A Post-Democratic World? Or, How We Got Here…

It’s apparent that the USA is undergoing a massive shift in its social, political, and cultural world view. I don’t think we can return to the old two-party system that existed before the Trump era. Both parties that represented the Conservative and Liberal traditions under the auspices of Republican and Democrat offer the solutions we so desperately need to truly unify our nation.

Philosophically the pressure toward alternative solutions of socio-cultural and political mobilizations have moved on already. Even the extremes of political anarchism and libertarianism are dead, and those of socialism and communism are no longer viable. Philosophers have been moving beyond the underpinnings of Enlightenment thought based on disenchantment, secularization, and scientific culture for decades. The first sign of this was the Postmodern critique of analogue culture of cinema, television, and analogue media propaganda and ideological systems of consumerist society. From the Frankfurt school to Fredrick Jameson’s late capitalist reflections there was a slow and methodical deconstruction of the mechanisms that gave rise to what has now been termed Neoliberalism.

At the heart of the Postmodern critique lay the tradition of the liberal humanist Subject, the individual as promoted within the ideology of Western Individualism. The core principals of Neoliberalist tradition were based on the moral economy of life that is configured in its ideals of formal freedom, individualism, and personal responsibility. The core values of the Neoliberal world view are respect for the rule of law, protection of the individual’s right to self-determination, the re-creation of civil society as a place of free exchange (of capital, ideas, culture, etc.), and the limitation of governmental powers were presented as essential conditions for a peaceful and prosperous world order. This was the central motif of the Mount Pelerin society from which the whole complex of Neoliberal free-market ideology would emerge. The atomistic individual was the bedrock of this social control mechanism against the perceived threat of both Fascist and Communist forms of socialism during that era. Hayek and others of this period believed that the individual must be protected from collectivist ideologies of any stripe or persuasion, otherwise they believed the individual tends to become a cypher of political and economic powers that seek to control society as a whole and thereby loses its power of spontaneous self-realization.

In fact Hayek’s basic thesis was that it is the primary responsibility of the developed industrial nations to ensure that the incipient socialism of the New Deal and Welfare State programmes was not allowed to take them back down ‘the road to serfdom.’ The move away from affective politics and a process of rational and existential abstraction would drive a new form of technocapitalist politics based on a culture of scientific experts, economists, and academic-think tanks who would guide the Neoliberal vision of a technocratic State. As Ross Abbinnett will put it in The Neoliberal Imagination:

“What was radically new about the liberal philosophy expounded by Hayek, Friedman, and the rest of the Mont Pelerin Society, therefore, was their determination to defend the idea that the ‘objective’ forms of social life (science, technology, law, religion, etc.) should be conceived as contested sites through which the rational will of private individuals constantly reasserts its transformative spontaneity. The formal, non-contingent right of human beings to dispose of their labour, their bodies, their intellectual gifts, and their artistic talents is the first principle of a free market that constantly expands to accommodate new entrepreneurial strategies and which stands against all forms of collectivist idealism and totalitarian government.”

Ultimately the neoliberal ideology would become implicated in an expanding global class conflict, in which the ‘bourgeois class’ (considered as a loose amalgamation of capitalists, entrepreneurs, technocrats, scientists, etc.) preferred the destruction of human society to the loss of its economic assets and political dominance. The essence of neoliberal ideology, therefore, has emerged as its ability to reconfigure the strictures of financialized capitalism as modes of moral life and personal freedom, and to legitimize the marketization of state welfare institutions and the whole of the public sphere. The deliberate deregulation of markets and the State controlled Welfare mechanisms put in place by Roosevelt’s New Deal gave rise to the inequalities, race relations, and general destruction of both the American economy and its social and political democracy.

(I’ll continue in another post…)

Neoliberalism: A Bibliography Short List:

-Brown, Wendy. In the Ruins of Neoliberalism
-Mirowski, Philip. The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective
-Dieter Plehwe, Quinn Slobodian, and Philip Mirowski. Nine Lives of Neoliberalism
-Biebricher, Thomas. The Political Theory of Neoliberalism
-Matthew McManus. The Rise of Post-Modern Conservatism Neoliberalism, Post-Modern Culture, and Reactionary Politics
-Quinn Slobodian. Globalists The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism
-Martijn Konings. Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason Stanford University Press.
-Spencer, Douglas. The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How Contemporary Architecture Became an Instrument of Control and Compliance . Bloomsbury Publishing.
-Adam Kotsko. Neoliberalism’s Demons. Stanford University Press.
-David M. Kotz. The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism.

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