Skip to main content

How neoliberalism manufactured consent to secure its unlimited power

From David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism

Part 9 – General conditions and institutions behind the turn of the British public opinion towards neoliberalism

The construction of consent in Britain occurred in a very different way. What happened in Kansas was quite different from what happened in Yorkshire. The cultural and political traditions were very different. In Britain, there is no Christian right to speak of to be mobilized into a moral majority.

Corporate power there was little inclined to support overt political activism (its contributions to political parties were minimal), preferring instead to exercise influence through the networks of class and privilege that had long connected government, academia, the judiciary, and the permanent Civil Service (which at that time still maintained its tradition of independence) with the leaders of industry and finance.

The political situation was also radically different, given that the Labour Party had largely been constructed as an instrument of working-class power, beholden to strong and sometimes quite militant trade unions. Britain had consequently developed a far more elaborate and all-encompassing welfare state structure than would have ever been dreamed of in the US.

The commanding heights of the economy (coal, steel, automobiles) were nationalized, and a large proportion of the housing stock was in the public sector. And the Labour Party had, ever since the 1930s, built significant redoubts of power in the arena of municipal governance, with Herbert Morrison’s London County Council being in the vanguard from the 1930s onwards.

Social solidarities constructed through the union movement and municipal governance were strongly in evidence. Even when the Conservative Party took power for prolonged periods after the Second World War it largely refrained from any attempt at dismantling the welfare state it had inherited.

The Labour government of the 1960s had refused to send troops to Vietnam, thus saving the country from direct domestic traumas over participation in an unpopular war. After the Second World War, Britain had (albeit reluctantly and in some instances not without violent struggle and considerable prodding from the US) agreed to decolonization, and after the abortive Suez venture of 1956 gradually (and again often reluctantly) shed much of the mantle of direct imperial power.

The withdrawal of its forces east of Suez in the 1960s was an important signifier of this process. Thereafter, Britain largely participated as a junior partner within NATO under the military shield of US power. But Britain did continue to project a neocolonial presence throughout much of what had been its empire, and in so doing frequently tangled with other great powers (as, for example, in the bloody Nigerian civil war when Biafra attempted to secede).

The issue of Britain’s relations with and responsibilities towards its ex-colonies was often fraught, both at home and abroad. Neocolonial structures of commercial exploitation were often deepened rather than eradicated. But migratory currents from the ex-colonies towards Britain were beginning to bring the consequences of empire back home in new ways.

The most important residual of Britain’s imperial presence was the continuing role of the City of London as a centre of international finance. During the 1960s this became increasingly important as the UK moved to protect and enhance the position of the City with respect to the rising powers of globally oriented finance capital. This created a series of important contradictions.

The protection of finance capital (through interest rate manipulations) more often than not conflicted with the needs of domestic manufacturing capital (hence provoking a structural division within the capitalist class) and sometimes inhibited the expansion of the domestic market (by restricting credit). The commitment to a strong pound undermined the export position of UK industry and helped create balance of payments crises in the 1970s.

Contradictions arose between the embedded liberalism constructed within and the free market liberalism of London-based finance capital operating on the world stage. The City of London, the financial centre, had long favoured monetarist rather than Keynesian policies, and therefore formed a bastion of resistance to embedded liberalism.

The welfare state constructed in Britain after the Second World War was never to everyone’s liking. Strong currents of criticism circulated through the media (with the highly respected Financial Times in the lead), which were increasingly subservient to financial interests. Individualism, freedom, and liberty were depicted as opposed to the stifling bureaucratic ineptitude of the state apparatus and oppressive trade union power.

Such criticisms become widespread in Britain during the 1960s and became even more emphatic during the bleak years of economic stagnation during the 1970s. People then feared that Britain was becoming ‘a corporatist state, ground down to a gray mediocrity’.

The undercurrent of thought represented by Hayek constituted a viable opposition and had its advocates in the universities and even more importantly dominated the work of the Institute of Economic Affairs (founded in 1955), where Keith Joseph, later to be a key adviser to Margaret Thatcher, rose to public prominence in the 1970s. The foundation of the Centre for Policy Studies (1974) and the Adam Smith Institute (1976), and the increasing commitment of the press to neoliberalization during the 1970s, significantly affected the climate of public opinion.

The earlier rise of a significant youth movement (given to political satire) and the arrival of a freewheeling pop culture in the ‘swinging London’ of the 1960s both mocked and challenged the traditional structure of networked class relations.

