Neoliberalism reduces us all to market participants. To neoliberals we’re not citizens, just human capital.
There’s a great article at Salon, by Anis Shivani, that provides a glimpse into this poorly understood ruling ideology. “Neoliberalism believes that markets are self-sufficient unto themselves, that they do not need regulation, and that they are the best guarantors of human welfare. Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, needs to be encouraged, while everything that supposedly diminishes the market, i.e., government services, regulation, restrictions on finance and capital, and conceptualization of human beings in transcendent terms, is to be discouraged.”
Neoliberals deny that there is or can be a working-class electorate. Voters are only to be viewed through the prism of identity politics. And, for neoliberals identity politics is simply a means to divide and rule.
You can see this dynamic at work in the ongoing presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Gender, race, religion or ethnicity are the only things that matter. Class is off limits. Neoliberalism has radically narrowed public discourse, including the severance of identity politics from any class foundation, and instead a substitution of economic justice with identity politics. Policies that could help the vast majority of American’s are ignored. Hillary pretended to care about the progressive policies that Bernie Sanders proposed, but now that she has vanquished him, she’s already pivoting to the right to attract Republicans that are disgusted by Trump’s crude rhetoric, and neoconservatives.
“In the current election campaign, Hillary Clinton has been the most perfect embodiment of neoliberalism among all the candidates, she is almost its all-time ideal avatar, and I believe this explains, even if not articulated this way, the widespread discomfort among the populace toward her ascendancy. People can perceive that her ideology is founded on a conception of human beings striving relentlessly to become human capital (as her opening campaign commercial so overtly depicted), which means that those who fail to come within the purview of neoliberalism should be rigorously ostracized, punished, and excluded.
This is the dark side of neoliberalism’s ideological arm (a multiculturalism founded on human beings as capital), which is why this project has become increasingly associated with suppression of free speech and intolerance of those who refuse to go along with the kind of identity politics neoliberalism promotes.”
Unfortunately, Hillary is the neoliberal candidate at a time when neoliberalism is beginning to be recognized as the cause of so many of our problems. For many of the Sanders and Trump supporters, while they may not know the exact details, they sense the general outline of this betrayal by establishment elites like Hillary. These renegade voters are pissed off enough that anti-government propaganda is no longer effective. Neoliberal ideologues have been so successful in their project by convincing a large segment of Americans to feel guilty for their reliance on government programs, like Social Security or Medicare, never mind that these Americans have paid into these programs over their lifetime with their taxes.
All this demonization of government programs and promotion of identity politics has one goal in mind. At the heart of neoliberalism, its specific purpose is to cut taxes on the rich and set them up as our overclass–a ruling elite. Unlike classic liberalism that viewed the state in a limited, “nightwatchman role,” neoliberals envision a strong state, but one that only works for the benefit of the wealthy and corporations that they control.
Margaret Thatcher expressed the ideology of neoliberalism when she was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. “You know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first.”
But, this formulation flies in the face of US history, a republic founded to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through representative democracy. A well managed government is the way in which we ensure this outcome. US politicians used to understand this elementary concept. As Teddy Roosevelt thundered in his own insurgent campaign against Woodrow Wilson in 1912–“There once was a a time when the limitation of governmental power meant an increasing liberty for the people. In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations who can be only held in check through the extension of governmental power.”
The commodification of people that neoliberalism demands, goes against everything that the American experiment stands for. People are not simply human capital. They’re sentient beings that love and feel love. They’re mothers and brothers and fathers and sisters. Our family and neighbors. An ideology such as neoliberalism that only treats humans as capital is so fucked-up that I can’t believe that I need to articulate it.
This is the first election where Americans are rebelling against the neoliberal dystopia elites like Hillary have created. If she wins and continues with neoliberal policies, it won’t be the last.