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Monday, June 27, 2016
Brexit, Lexit, Neoliberalism and the Real Struggle of our Confused Age
"Same as it ever was..."-Talking Heads
So David Cameron gambled that a bone thrown to the lower classes and the rump racists and nativists(their version of the worst elements of our Tea Party), in the form of a Referendum on whether or not to leave the EU, backfired horribly.
Nobody expected the plurality to vote for Leave....that was considered impossible...largely because the existential crises of Working People have been dismissed by the Rulers, and pooh-poohed and lumped in with the racists and nativists.
It is similar to the ongoing ferment in our own Election Season...with so many Liberals(in US usage) filled with ennui and alienation and anger, and no place to put it, or to express it.
The British Labour Party, after Blair, is in the same boat, roughly, as our own Democratic Party, after Clinton.
It represents the Upper Middle Class, at best...and has effectively thrown everyone below that level off a cliff.
Turns out that continually ignoring the suffering of a great number of one's constituents has consequences.
The usual Identity Politics and “look, something shiny!” and “it's all (insert hated minority)'s fault!”...only has purchase for so long.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has an interesting take on the whole mess...
as does the Naked Capitalist's brilliant Yves Smith:
melt all that together in a pot of Pepe Escobar:
….and typical astuteness from Truthout:
...and we arrive at what looks like what's really going on, here.
Then there's this:
I have no idea who this guy is, but I've seen it floating around the more erudite comments sections.
Whomever he is, he's right:
Kutner, as usual, sums everything up nicely: “Rising mass discontent has failed to dethrone the elites responsible for these policies, but it has resulted in loss of faith in institutions. The one percent won the policies but lost the people. “
It's stupid, but entirely predictable.
As the Demparty abandoned FDR and the Masses, so has Labour abandoned it's former Principals and become, in similar fashion, the Moderate Wing of the respective “Conservative” Parties(gop, over here, Tory over there).
The same thing is happening almost everywhere we look.
Angry poor people are turning to NeoFascist ideologues because the Left has been so effectively castrated.
This is all the fruit of a hundred years of Anti-Marxist Hysteria, meant to protect the Aristocracy from any sort of Socialist reform or restraint.
By lumping all consideration of the People into the bogeyman of Soviet Style Communism, the Elite have shot themselves in the ass.
But the Mandarins of Neoliberalism* are once again failing to see the writing on the wall...they believe their own hallucinatory rhetoric, and believe so hard in the Utopian Vision that they never expect a Revolt of the Masses, nor understand that they are backing themselves into a corner of their own making.
Why would the People revolt, after all, when the System the Masters have designed and implemented is so Perfect and Sublime?
This Blindness is their Fatal Flaw.
So...because “There is No Alternative” to the Neoliberal Totality....because the People have No Choice in the matter...we'll enter a period akin to the 1930's, due to the same Blindness of the Mandarins, and the same Failures.
The EUC, and it's Masters in Big Banks and Multinationals...along with our own “Chattering Classes” and Their Masters in the American analogs of Moloch...will become the Ancient Regime, at the storming of the Bastille.
The Masters become Food....how metaphorical that ends up being is anyone's guess.
They could, of course, pull it out of the fire, one more time....I expect under Hillary to be able to get Gay Married while legally smoking a joint and maybe even having a little bit better access to Healthcare and Education....but such Reforms will be too little and too late to make any real difference.
They will be merely further exercises in kicking the proverbial Can down the road...to be dealt with again and again...until some unknown threshold of pain and suffering is crossed, and the Hobbsian War of All against All erupts and formally begins the Dark Age we've been flirting with for most of my lifetime.
The Aristocracy never learns...and neither do We, the People.
"They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven..."-Alan Ginsberg, "Howl"
*- as for Neoliberalism....it ain't Liberal(American Usage) nor is it all that New.
It's a resurgent Feudalism, dressed up in Post-Post Modernist obfuscatory Language, that means nothing and serves only to Deceive the Masses, while the Aristocracy once again runs off with most of the Pie.
It's an old, old story.
Here's a good summation:
“a list of key points in neoliberalism:
maximalisation of volume of transactions (’global flows’)
conversion of most social acts into market transactions
artificial maximalisation of competition and stress
creation of quasi-markets
reduction of inter-transaction interval
maximalisation of parties to each transaction
maximalisation of reach and effect of each transaction
maximalisation of hire/fire transactions in the labour market (nominal turnover)
maximalisation of assessment factors, by which compliance with a contract is measured
reduction of the inter-assessment interval
creation of exaggerated or artificial assessment norms (’audit society’)
A final summary definition of neoliberalism as a philosophy is this:
Neoliberalism is a philosophy in which the existence and operation of a market are valued in themselves, separately from any previous relationship with the production of goods and services, and without any attempt to justify them in terms of their effect on the production of goods and services; and where the operation of a market or market-like structure is seen as an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action, and substituting for all previously existing ethical beliefs.”