Individualism and freedom of expression became an issue and a left-leaning student movement, influenced in many ways by the complexities of coming to terms with Britain’s entrenched class system as well as with its colonial heritage, became an active element within British politics, much as it did elsewhere in the movement of ’68. Its disrespectful attitude towards class privileges (whether of aristocrats, politicians, or union bureaucrats) was to ground the later radicalism of the postmodern turn. Scepticism about politics was to prepare the way for suspicion of all metanarratives.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [10] [11]

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

It's definite: Elizabeth Warren is the female Obama, can't be trusted

globinfo freexchange

One year from the 2020 US presidential election, things start to become clearer day by day. In the US political scene, we can now recognize the authentic progressives from the fakes, and certainly, from the establishment neoliberal centrists. 
In the presidential-candidates level we can now identify only Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard as the ones who are willing to fight the establishment and try to implement progressive, anti-imperialist policies. After her latest position, concerning the military coup in Bolivia against the democratically elected Evo Morales, Elizabeth Warren could be considered a pseudo-progressive, equal to a female Barack Obama. Therefore, progressives definitely can't trust her.
Warren tweeted:
The Bolivian people deserve free and fair elections, as soon as possible. Bolivia's interim leadership must limit itself to preparing for an early, legitimate election. Bolivia's security forces must protect demonstrators, not commit …

Latest WikiLeaks revelation and its treatment by the mainstream press explicitly demonstrate why the imperialists are determined to eliminate Julian Assange

globinfo freexchange
On November, 23, WikiLeaks published an e-mail, sent by a member of an OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria to his superiors, in which he expresses his gravest concern over intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a team of experts to investigate allegations that a chemical attack took place in the Syrian city of Douma on the 7th of April 2018. The author of the e-mail was a member of that team and claims the redacted preliminary version of the report, misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground. The e-mail is dated 22nd of June. It is addressed to Robert Fairweather, Chief of Cabinet, and forwarded to his deputy Aamir Shouket and members of the fact-finding mission to Douma.  


In short, the OPCW whistleblower actually claims that the report has been somehow altered. And it was done in a way to fit the scenario, according to which, the Assa…

LIVE: Bolivians resist military coup in La Paz

It's now or never: the first step for a Sanders/Corbyn synchronization in power must be done on 12 December in UK

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the global working class
by system failure
Two years ago, we wondered whether a US government under Bernie Sanders, together with a UK government under Jeremy Corbyn, could mark a decisive victory against neoliberalism. Whether it could mark the beginning of the end of the Reagan/Thatcher awful legacy.

It seems that the time has come for the first step towards this prospect.

The oncoming UK general election on Thursday 12 December 2019, will be the most critical for decades, especially for the global working class. The outcome will determine to a significant degree, whether the capitalist West will change course away from the destructive neoliberalism, towards a form of Democratic Socialism. A new model that will resurrect the social state, while at the same time, will seriously deal with the great environmental challenges, defying big interests and rejecting the for-profit-wars model.



As we already pointed out, the whole Brexit issue is pri…

Οργανισμός Αμερικανικών Κρατών: Στην υπηρεσία της Ουάσινγκτον

του Ανδρέα Κοσιάρη
Ο Οργανισμός Αμερικανικών Κρατών, που εξέδωσε την έκθεση για την εκλογική αναμέτρηση στη Βολιβία, η οποία «δικαιολόγησε» το πραξικόπημα εναντίον του Έβο Μοράλες, είναι στη θεωρία ένας ουδέτερος οργανισμός κρατών. Στην πραγματικότητα όμως έχει μακρά ιστορία υποστήριξης των επεμβάσεων των ΗΠΑ στη Λατινική Αμερική, και σήμερα χρηματοδοτείται κατά πλειοψηφία από τα ταμεία του αμερικανικού κράτους. 
Παρά την ίδρυσή του το 1948 με σκοπό την «προώθηση της ειρήνης και τη διευθέτηση διαφωνιών μεταξύ των κρατών-μελών», ήταν μάλλον από την αρχή όργανο της αντικομμουνιστικής εξωτερικής πολιτικής των ΗΠΑ.

Ο ΟΑΚ υπήρξε σιωπηλός ή και στήριξε όλες ανεξαιρέτως τις αμερικανικές επεμβάσεις στη Λατινική Αμερική, είτε αυτές λάμβαναν τη μορφή εισβολής, όπως στην Κούβα το 1961, είτε τη μορφή στήριξης σε πραξικοπήματα και δικτατορικά καθεστώτα, όπως στη Χιλή το 1973 (και στην Αργεντινή, τη Βολιβία, τη Γουατεμάλα, τη Νικαράγουα, την Αϊτή, τον Παναμά, τη Βραζιλία, την Παραγουάη και τον Ισημ…

Fears for an assassination attempt against Evo Morales

BREAKING
Independent journalist, Ben Norton, tweeted that he has been informed about a possible assassination attempt against the Bolivian president Evo Morales. According to Norton:
          Sources are telling me they are afraid that Bolivia's elected President Evo Morales might be killed tonight in the right-wing coup.

