I’m preparing a big and well-paid public talk about why democracy is in such a bad shape worldwide, and this is the kind of stuff I’m going to talk about. These posts are my way of practicing for the talk. I apologize if they are repetitive but I’m a slow and plodding thinker, and I need to repeat things many times to get them settled in my brain.
So as I said, neoliberals were waiting for a good moment to try out their theories, and that time came in the 1970s when the existing economic system stopped functioning very well. That pre-neoliberal economic system has many names. It’s been called Keynesian economy, Fordism, industrial capitalism, Bretton Woods economy, solid stage of capitalism, and many other things. It created an enormous increase in well-being for a hundred years and especially after WWII. And then suddenly it wasn’t working well anymore.
Some people here will remember the 1970s. The oil crisis, the inflation, the social upheaval. These were all symptoms of the underlying issue which was that the productivity of capital suddenly stalled. There’s a million reasons for it that all converged and created a widespread perception that things weren’t working and something new needed to be tried. And that’s when neoliberals came out and said, “hey, your way of doing things isn’t working any more. Let’s try ours.”
What’s really fascinating is how fast academia embraced neoliberalism and turned a set of economic principles into a far-reaching worldview. Benedict Anderson published his deconstruction of nationalism Imagined Communities in 1983. And hey, who cares about some arcane theory created by a crusty college professor, right? Nobody until your passport becomes meaningless, your constitution is wiped out, and raising your national flag becomes a crime.
And here’s the rub of the issue. Feminism, anti-racism, and the rest of the identity-based rights movements have a profound affinity with neoliberalism. The dislike for norms, traditions, boundaries and limitations is what they share. That’s why academia was so eager to normalize the mentality that feeds neoliberalism. Today, we are all finally noticing where it all leads. And hey, it’s only the beginning. Remember, it’s a movement that doesn’t recognize boundaries. It doesn’t stop after achieving a goal. It doesn’t know how to do that. It’s whole nature is that it never stops.
Unless we stop it.