Here is another:
“The NTC [neoliberal thought collective] is held together first and foremost by fealty to some core ideas; the institutional structure is primarily a means for those ideas to be inserted into various specific political situations, and to be passed on to the next generation. For purposes of discussion I paraphrase them here in extremely truncated format, without going into detail about any single proposition. The intellectual content of neoliberalism is something that warrants sustained discussion, but this can only happen once critical historians can admit they are no longer basing their evaluations on the isolated writings of a single author. There is no convenient crib sheet describing what the modern neoliberal thought collective actually believes.
(1) “Free” markets do not occur naturally. They must be actively constructed through political organizing. (2) “The market” is an information processor, and the most efficient one possible—more efficient than any government or any single human ever could be. (3) Market society is, and therefore should be, the natural and inexorable state of humankind. (4) The political goal of neoliberals is not to destroy the state, but to take control of it, and to redefine its structure and function, in order to create and maintain the market-friendly culture. (5) There is no contradiction between public/politics/citizenship and private/ market/entrepreneur-and- consumerism—because the latter does and should eclipse the former. (6) The most important virtue—more important than justice, or anything else—is freedom, defined “negatively” as “freedom to choose”, and most importantly, defined as the freedom of corporations to act as they please. (7) Capital has a natural right to flow freely across national boundaries—labor, not so much. (8) Inequality—of resources, income, wealth, and even political rights—is a good thing; it prompts productivity, because people envy the rich and emulate them; people who complain about inequality are either sore losers or old fogies, who need to get hip to the way things work nowadays. (9) Corporations can do no wrong—by definition. (10) The market, engineered and promoted by neoliberal experts, can always provide solutions to problems seemingly caused by the market in the first place: there’s always “an app for that.” (11) There is no difference between is and should be: “free” markets both should be (normatively) and are (positively) most the efficient economic system, and the most just way of doing politics, and the most empirically true description of human behavior, and the most ethical and moral way to live—which in turn explains, and justifies, why their versions of “free” markets should be, and as neoliberals build more and more power, increasingly are, universal.”
-(from comments here:http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/05/philip-mirowski-this-is-water-or-is-it-the-neoliberal-thought-collective.html) referencing this article: (http://ineteconomics.org/ideas-papers/research-papers/the-political-movement-that-dared-not-speak-its-own-name-the-neoliberal-thought-collective-under-erasure)
It's a Non-Ideological Ideology. The Rulers really don't care if there's Gay Sex, or Pot Smoking or Racist Violence or Equality for Women or any of the stuff we care about, down here on the ground.
All that is a distraction.
As for the “Liberalism” in the name:
it's simple, really.
Americans use the word "liberal" differently than the rest of the universe.
because all things that flowed from Marx were so horrifying to the railroad barons and industrialists, and since Marx, et al. labeled themselves "Socialist", or variations on that theme...anti-capitalists, anti-supercapitalists, and other lefty-ish folks in the US had to come up with a new word for themselves.
"Progressive" had some utility, for a time, but I think that the experience of Prohibition kind of left a sour taste...and "Progress" was of course the rai·son d'ê·tre of the Industrialists and Coal Barons.
FDR could hardly run on a "Socialist" or "Social Democratic" ticket( there had already been Red scares a plenty, and an enormous propaganda effort)...and "Democrat" was still associated with Dixiecrats and the rest of the revanchist South...so "Liberal" had to make do.
when Walter Lippmann got a bunch of stuffed, self-important, shirts together in Paris to lament how badly hypercapitalism had failed during the Depression, and Hayek insisted that their new movement should be a restating of "Classical Liberalism" (=Laissez faire)...hence, "Neo"="new"--"Liberalism".
it may or may not have been a source of humor in Mt Pelerin, some years later, that this engendered confusion among Liberals in America.
