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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

From Liberalism to Neoliberalism 

So how did we get from liberalism, which rests on the beautiful belief that all people are equal in value and should be respected, to something as nasty and perverted as neoliberalism? (And if you don’t think it’s nasty, please make sure you get in the shade and drink plenty of water.)

In a famous Soviet sci fi / fantasy novel, scientists engineered a creature who was 100% satisfied in all his needs. Once they activated the creature, he grabbed all of the material objects he could reach, and then warped the time dimension in an attempt to possess it as well.

Liberalism’s respect for an individual can easily be steered towards respect towards a desiring individual. As we know from Econ 101, there is no natural limit on human needs. People will devour all resources, the whole planet, and each other if there’s nothing to place a limit on their desires. And it’s very easy for a creature like the one in the famous Soviet novel to say, “If you respect me and my rights, you’ve got to respect my right to consume.” 

Neoliberalism uses the vocabulary of the great liberal revolution to extract more profit. People are so disarmed by the talk of individual rights that they fail to notice that the only right that neoliberalism grants them is the right to keep buying.

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