Since nobody reacts to my posts on neoliberalism, here’s a photo of me and my many identities:

Different Flavors of Freedom

So what is the difference between left-wing and right-wing neoliberalism?

The right-wing kind believes that there needs to be something keeping individuals away from embracing complete cuckoo-bananas freedom. People tend to become addicted, miserable, lonely, mentally unwell and impecunious if they start exercising complete freedom. So they need something that will keep limitless human desires under control. Religion, tradition, morality, something.

Left-wing neoliberalism believes that freedom should not be limited by any of these things because they are unduly oppressive. If individuals freely choose to make themselves addicted, miserable, lonely, mentally unwell, impecunious, and even chopped up into little bits, then that’s fine. Left-wing neoliberalism uses silence to avoid noticing the miserable jetsam of complete freedom. As long as nobody mentions the sad, upsetting detritus of the experiment in freedom, it’s all fine. That’s why cancel culture unleashes its wrath on people who say something about the negative consequences of all that freedom.

Of course, there’s no complete freedom. And no unlimited choice. Both are an illusion but it’s an illusion that has defined how we think about the world for a very long time.

Is Neoliberalism Doomed?

Freeing the individual and his or her consciousness from the grip of large, stultifying institutions; privileging disruption over order; celebrating cosmopolitanism—and multiculturalism—and the unexpected sorts of mixing and hybridities that emerge under these regimes: All of these beliefs, each of which marinated for years in the political and culture milieux inspired by the New Left, furthered neoliberal aspirations and helped to make it into a hegemonic ideological force.

Gary Gerstle, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order

Gerstle believes that the neoliberal order is doomed because if it weren’t, the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump wouldn’t be successful. He says that such a massive and open dislike of the neoliberal rhetoric as witnessed by the support of Sanders and Trump speaks to the weakness of the neoliberal order. I don’t agree, however. I believe that neoliberalism long moved past the stage when it needed a general consensus. In the hierarchy I spoke of yesterday, it doesn’t matter what the masses on the lowest two rungs of the ladder think. It used to matter but that’s all gone. As long as the two highest slots in the hierarchy are with the program, that’s enough.

The Liberal Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is the opposite of conservatism. It’s a truly revolutionary movement in a very literal sense. It thrives on upheaval, change, and movement. The word “liberal” at the root of the term is no accident. The constraints of religion, tradition, custom and unchosen facts of reality are its biggest enemy.

That Reagan championed neoliberal ideas only means that neoliberalism (heavily advanced by the New Left before him and consolidated by Bill Clinton after him) had, by year 1980, become what “anti-racism” is today. It conquered the entirety of the public discourse, and everybody had to pay obeisance to it in some form. It’s strange that the deeply neoliberal Clinton and an even more neoliberal Obama made no dent in the idea that neoliberalism is a right-wing thing when it had very obviously conquered both sides.

If we look at them clearly and unemotionally, many Reagan’s policies are what today we’d call left-wing. That’s because starting from the 1970s, there is no right or left. There are simply slightly different flavors of neoliberalism.

Now, let’s not forget that neoliberalism wasn’t imposed on us against our will by evil Reagans and Clintons. No, it’s the other way round. Reagan had to go heavy into the neoliberal rhetoric because people loved it. They still do. Neoliberalism is a huge trip. Just as its name promises, it is very liberating.