I'm sure it's the source of 100 year old scotch spewing laughter today, in some rarefied circles.
so, in spite of everybody's confusion...and some peoples' denial...Neoliberalism is a real thing...and it happens to be the driving force of what's happening in the world, today.
it's behind the whittling away of the otherwise successful European welfare state, and the evisceration of all things New Deal, here at home, as well as the weird machinations in China, in the last 20 or so years.
it was the pseudophilosophy imported into Russia, after the collapse, by our very own Missionaries of Greed--bright eyed University of Chicago Econ. post grads...that enabled the wholesale looting of that decrepit empire by what became known as the "Oligarchs". It was behind the Asian Tiger Phenomenon.
On and on.
the best, most well documented examples of "Neoliberalism" was in South America, during the 70's and 80's...especially Pinochet.
That most Americans are incredulous and steadfastly ignorant should surprise no one.
But the information is there...in English...for all who care to look.
and, btw...the European "welfare state" was built from a competing philosophy that originated in that same Lippmann Colloquy...called "Ordoliberalism". It was very successful for many years, until in the last decade or so, when they let in a bunch of neoliberal policy wonks to jigger things.
This happened due to the predictable Dysfunction(culminating in the Great Recession), which led to debt troubles, which led to IMF/WB troubles and scoldings, which led to the Powers that be over there, allowing the Neolibs into the gate, at long last.
folks like Blair and that former French Prez I can never remember his name and Merkel are/were all in the neolib camp...or near enough.
This is a top of my head summary, as usual...and European politics is not my strong point.
The video floating around here of Chomsky and the Greek former Finance guy talking for an hour is worth a look(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myuyQXJQD7Q)...but it doesn't really get into the last 15-20 year history of the Eurozone, and their move away from Ordoliberalism.
I only bring it up, because since Bernie made the Nordic Model relevant to US politics, there's been a great hue and cry from the Right(and not so right(wink)), that the Nordic Model, and by extension, Ordoliberalism, has failed utterly.
It hasn't...but not for lack of trying by the Big Money Men.
for a thorough history of all of this, going all the way back, I highly recommend this book by a couple of Frenchmen.
the translation is sometimes a little off...and the econspeak requires sufficient scotch...but it's worth it
the idea of a super general strike is the only thing I see that could possibly begin to undo all this.
The problem is that a great many Americans 1 don't believe we're an empire, 2. blame various collections of their fellow Americans for the Ills of empire, 3. have a fundamental misunderstanding of the world, 4 are addicted to Stuff....and 5. believe that we're a Classless Society(the main feature of our global aristocracy is that it pretends real hard that it doesn't exist)
the Genius of Neoliberalism is that it absorbs it's opposition.
Amy Goodman is a Blow Off Valve.
So is the KKK.
it's almost incomprehensible that all this proceeded according to a Plan...but, after years of careful study, I believe that it did.
we swim in a polluted sea of mythology, unable to determine with any assurance what is Real(ontological crisis)...and since the System...the Machine...is everywhere and nowhere, it is almost impossible to counter.
a fundamental precept to this Empire is that there is "no such thing as society"(Thatcher)...we are all Individual "Enterprises", disconnected from, and in direct competition with, our fellows on a global scale.
When I grow a bunch of tomatoes, I "compete" directly with slaves in Mexico working for a produce conglomerate. I am at a disadvantage before I even begin.
The obvious solution is autarky...my little county...or a Greater Houston Area(tm)...endeavoring to supply itself with the stuff of life(food, water , shelter, etc) instead of importing such things from Bangladesh.(there is a movement, of sorts, to do this...a sort of neo-city state movement, but it's hardly big and organised, and remains within the larger Global Empire)
Burn down walmart.
know yer farmer.
Look after one another.
I see a crisis of legitimacy forming....witness the ferment of this Primary, and it's analogs in Europe....but I figger this might be absorbed with little disruption.
whether we like it or not, we consent to this state of affairs whenever we write a check, purchase gasoline, or even vote.
until the Consent of some unknown critical mass is withheld, nothing will change....and anything approaching such a critical mass will be quickly suppressed, using euphemism and pablum.(see: iran, cuba,Occupy etc).
the other (non-)option is to allow it to collapse of it's own weight...which might take too long for there to be anything left.
The biggest problem...he largest roadblock to changing any of this...is that We the People have been so thoroughly Confused by the Dark Magicians. The Media, and our erstwhile Education systems, have been hijacked by the Neoliberal Machine...and have distracted us with what amount to non-issues. Identity Politics and the Politics of Resentment...one used by the “left” the other by the “right”.
We are set upon each other over all manner of minor difference, and made to forget, thereby, that We are the People...the Public in “Res Publica”.
We easily forget our Commonalities, so busy are we attempting to put food on our family and all the while blaming each other for our hardship.
This is very convenient for our Rulers.