Sources are telling me they are afraid that Bolivia's elected President Evo Morales might be killed tonight in the right-wing coup.

This is a full-fronted imperialist attack on democracy. It is a blatant attempt to recolonize Latin America and overthrow all efforts at progress. — Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 10, 2019
Updates

EU giving cover to the military coup that just took place in Bolivia. Neither the EU nor the US support democracy. The people of Bolivia already expressed their “democratic will” by re-electing Evo Morales. A right wing US-backed coup stole that from them, this is disgusting https://t.co/qamCSvYmz9— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek)…

Nos oponemos al golpe

Declaración de Noam Chomsky y Vijay Prashad
En Bolivia se está gestando un golpe de Estado contra el gobierno electo liderado por Evo Morales. Sectores de la policía han dicho abiertamente que están dispuestos a permitir que grupos de milicias fascistas ataquen el palacio presidencial en La Paz. La situación es muy grave.

Evo Morales ha invitado a los cuatro principales partidos a sentarse y conversar sobre el camino a seguir para la democracia boliviana. Ha pedido el establecimiento de un diálogo para evitar el regreso de los días de las dictaduras militares y los gobiernos oligárquicos. Morales ha hecho un llamado a las Naciones Unidas, a la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), al Vaticano y a otros más para que contribuyan a encontrar el camino para alejarse del golpe.

El golpe es promovido por la oligarquía boliviana que está enojada por la cuarta elección que sus partidos pierden frente el Movimiento al Socialismo. La oligarquía cuenta con el total apoyo del gobierno de los…

Mainstream media pro-Johnson propaganda gets into full swing

by Craig Murray
We are now under election broadcasting rules.

Ian Austin left the Labour Party nine months ago. He was then appointed by the Tories as Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Israel. As of yesterday, he is neither a MP nor a candidate for election. He is a minor politician who achieved only the most junior ministerial rank, PUSS, and for only seven months. He is best known for heckling Jeremy Corbyn while Jeremy Corbyn was delivering the official Labour response to the Chilcot Report on the illegal invasion of Iraq, shouting “Sit down and shut up” and “You stupid disgrace” at Corbyn for criticising the war.
We are now under election broadcasting rules. How and why was Ian Austin invited onto the BBC Radio 4 Today programme today? He left the Labour Party six months ago, and has been a huge critic of Corbyn. It is hardly a surprise that the Tory’s Trade Envoy to Israel advises people to vote Tory. So who initiated Ian Austin’s appearance on the BBC Today programme, and why? It…

Here's why Bernie could end up being better than even FDR

globinfo freexchange

In his speeches, Bernie Sanders frequently refers to the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), and his New Deal program that helped millions of Americans after the 1929 Wall Street crash. Sanders and other progressives are proposing a similar program adjusted to the modern environmental challenges. The Green New Deal has now become a popular vision, especially among young Americans. Around it, the progressives are aiming to build a whole new model beyond destructive neoliberalism and even obsolete capitalism.

Many would argue that this is quite an extremely optimistic view. That Sanders is just an old-school moderate Social-Democrat who will only manage to revive some typical social policies of the past, and that's it. He will never manage to seriously challenge the current power structure, which, indeed, has grown enormously, controlling nearly every aspect of the political and economic life.

Yet Sanders already managed to achieve …

WikiLeaks evidence that the imperialist machine was monitoring anti-imperialist Jeremy Corbyn at least since the US invasion of Iraq

The WIKILEAKS Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD)holds the world's largest searchable collection of United States confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications. As of April 8, 2013 it holds 2 million records comprising approximately 1 billion words. The collection covers US involvements in, and diplomatic or intelligence reporting on, every country on earth. It is the single most significant body of geopolitical material ever published. The PlusD collection, built and curated by WikiLeaks, is updated from a variety of sources, including leaks, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and documents released by the US State Department systematic declassification review. 
globinfo freexchange
A cable from December, 2002, proves that the US officials were closely monitoring anti-war activities. The particular cable was describing a protest "against a possible U.S.-led operation against Iraq" in Istanbul, Turkey, and there is a spec…