IMAGE/ Australia

“There is now a material basis for solidarity across the globe based on a shared sense of discontent at the ruin that neoliberalism is making of all that we value.”

“The neoliberal project [is] not an economic project at all, but a political project, designed to devastate the imagination, and willing [ . . . ] to destroy the capitalist order itself if that’s what it took to make it seem inevitable.” —David Graeber

Origins: Liberalism was the economic philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism that emerged in the 1870s. Almost 100 years later, neoliberalism emerged as a set of global policies implemented by the right-wing governments of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US The theoretical foundations were provided by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of economists.

We are living through a period of unprecedented concentration and centralization of capital on a global scale, with a few hundred transnational corporations controlling almost every aspect of our economies. Capitalists have responded to the falling rate of profit in production by increasingly speculating in credit, property, and stock markets — the unproductive sectors of the economy. Under such conditions, accumulation by dispossession becomes the order of the day: privatizing public services and selling off state assets; eliminating jobs and suppressing wages; extracting natural resources; forcing open territories for exploitation. All of this results in governments being more accountable to corporations, banks, and financial institutions than they are to citizens — a political dispossession that only compounds the social and economic dispossession. This phenomenon has come to be known as neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism, in a word, is the attempt of capital to resolve its crises by subjecting all aspects of life, from health and education to arts, livelihoods, and democracy itself, to the ideology of the free market. When implemented in advanced capitalist countries, neoliberalism is referred to as “austerity measures,” whereas for Third World populations it has been called “structural adjustment” or, more recently, “poverty reduction strategy papers” (PRSPs).

Beyond differences in naming, a common set of destructive social and economic policies are implemented in countries around the globe, privatizing and deregulating economies for the benefit of a few people with political and economic power. The state is declared inefficient and public services are first allowed to deteriorate from lack of funding before being sold off cheaply to the private sector, principally to transnational corporations. The state is prohibited from investing in social infrastructure, including health, education, transport, and telecommunications, which are instead managed by corporations, for profit. In the Third World, the state is barred from subsidizing agricultural production (unlike in Europe and the US). Tariff barriers protecting national economies are removed, rights to natural resources are auctioned off cheaply, and taxes are cut, resulting in ballooning wealth inequality and growing public debt.

Notably, as the state recedes, public services that corporations are unable to make profits from, such as primary education in poor communities, begin to be provided in part by charitable NGOs, another face of the private sector that is ultimately not accountable to citizens. The result is that the essentials of life that everyone has rights to — health care, education, water, etc. — are now selectively offered as charity (see: THEORY: The NGO-ization of resistance).

Fortunately, there are alternatives. The destruction caused by neoliberal policies has resulted in a growing crisis of credibility in capitalism’s ability to deliver on its promises, and growing movements demand a new approach, including the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the Occupy movements, as well as protest movements across the African continent, Spain, and Greece. For the first time in decades, there is now an appreciation of the material basis for solidarity across the globe based on a shared sense of discontent at the ruin that neoliberalism is making of all that we value.

Beautiful Rising for more

Comments are closed.