot be great in any meaningful sense unless it is determinedly honest -- not just self-relievingly frank. Thus, although I was happy to see this article, which I judge to be 'exemplarily' honest, I had disappointment that, in an age when the term post-truth is being used to describe conversation in English-speaking society, it neglects to emphasize the essentiality of honesty in any debate about what being a great society entails. Adam Smith did his best to point that out, but the rich and powerful and especially those in public office and those of capitalistic ideological bent appear these days to be letting us all down in this respect. ..."
"... This article is long overdue. Mr Trump has never explained is what MADE America great in the past. If questioned, he demurred. His shallow approach to policy and his poor understanding of American history and civics makes any answer from him questionable. ..."
"... Our current Free Trade pacts make it too easy for employers to shift jobs abroad. Other countries protect their industries. We should do the same, by again placing tariffs on any goods which have been manufactured abroad which could be made here. This would not be "forcing employers to restore or maintain jobs". It would be saying that if you want to sell your products here, then you will either make them here or pay tariffs on them. ..."
"... The Free Trade pacts have an additional problem. They allow international corporations to sue us if they think that one of our laws or regulations is keeping them from making as much money as they otherwise could. These lawsuits are conducted in special courts whose decisions cannot be appealed. This allows international corporations to interfere with our democracy. They should not be allowed to sue us for enforcing our own laws. ..."
"... The issue isn't what the definition of "great" is. It's who America is great *for.* America is outstandingly great for a very slim slice at the tip-top of the economy. ..."
"... The GOP are now proving that they are traitors to the general welfare. They are determined to make this nation's chief goal be to protect the welfare of the wealthiest and best-connected. If we are depending on a free press or the voting booth to protect us, we are fooling ourselves. The forces that have seized our democracy are going to gut both the press, and our civil liberties, so that this country can never again be "of, for and by the people." It will henceforth be for the plutocrats. ..."
"... The rest of us should just go quietly, and die on our own. ..."
Jan 13, 2017 | www.nytimes.com

"Make America Great Again," the slogan of President-elect Donald J. Trump 's successful election campaign, has been etched in the national consciousness. But it is hard to know what to make of those vague words.

We don't have a clear definition of "great," for example, or of the historical moment when, presumably, America was truly great. From an economic standpoint, we can't be talking about national wealth, because the country is wealthier than it has ever been: Real per capita household net worth has reached a record high, as Federal Reserve Board data shows.

But the distribution of wealth has certainly changed: Inequality has widened significantly. Including the effects of taxes and government transfer payments, real incomes for the bottom half of the population increased only 21 percent from 1980 to 2014. That compares with a 194 percent increase for the richest 1 percent, according to a new study by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

That's why it makes sense that Mr. Trump's call for a return to greatness resonated especially well among non-college-educated workers in Rust Belt states - people who have been hurt as good jobs in their region disappeared. But forcing employers to restore or maintain jobs isn't reasonable, and creating sustainable new jobs is a complex endeavor.

Difficult as job creation may be, making America great surely entails more than that, and it's worth considering just what we should be trying to accomplish. Fortunately, political leaders and scholars have been thinking about national greatness for a very long time, and the answer clearly goes beyond achieving high levels of wealth.

Adam Smith, perhaps the first true economist, gave some answers in " An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations ." That treatise is sometimes thought of as a capitalist bible. It is at least partly about the achieving of greatness through the pursuit of wealth in free markets. But Smith didn't believe that money alone assured national stature. He also wrote disapprovingly of the single-minded impulse to secure wealth, saying it was "the most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments." Instead, he emphasized that decent people should seek real achievement - "not only praise, but praiseworthiness."

Strikingly, national greatness was a central issue in a previous presidential election campaign: Lyndon B. Johnson , in 1964, called for the creation of a Great Society, not merely a rich society or a powerful society. Instead, he spoke of achieving equal opportunity and fulfillment. "The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents," he said. "It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness."

President Johnson's words still ring true. Opportunity is not equal for everyone in America. Enforced leisure has indeed become a feared cause of boredom and restlessness for those who have lost jobs, who have lost overtime work, who hold part-time jobs when they desire full-time employment, or who were pushed into unwanted early retirement.