This should stop....we should stop listening to the Media Narrative, and apply what remains of our Critical Thinking Skills.
I do not expect this.
We are so used to the default Assumption we have been inculcated with...that if we're in the Right Hand Ditch, we must not attempt to modify our situation by veering Left...and if we're what passes for the Left Hand Ditch, we must avoid any Rightward Movement.
Of course, whatever the Labels, we are all quite stuck in the Right Hand Ditch, left and right, alike. This is the Genius of “Neoliberalism”.
Words mean nothing.
The Proverbial Road is Empty.
Extremity in any direction leads to essentially the same thing.
That's the fatal flaw in all attempts to universalise.
In the end, the inherent diversity among humans defeats such efforts...folks chaffe at being forced to believe against their own lights.
Remember that the Hypercapitalists(neoliberals, in the emerging awareness) do what they do because they Believe in it's Truth.
In the same way Christianity imposed itself upon an indifferent and hostile world.
After the Constantinian Shift was complete, and the Old Gods cast down, the drive to Diversity reared it's head again...this time, from the very body of the Church(Protestant Revolution).
Tolerance....and Moderation in all things.
Those are the only ways to end the cycle.
(and it won't, of course, end it...just make it more pleasant and Just, perhaps)
There will always be Capitalists...as there will always be Marxists of myriad varieties and flavours.
Figure out a way to unite them just enough to where their rapaciousness is mollified.
This is what FDR did, for a time...but he perhaps didn't go far enough.
By attempting to Force the Minds of men into your narrow view, you alienate them(re-read Marx, himself, on this)...which engenders their resentment(ibid) and revolt(ibid).If they are not free to be petty capitalists(within bounds that are reasonable(moderation), then you become just like our current Hypercapitalists.
Why did Lenin's attempt ultimately fail?
Because they had to resort to Force.
We should think on what is Universaliseable, in reality....what is most important to Universalise?
For as long as there have been Humans in Groups, we've attempted to Universalise Totalising Visions.
What are the True common denominators?
I like the Universal Declaration of Rights, as a starting place.
The Right to Exist, for instance.
The racists and crazy people I have spent my life among have every Right to their myopic opinions.
This is very hard for Non-Racists and Sane People to accept.
So long as they are not allowed to pursue Universalisation, we can learn to live with them.
Read Karl Popper, "the Open Society".
(and revisit the Greeks)
I have called myself a liberal forever...and forever I have been informed by lunatic Righties of various stripes, all very certain of themselves, what liberals are..."they eat babies!!" They love Joe Stalin!!" etc.
I disabuse them of these notions whenever possible...but, if I am to be true to my own convictions, I must acknowledge their Right to believe those things about me.
Once again, the poverty of our Language=> the Poverty of our Imagination.(Orwell)
There are no Universal Truths, beside those that We(capital W) endow with that quality.(Nietzsche)
As I say elsewhere, repeatedly, it is in what we attempt to Universalise that we run into trouble.
I keep going back to the example of the Constantinian Shift.
why did the Christians go nuts and tear down the Pagan Temples.
1. to Universalise the faith that they were oh so Certain was the One True Faith.
and 2. out of bitterness and resentment, for the whole Lion-Thing.
The latter can be prevented(don't feed people to lions)
The former takes patient understanding and reasoned argument, often in their own language, to get them to stop using Force to accomplish their Great Commission.
People are Free to Choose such things.
Or to Choose otherwise.
I am Free(or should be) to set up my smallholding as a Commune, or as a dictatorship(see: Plato).
So long as I do not use force, and attempt to make the whole world in my image, I am no threat to the capitalist, or the commune or the voluntaryist bunch in the next valley.
Because I remember that they also have a Right to Exist, and believe in whatever nonsense(from my POV) that they please...within the limits engendered by that Universal Right to Exist. They are similarly, not a threat if they are held in such check.
all this talk of Purity is why we're still on the cusp of Dark Age.
Because no one can agree on what the definition of "Purity" is.
Reconcile Neitszche and Jesus, and then we'll be getting somewhere.
Go you now, and read Cicero...”the Republic”.
Moderation. A Balance between Interests.
A Frelling Social Contract.
The Poor and the “Working Class” matter as much as the Rich and their Pet Uppermiddle Class.
Maybe a little more, if we want to have true balance...proportionality.
If the Rich and their Pets keep treating the rest of us like animals, we will become animals, and eat them(and each other) for dinner.
It is always so....how many times must this sordid theater play itself out for the Rich(and the Rest) to finally understand?