Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Principles of Neoliberalism

Some of these strike me as too absurd (e.g., 7, 9) to bother refuting:
  1. "...contrary to classical liberal doctrine, [the neoliberal] vision of the good society will triumph only if it becomes reconciled to the fact that the conditions for its existence must be constructed and will not come about 'naturally' in the absence of concerted political effort and organization...
  2. ...'the market' is posited to be an information processor more powerful than any human brain, but essentialy patterned on brain/computational metaphors... The market always surpasses the state's ability to process information...
  3. ...for purposes of public understanding and sloganeering, market society must be treated as a 'natural' and inexorable state of humankind...
  4. A primary ambition of the neoliberal project is to redefine the shape and functions of the state, not to destroy it...
  5. ...Neoliberals treat... politics as if it were a market and promoting an economic theory of democracy...
  6. Neoliberals extol freedom as trumping all other virtues, but the definition of freedom is recoded and heavily edited within their framework... Freedom can only be 'negative' for neoliberals (in the sense of Isaiah Berlin)...
  7. ...capital has a natural right to flow freely across national borders. (The free flow of labor enjoys no similar right.)...
  8. ...pronounced inequality of economic resources and political rights [is] not ... an unfortunate by-product of capitalism, but as a necessary functional characteristic of their ideal market system...
  9. Corporations can do no wrong, or at least they are not be blamed if they do...
  10. The market (suitably reengineered and promoted) can always provide solutions to problems seemingly caused by the market in the first place...
  11. The neoliberals have struggled from the outset to make their political/economic theories do dual service as a moral code..."
-- Philip Mirowski, "Postface", in The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective (edited by Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe), Harvard University Press (2009)
(I've miscategorized this post since neoliberalism encompasses more than economics.)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Point 1 (on neo-liberalism triumphing by being "constructed and will not come about 'naturally' in the absence of concerted political effort and organization") seems to utterly misread the history of capitalism.

After all, the state has played a key rule in creating capitalism -- it has never come about "naturally" but rather it has always been the produce of what Marx termed "primitive accumulation". Or, in Karl Polanyi's words from The Great Transformation, the "laissez-faire economy was the product of deliberate state action . . . Laissez-faire was planned"

Which explains why capitalism has usually been associated with autocratic regimes -- it has to be imposed on people, who naturally form communities and tend to act to stop market forces destroying them...

Iain
An Anarchist FAQ

BruceMcF said...

@ Iain ... your argument seems correct, but does not connect to your conclusion.

Point One says that a regime in a political economy must be constructed, that neoliberalism must ignore its own presumptions if it is to triumph.

Your argument would lead to the conclusion that a regime in a political economy must be constructed, and that if neoliberalism aims to triumph, that victory must be constructed, despite the fact that it requires ignoring in practice what neoliberal ideology presumes in theory.

Since the point and your argument concur, it is hard to see how you can say that Point 1 misreads the history of capitalism. If Point 1 is wrong ... if it is in fact possible for neoliberalism to triumph via a "natural process", as its own internal story would suggest ... then your argument is equally wrong. If your argument is right, then Point 1 is right.

YouNotSneaky! said...

"Which explains why capitalism has usually been associated with autocratic regime"

Riiiiiiight. Unlike the non-autocratic non-regimes of Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Tanzania, Albania, North Korea, Kampuchea, Mao's China, Romania, Bulgaria, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, and a few other countries, which were of course "People's Democracies".

(And don't kid yourself, Sweden and the Scandinavian Social Democracies or whatever, are fundamentally capitalist countries. They're on our side)

(I've managed to skip Central and South America in there. My apologies)

BenP said...

Maybe I missed it but I can't see anywhere where Iain defends 'Socialist' countries as not being autocratic. Maybe this was made up.

The easy test of whether a country is socialist is not what it calls itself but it's underlying social relations. Whether you labour for an apparatchik or 'Boss' makes no difference if capital is accumulated without the ownership or control of the workers.