Skip to main content

How neoliberalism manufactured consent to secure its unlimited power

From David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism

Part 2 - How neoliberalism penetrated ‘common-sense’ understandings

How, then, did neoliberalism negotiate the turn to so comprehensively displace embedded liberalism? In some instances, the answer largely lies in the use of force (either military, as in Chile, or financial, as through the operations of the IMF in Mozambique or the Philippines). Coercion can produce a fatalistic, even abject, acceptance of the idea that there was and is, as Margaret Thatcher kept insisting, ‘no alternative’. The active construction of consent has also varied from place to place.

Furthermore, as numerous oppositional movements attest, consent has often wilted or failed in different places. But we must look beyond these infinitely varied ideological and cultural mechanisms –– no matter how important they are –– to the qualities of everyday experience in order to better identify the material grounding for the construction of consent. And it is at that level –– through the experience of daily life under capitalism in the 1970s –– that we begin to see how neoliberalism penetrated ‘common-sense’ understandings. The effect in many parts of the world has increasingly been to see it as a necessary, even wholly ‘natural’, way for the social order to be regulated.

Any political movement that holds individual freedoms to be sacrosanct is vulnerable to incorporation into the neoliberal fold. The worldwide political upheavals of 1968, for example, were strongly inflected with the desire for greater personal freedoms. This was certainly true for students, such as those animated by the Berkeley ‘free speech’ movement of the 1960s or who took to the streets in Paris, Berlin, and Bangkok and were so mercilessly shot down in Mexico City shortly before the 1968 Olympic Games. They demanded freedom from parental, educational, corporate, bureaucratic, and state constraints. But the ’68 movement also had social justice as a primary political objective.

Values of individual freedom and social justice are not, however, necessarily compatible. Pursuit of social justice presupposes social solidarities and a willingness to submerge individual wants, needs, and desires in the cause of some more general struggle for, say, social equality or environmental justice. The objectives of social justice and individual freedom were uneasily fused in the movement of ’68. The tension was most evident in the fraught relationship between the traditional left (organized labour and political parties espousing social solidarities) and the student movement desirous of individual liberties.

The suspicion and hostility that separated these two fractions in France (e.g. the Communist Party and the student movement) during the events of 1968 is a case in point. While it is not impossible to bridge such differences, it is not hard to see how a wedge might be driven between them. Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multi-culturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power.

It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.

In the early 1970s those seeking individual freedoms and social justice could make common cause in the face of what many saw as a common enemy. Powerful corporations in alliance with an interventionist state were seen to be running the world in individually oppressive and socially unjust ways. The Vietnam War was the most obvious catalyst for discontent, but the destructive activities of corporations and the state in relation to the environment, the push towards mindless consumerism, the failure to address social issues and respond adequately to diversity, as well as intense restrictions on individual possibilities and personal behaviours by state-mandated and ‘traditional’ controls were also widely resented. Civil rights were an issue, and questions of sexuality and of reproductive rights were very much in play. For almost everyone involved in the movement of ’68, the intrusive state was the enemy and it had to be reformed.

And on that, the neoliberals could easily agree. But capitalist corporations, business, and the market system were also seen as primary enemies requiring redress if not revolutionary transformation: hence the threat to capitalist class power. By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices.

Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called ‘post-modernism’ which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s.

None of this was very clear at the time. Left movements failed to recognize or confront, let alone transcend, the inherent tension between the quest for individual freedoms and social justice. But the intuitive sense of the problem was, I suspect, clear enough to many in the upper class, even to those who had never read Hayek or even heard of neoliberal theory. Let me illustrate this idea by comparing the neoliberal turns in the US and Britain in the troubled years of the 1970s.

[1] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Establishment's attempt to promote the hardcore neoliberal Kamala Harris up to the presidency through the back door

globinfo freexchange
Rumours spread around the mainstream quickly on July, 28, whenPolitico "accidentally[?] published a report that Biden picked Harris as his running mate. The outlet quickly deleted the report, and said it was published by mistake. "For a brief period yesterday afternoon, placeholder text was mistakenly published to the site," Brad Dayspring, Politico's vice president of marketing and communications, told The Hill."
Huh?

Politico labeled Sen. Kamala Harris as Biden's running mate... that he chose on August 1 (4 days from now).https://t.co/M3dhmIwZ7opic.twitter.com/99GDHzWPnL — Mark Bednar (@MarkBednar) July 28, 2020
How did that happen? 
Was that indeed a big blunder by the establishment machine? Or, was a deliberate "leak" by the machine to test reactions?

