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Clarissa's Blog

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

Neoliberalism vs OFC

So what’s the difference between neoliberalism and whatever came before (let’s call it old-fashioned capitalism or OFC)?

The differences are many but here are some crucial ones:

1. Capitalism is all about capital’s tendency to accumulate in the same hands. That’s unchanged. OFC Andrew neoliberalism are both about that. But in OFC it was real capital while neoliberalism operates with invented capital, a fiction of capital. Hence the proliferation of bubbles, of all these derivatives, risk management, “financial instruments”, etc. The most profitable activity is machinations with fictional capital entities. 

2. OFC was capitalism of things while neoliberalism is capitalism of flows. Manufacturing tangible objects is no longer the most profitable thing to do.

3. OFC used to thrive on the alienation of a worker from products of his labor. Neoliberalism turns the worker into the product. 

4. Of course, there is also the change in the function of the nation-state that we already discussed a lot. 

5. OFC produced a certain structure of social classes which made for a ton of inequality but also for solidarity and common action. Neoliberalism destroys solidarity introducing suspicion into the interactions between former class allies. Many people can’t find words to describe these happenings so they refer to this suspicion with the term “identity politics.” 

In short, neoliberalism introduces a different relationship to self, to others and to work than OFC had. It’s neither better not worse because it’s a variation on the same tune, which is “Capital rules!”

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9 thoughts on “Neoliberalism vs OFC

  1. Stringer Bell on said:

    Thank you! This is very illuminating.

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  2. Rather than OFC might I suggest Brick Capitalism?

    Brick Capitalism builds/built things, not just physical edifices but solid institutions to protect its functioning.

    Liquid Capitlaism washes things and structures away, both physical and social except for a very few big winners.

    You don’t like fantasy but the “Chaos is a ladder” speech from Game of Thrones is as good a description of liquid captialism as I’ve heard…

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  3. Shakti on said:

    If OFC is “solid” capitalism, while neoliberalism is about “liquid” capitalism, what would “gas” or “air” capitalism be? (I won’t even get into plasma or Bose-Einstein condensates because I learned there are five states of matter five minutes ago.)

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  4. Crystallizing Chaos on said:

    Neoliberal capitalism not only turns the workers into products but work into a product as well. A ‘free agent’ lifestyle, moving from gig to gig, driving Ubers and Lyfts and renting out AirBnB’s are supposed to be lifestyle ‘choices’ that we buy into. Companies like Google and Facebook spend a lot of effort selling their ‘company culture’ in order to attract talent. 20% time!, free lunches! massage every Friday! – offices now look more like sales at a supermarket than places of work.

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    • You know those academics who write long and passionate missives about having to quit academia? I never understood it – I mean, it’s just a job. A good job but still just a job – but now I get it. They have dissolved themselves, their identities in their work personas. They are not alienated from their labor because they are their labor.

      And I’m older generation, I’m alienated. As a result, I’m clearly a worse worker. I don’t stay at work until 8 pm, I don’t rush to meetings during inconvenient times just because somebody “needs me”, I always put my family and my hobbies first.

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  5. A great analysis of the economic changes we’ve experienced. Thank you! I think the notion of “fictional capitalism” is quite helpful in understanding our predicament.

    Liked by 1 person

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