“This Is Our Neoliberal Nightmare: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Why the Market and the Wealthy Win Every Time,” by Anis Shivani, was published on Alternet on June 8, 2016.
Shivani maintains that neoliberalism has not been well defined, even though it has been the dominant ideology of the last forty-five years. He offers the following definition.
“Neoliberalism believes that markets are self-sufficient unto themselves, that they do not need regulation, and that they are the best guarantors of human welfare. Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, needs to be encouraged, while everything that supposedly diminishes the market, i.e., government services, regulation, restrictions on finance and capital, and conceptualization of human beings in transcendent terms, is to be discouraged.”
Shivani maintains that neoliberalism seeks to transform everything. “Neoliberalism expects . . . that economic decision-making will be applied to all areas of life (parenthood, intimacy, sexuality, and identity in any of its forms), and that those who do not do so will be subject to discipline. Everyone must invest in their own future, and not pose a burden to the state or anyone else, otherwise they will be refused recognition as human beings.”
Shivani rejects, however, the description of neoliberalism as “market fundamentalism.” He maintains that neoliberalism is different from classical liberalism, which idealized a free market, untethered by states, as it pretended that states were and should be neutral. In contrast, neoliberalism, he argues, makes no pretense to state neutrality; it advocates for a strong state that interferes in the market to defend the interests of the wealthy, as it seeks to reduce state intervention in the market in defense of the needs of the people.
Shivani observes that neoliberalism became the prevailing paradigm in the 1970s, replacing Keynesianism, which had been the dominant economic theory since the 1930s. He notes that since the adoption of neoliberalism, inequality has exploded, undermining the principal ideological claim of neoliberalism, namely, that it promotes the general welfare. Shivani maintains that neoliberalism must therefore turn to multiculturalism as a form of social recognition.
Shivani’s description of the neoliberal project rightfully focuses on its emphasis on the reduction of market regulation, except to defend the interests of the capitalist class. And the article insightfully sees neoliberalism not only as an economic policy but as a project that shapes our philosophical and cultural assumptions and that pervades all aspects of life.
However, in my view, Shivani describes neoliberalism as it has unfolded in the core nations of the world-economy, and not as an economic package imposed on peripheral and semi-peripheral regions of the capitalist world-economy by the core. Not describing neoliberalism from a global perspective, the articles does not point to an understanding of neoliberalism as a new phase of imperialism. This omission is related to the article’s insufficient analysis of the origin of the neoliberal project, a theme that I will discuss in the next post.
For a description of the characteristics of neoliberalism, when it is understood as a core project imposed on peripheral and semi-peripheral regions and as a stage in the continuous application in imperialist policies, see “Imperialism as neoliberalism” 10/7/2013.
Key words: neoliberal, Shivani