The next day, Kamala Harris wrote a quite "presidential" tweet, reflecting perfectly her presidential ambitions. As she stated: "We can't have millions of…

Ο Κούλης επιβεβαιώνει πλήρως ότι θα εφαρμόσει νέο, σκληρό μνημόνιο!

globinfo freexchange
Όπως είχαμε αναφέρει ήδη από το 2016 και αμέσως μετά την εκλογή Μητσοτάκη στην ηγεσία της ΝΔ, το αποτέλεσμα των εσωτερικών εκλογών στη γαλάζια παράταξη έλυνε τα χέρια του άξονα Βρυξελλών-Βερολίνου. Οι γραφειοφασίστες των Βρυξελλών και το διευθυντήριο του Βερολίνου απέκτησαν μια πρώτης τάξεως εφεδρεία σε περίπτωση που τα πράγματα "στράβωναν" με την κυβέρνηση Τσίπρα.  
Έτσι, ο νέος [τότε] αρχηγός της ΝΔ, Κυριάκος Μητσοτάκης, αποτελεί την καλύτερη λύση προκειμένου να εφαρμόσει πιστά τις πιο σκληρές νεοφιλελεύθερες πολιτικές προκειμένου να ολοκληρωθεί το πείραμα με κάθε λεπτομέρεια.
Ήρθε η ώρα να μας επαληθεύσει πλήρως ο ίδιος ο Μητσοτάκης. Όπως αναφέρει ρεπορτάζ του tvxs.gr:
Μνημόνια με τη μορφή κυβερνητικής πολιτικής είναι το οικονομικό σχέδιο του Κυριάκου Μητσοτάκη, όπως προκύπτει από τη συνέντευξή του στους Financial Times, με αφορμή τη σύνοδο κορυφής της ΕΕ στις 17-18 Ιουλίου. Ο πρωθυπουργός μάλιστα θεωρεί ότι η πανδημία μπορεί να αποτελέσει…

Powerful signs that Biden will have a tough time to control progressives and their growing influence inside the Democratic party

globinfo freexchange
We wrote recently that, even if Biden wins easily in November, things will never be the same inside his party. It seems that the progressive wave is getting stronger, especially after some big victories of progressive candidates in the recent Democratic Primary. The most impressive of them, is AOC's new victory against a Wall Street puppet. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez achieved an astonishing victory through an unreal percentage (72.6%).
Therefore, Bernie's political revolution is far from over. The progressive army is growing stronger and Biden will have a tough time to deal with the Leftist pressure inside the Democratic party. Maintaining the neoliberal agenda won't be a walk in the park on a sunny day.

We already have strong indications towards that case. As Joe Garofoli reported recently for the San Francisco Chronicle [emphasis added]:
California progressives are not letting up on Joe Biden after he released a clean-energy plan last week that is…

Νέες αποκαλύψεις-σοκ: οι τραπεζίτες άρχισαν να "ροκανίζουν" τα δισεκατομμύρια του "μαξιλαριού"!

globinfo freexchange
Σε μια νέα, απίστευτη καταγγελία προχώρησε ο Γιάνης Βαρουφάκης, στις 13/7 στο τοπικό κανάλι της Κέρκυρας Start TV.  Όπως ανέφερε:
                         Η Eurobank ίδρυσε μια εταιρία "σφραγίδα" - τώρα, αυτή τη βδομάδα -  στην οποία περνάει κόκκινα δάνειά της. [...] Την εισάγουν στο χρηματιστήριο - τώρα, οσονούπω - και τις μετοχές θα τις δώσουν ως μέρισμα στους μετόχους της Eurobank. Θα μου πείτε: τι αξία θα έχει αυτή η μετοχή; Ναι, αλλά εδώ έρχονται τα 12 δισεκατομμύρια, τις εγγυήσεις που θα δώσουν τα παιδιά σας και τα εγγόνια σας, γιατί εκείνοι θα επωμιστούν αυτά τα 12 δισ. από τον ESM, για να έχουν κέρδη οι μέτοχοι της Eurobank που δημιούργησαν μια εταιρία "σφραγίδα"! Αυτά τα πράγματα ούτε οι εγκληματίες της Lehman Brothers δεν τα κάνανε, το 2007!

Όπως είχαμε γράψει ήδη από τον Απρίλιο,  τον Δεκέμβριο του 2019, η κυβέρνηση Μητσοτάκη πέρασε ένα σχέδιο νόμου με την κωδική ονομασία "Ηρακλής", με στόχο να μειώσει το άνοιγμα των τραπεζ…

Trump tells Florida crowd “something will happen in Venezuela” soon

“Something will happen with Venezuela. That’s all I can tell you,” Trump said, before not-so-cryptically  adding that Washington would be “very much involved.”
by Alan Macleod
On a trip to COVID-19 riddled Florida this weekend, President Donald Trump not-so-cryptically revealed that he had something big planned for Venezuela during a meeting with leaders of the U.S. military’s Southern Command. “Something will happen with Venezuela. That’s all I can tell you,” he said, before adding that Washington would be “very much involved” in what he was referencing.
On Trump’s orders, Southern Command moved large numbers of forces to the region, ostensibly to conduct a counter-narcotics operation against Venezuela, which the U.S. has described as a “narco state,” with the DEA offering a $15 million bounty for President Maduro’s head. This, despite the fact the U.S. government’s own reports on drug smuggling barely even mention Venezuela and official summaries show that U.S.-allies Colombia and Ec…

Ο ρόλος της Τουρκίας και του Ερντογάν στην κούρσα των Δυτικών αποικιοκρατών για τον ορυκτό πλούτο της Λιβύης

