Neoliberalism wants people to stay out of politics. Politics becomes something that the Twitters and the Googles of the world decide among themselves. People, with their needs, demands, thoughts, feelings and expectations, get on their nerves. Neoliberalism really dislikes people.
Here’s what neoliberalism does to push us out of politics:
1. Identities. Pronouns, endlessly proliferating gender identities, lists of sexual preferences, and the anti-racism that pits people against each other – all this aims to convince us that we are so unique that it’s impossible to find anything in common with anybody else and that nobody fully shares our interests and needs. Politics is all about people putting aside their individual differences and uniting around a common goal. If they can’t do it, there’s no politics.
2. Trauma. Micro aggression workshops, trigger warnings and the habit of seeing every minor inconvenience as trauma teach us to perceive other human beings as a threat. Any contact with others can wound. Once again, you won’t be able to get together and put forward a political program if you are terrified of human contact.
3. Fault. The idea that everything is always your own fault and every mishap that happens is of your own making turns politics into an exercise in futility. Instead, people compete who’s a better manager of his or her life, posting boasty and highly curated social media narratives.
4. Both Sides. Once we decide that there are no meaningful differences between political parties or individual politicians, our goose is cooked. We are not going to participate, and this leaves the field clear for those who do.
5. Rigged. The idea that the system is rigged against you is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If it’s rigged, we don’t need to participate. If we don’t participate, we have rigged it against ourselves by our abstention.
6. Feeling Good. In absolutely no other realm of our existence does neoliberalism let us privilege feeling good over producing results. Try telling your boss that instead of fulfilling your sales quota you’ll let him repeat the words “huge sales” many times. Crazy, right? But in politics we easily accept that all we’ll ever get is feeling like good, virtuous people. Our standard of living will go down, crime will rise, schools will deteriorate, roads won’t get fixed – but we won’t care as long as we get regular injections of feel-good slogans.
7. Anti-personality Cult. In neoliberalism, everything is about personalities. It’s all about who has the best personal brand, who attracts the most followers, who is most accomplished, most worthy of admiration. This works in every area of life. . . except politics. Our top politicians are all extremely physically unattractive, old, unwell, with unappealing personal lives, shady and skanky family members, and, invariably, some physical disfigurement or defect. There are no interesting stories, no great personalities, no history of admirable achievement among them. Everything that neoliberalism teaches us to treasure is very conspicuously absent.
What other ways of devaluing politics are you noticing?