Is Neoliberalism Over?

Gary Gerstle believes that the degree to which the rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump resonated with the masses is proof that the neoliberal order has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people.

I think he’s wrong.

Neoliberalism, by its nature, glamorizes dissent. And by doing so renders it impotent.

Think about the commercialization of Che Guevara portraits. That’s a perfect example. Or armchair Communists at Berkeley. This is another example. Nobody calls themselves “a neoliberal.” It’s not prestigious or cool. Being a revolutionary is. Drain the swamp! Down with the 1%! You feel edgy and important, even though absolutely nothing whatsoever is actually achieved.

Ranting and raving against “the system” while doing absolutely everything to keep it in place is the favorite neoliberal pastime. Yes, Trump and Sanders loudly denounced neoliberalism. But what has either of them actually done against it? Absolutely nothing.

To the contrary, they have created an illusion that attending the BLM / Trump rallies (which are the exact same thing) means actually doing something to thwart the system. But it’s the opposite. These carnavalesque events help both the participants and the outraged spectators who watch them on TV to let off steam and reconcile themselves to reality.

In a less cartoonish way, my posts about neoliberalism serve the same purpose for me. But at least I’m honest in that I’m not ready to let neoliberalism go. It simply won’t go until we want it to, and I think we don’t. It’s too much fun.


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