του system failure
Κλιμακώνεται επικίνδυνα η ένταση στην Ανατολική Μεσόγειο, λόγω κυρίως της επεκτατικής πολιτικής της Τουρκίας και της ενεργού ανάμιξής της στο Λιβυκό χάος.
Αλλά παρόλο που η κατάσταση παραμένει πράγματι χαοτική στη Λιβύη, λόγω κυρίως των επεμβάσεων των αποικιοκρατών της Δύσης, οι οποίοι πρώτοι άνοιξαν τον ασκό του Αιόλου (και από αυτούς πρώτοι οι Γάλλοι), φαίνεται ότι το γεωπολιτικό τοπίο αρχίζει, σιγά-σιγά, να ξεκαθαρίζει. 
Όπως είχαμε αποκαλύψει ήδη από το 2016, μια επιστολή από το αρχείο της ηλεκτρονικής αλληλογραφίας της Χίλαρι Κλίντον, που δημοσίευσαν τα WikiLeaks, αποδείκνυε ότι είχε ξεκινήσει μια σκληρή κούρσα ανταγωνισμού μεταξύ των Δυτικών αποικιοκρατικών δυνάμεων πάνω από την Λιβύη. 
Όπως είχαμε αναφέρει, ο τίτλος και οι λεπτομέρειες των πληροφοριών που περιέχονται στην επιστολή, προδίδουν μια έντονη δυσαρέσκεια από πλευράς Αμερικανών για το γεγονός ότι οι Γαλλικές εταιρίες έκοψαν πρώτες το νήμα στην κούρσα για το Λιβυκό πτώμα.
Υπενθυμίζεται ότι, στη συγκεκ…

How a US and Qatari regime change deception produced ‘Caesar’ sanctions driving Syria towards famine

Like the mysterious figure it is named for, the Caesar sanctions bill is the product of an elaborate deception by shadowy US- and Gulf-backed operatives. Instead of protecting Syrian civilians, the unilateral measures are driving them towards hunger and death.
by Max Blumenthal
Part 7 - 46% of the Caesar file reveals mass killings – by a brutal armed opposition
Though the full contents of the supposed Caesar file has never been made public, Human Rights Watch (HRW) was able to view the documents in full in 2015. In a lengthy report hyping the photos and attempting to reinforce the push for regime change, HRW inadvertently demolished Washington’s narrative.

In a virtual footnote in its lengthy report on the Caesar file, HRW acknowledged that nearly half of the entire file – some 24,568 photos – depicted the bodies of government soldiers who had been killed by the armed opposition, “including [by] incidents of terrorism, fires, explosions and car bombs).

As Rick Sterling noted, “nearly …

Firm linked to HHS’ Robert Kadlec poised to become exclusive manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines

A pharmaceutical firm with a dark history and questionable ties to serving ASPR Robert Kadlec is poised to become the exclusive manufacturer of the COVID-19 vaccines now being funded through Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.
by Raul Diego 
Part 3 - The Money Trail
As usual, following the money usually takes us to the center of the real action. In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, Emergent’s “go-to” status is borne out by this tried and true method, and when we survey the agreements already in place with the companies most likely to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. The value of Johnson & Johnson’s contract with Emergent Biosolutions, for instance, matches up almost exactly with the $456 million grant it received from the Trump administration; Emergent’s five-year manufacturing agreement with the American multinational is worth approximately $480 million.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate, which also received considerable funding from Operation Warp Speed, likewise reached an $8…

After Trump deploys secret police in Portland, 'imagine what happens if he gets four more years'

"They want to see what they can get away with before launching into other parts of the country."
by Jake Johnson
Video footage and first-hand accounts of unidentified federal law enforcement officials snatching up Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Oregon and throwing them into unmarked vehicles drew nationwide attention and outrage Friday, with members of Congress, human rights groups, and journalists accusing the Trump administration of deploying "secret police" to crush dissent.
"Unmarked federal agents in combat gear are pulling protesters off the street and jailing them without charge," tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). "That is what a police state is all about. Now is the time to defend our Constitution. Now is the time to come together and defeat Trump's authoritarian policies."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called the conduct of federal law enforcement "outrageous" and said the Trump administration "should …

The east-bound wind causes a storm in the West: Iran-China sign long-term trade agreement

by Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
A few months after the publication of his remarkable book, Adam Smith in Beijing, I had an illuminating conversation with Giovanni Arrighi about the significance of China in world history. The late sociologist was interested in knowing more about the subject of my scholarship–modern Iran and the Iranian revolution. When he saw my puzzled face, he told me that he believes that all this apprehension in the west about Iran, is actually rooted in apprehension about China. 
Arrighi thought that if there were any “mainstream” of world history, it ought to be located in the story of China, the only civilization that has shaped the world as a hegemon over many millennia with the exception of the last 250 years. The rise of the West, according to him is an aberration and China will define the future of the world history. 
For China to play that role, it needs sources of energy to feed its expanding economy and a firm foothold in the world trade network. And there is …