Book Notes: Jim McGuigan’s Neoliberal Culture

McGuigan’s Neoliberal Culture was clearly composed out of a bunch of articles and conference talks, which is why it’s repetitive to the point of a few passages being repeated verbatim up to half a dozen times. This is not a bad thing because it will make for a fantastic textbook. There is no better way to make students learn than repetition. 

I love the way McGuigan writes. His writing is very light on the jargon, sarcastic, direct, and clear. He gives great examples from the truly insane world of British cultural production to illustrate his points. 

I also appreciate McGuigan’s truly unique capacity not to ignore the painfully obvious in service of ideological commitments. He is as Marxist as they get but he states very clearly that it’s no coincidence that the greatest advances for women coincided with the neoliberal epoch. There is a direct connection since the foundational ideas of neoliberalism are the ideas of feminism (importance of individual choice, primacy of individual desires over communal needs or mandates of tradition). 

McGuigan says that the neoliberal ideology has managed to make itself commonsense by integrating disaffection. I always wondered why people in opulent societies are so into complaining. And now I know: the apocalyptic mindset is neoliberalism’s safety valve. 

There are many ways in which neoliberal ideology conquers minds and none of us are immune. We can’t stand outside of ideology but we can catch glimpses of how it operates. And this is what McGuigan does brilliantly in his book. 

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4 thoughts on “Book Notes: Jim McGuigan’s Neoliberal Culture”

  1. “McGuigan says that the neoliberal ideology has managed to make itself commonsense by integrating disaffection. I always wondered why people in opulent societies are so into complaining. And now I know: the apocalyptic mindset is neoliberalism’s safety valve.”

    Could you say a little more on this? I need to read the book. But this is something that has bothered me for over 20 years: people want to complain but do not want to do anything to address complaints. I assume that if an issue is raised, it is so that it can be addressed, and I have often been manipulated into trying to address such issues — often because, if I have spent an hour or more listening to someone and evaluating the situation they describe, I want to make good on the time, get some good out of it. Then I find out that it was all just talk, and I am even disliked because I tried to come through. I find it very confusing and now it seems this book throws some light on matters?

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    1. I get exactly what you are saying. I’m experiencing this a lot, too, and it drives me nuts.

      This idea, I believe, is one of the best in McGuigan. People rant against the system on social media, post passionate revolutionary screeds but refuse to do anything like organize, protest, work to get out the vote, etc. And they look down on you when you do something real because their splashy posturing is more marketable. It’s more open to be offered for consumption. They want to buy the feeling of rebellion because it’s cool, it feels nice. But the price they want to pay is the smallest possible.

      Do you know how many people facebooked in support of BLM? And how many came out to the protest on campus that we did every day for a week? Up to five. One day it was just me and one other colleague. But what matters is that students really appreciated it and started their own group and then we removed ourselves to let them run with it wherever they wanted. I’ve been very critical of the movement and haven’t postured on Twitter about it. But I was there every day. To me, that’s what politics is about. Actually doing things. I know you are the same.

      Liked by 1 person

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