But there are limits to what government can do. Jane Jacobs , the great urbanist, wrote that great nations need great cities, yet they cannot easily create them. "The great capitals of modern Europe did not become great cities because they were the capitals," Ms. Jacobs said. "Cause and effect ran the other way. Paris was at first no more the seat of French kings than were the sites of half a dozen other royal residences."

Cities grow organically, she said, capturing a certain dynamic, a virtuous circle, a specialized culture of expertise, with one industry leading to another, and with a reputation that attracts motivated and capable immigrants.

America still has cities like this, but a fact not widely remembered is that Detroit used to be one of them. Its rise to greatness was gradual. As Ms. Jacobs wrote, milled flour in the 1820s and 1830s required boats to ship the flour on the Great Lakes, which led to steamboats, marine engines and a proliferation of other industries, which set the stage for automobiles, which made Detroit a global center for anyone interested in that technology.

I experienced the beauty and excitement of Detroit as a child there among relatives who had ties to the auto industry. Today, residents of Detroit and other fading metropolises want their old cities back, but generations of people must create the fresh ideas and industries that spawn great cities, and they can't do it by fiat from Washington.

All of which is to say that government intervention to enhance greatness will not be a simple matter. There is a risk that well-meaning change may make matters worse. Protectionist policies and penalties for exporters of jobs may not increase long-term opportunities for Americans who have been left behind. Large-scale reduction of environmental or social regulations or in health care benefits, or in America's involvement in the wider world may increase our consumption, yet leave all of us with a sense of deeper loss.

Greatness reflects not only prosperity, but it is also linked with an atmosphere, a social environment that makes life meaningful. In President Johnson's words, greatness requires meeting not just "the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community."

sufferingsuccatash ohio 3 hours ago

Excellent article by an economist who understands that economic extends beyond markets and intersects with political enlightenment. Were more economists that inclusive and divorced from self promotion the study would have more effective application.

TMK New York, NY 5 hours ago

For many today, greatness is simply a government in the business of actively governing, as opposed to shying away from it under one excuse or the other. One example: the meteoric rise of incomes for the wealthy, which is a direct result of less financial regulation. First discovered by Reagan, then perfected by Clinton, the method involves highlighting regulation as a dirty word and overstating its link to American Capitalism, and in the bargain achieving less work for government, plus bag brownie points for patriotism.

But what it really was, was a reluctance to govern for almost thirty years. Thank goodness Trump called it out for the fraud it was, and Obama decided he would spend his last month making a show of "governing".

But Reagan did not hesitate to govern on the international stage. That credit goes solely to Obama, a president who's turned non-governance into something of an art. From refusing to regulate bathroom etiquette, to egging people to have more casual sex (condoms on government, no worries, go at it all you want), to unleashing 5 million illegals on domestic soil with a stroke of the pen, this President has been the most ungoverning president in US history.

So that's what greatness means to most today: Government, please show up for work every day and just do your job. Not draw lines in sand and unlock every bathroom in sight and let illegals in. Just your job please, that's all. Yes? Grrreaat, thank you Donald.

John Brews Reno, NV 6 hours ago

I doubt many think that the greatness of America is just about money and power. But many corporations are run on exactly this limited idea of the greatness of corporations.

And, unfortunately, these same misguided bottom-line corporations now control Congress and the GOP. Corporate control of Congress should not be primarily for increasing corporate profits. Part of the profits stemming from automation should be used to mitigate the tremendous disappearance of jobs that corporations are causing by introducing AI and automation.

Duane Coyle Wichita, Kansas 7 hours ago

I was born in America in 1956 to native-born Americans. My father served starting right after the Berlin Blockade, up through the Korean Conflict. My political consciousness was formed by Vietnam, Kent State, the COINTELPRO Papers, the Pentagon Papers, the Church Committee reports.

My father had trust in the federal government, whereas I have none. I became a lawyer, and married a lawyer. My brothers and my wife's sisters are all college-educated professionals.

Financially speaking, America has been very good to me. But as far as having any intellectual or visceral concept of what America is, or what being an American means, I couldn't tell you.

I have traveled overseas enough to have an idea of life in other countries. My father shared something with other veterans--a sense of belonging to something bigger than them based on being "in the service."

That comradeship, born of intense experience while young, is rare. In terms of the sense of belonging to a city or state, the most successful of us move around and cities have lost most of what made them unique.

Given how very little we are expected to contribute to our city, state or country, or even our neighbors, and as there is no central cultural core to being American--as compa