I’m pretty sure that a lot of leftist’s have not realized that Marxism, as a way in which to critique industrial capitalism, has been made largely irrelevant by neoliberalism.
Moreover, by insisting that the “market” is the most advanced information processor, neoliberalism makes socialism impossible, since the main motive behind socialism was to impose “rationality” upon a putatively irrational and destructive market system. Socialists like Marx and Polanyi, generally based their argument upon an Enlightenment conviction that markets produced debilitating consequences that could only be rectified by intelligent planning and government intervention. However, since socialist planning presupposed the planner knew more than the market, and since that was impossible, so, too was socialist economics. The end result is that neoliberal philosophy developed over the decades since the 1940s constituted a profound break from this entire tradition, with the divorce leaving Enlightenment conceptions of reform stranded, hollow and ineffectual. In essence, socialism and Marxism were stripped of any rational philosophical basis and socialist political movements no longer make any sense.
In Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste, Phillip Mirowski, says that “Not only does neoliberalism deconstruct any special stays for human labor, but it lays waste to older distinctions between production and consumption rooted in the labor theory of value, and reduces human beings to an arbitrary bundle of investments, skill sets, temporary alliances, and fungible body parts. Government of the self becomes the taproot of all social order.” Mirowski claims that neoliberalism “acts as a solvent dissolving” Marxism and socialism, where concepts like proletariat and class are drained of any meaning.
As Margaret Thatcher, made abundantly clear, under a neoliberal regime, “there is no such thing as society.” This comprehension is fundamental to understanding our modern world. Neoliberalism is ultimately a political philosophy rather than an economic ideology and as such has become our societies operating system-OS
All of this and more is why I’m a Hudsonist.
Michael Hudson is a heterodox economist and trenchant critic of the financialized, neoliberal capitalism that organizes the US. Hudson started his career as a balance of payments economist for Chase Bank and began to comprehend how debt is used as a method of control, both domestically and internationally. He harkens back to a pre-capitalist political/economy where intellectuals such as John Stewart Mill sought to create an economy that was free from land and financial “rents,” by examining the contrast in whether money and credit, land and natural monopolies will be privatized and duly concentrated in the hands of a rentier oligarchy or used to promote general prosperity and growth. He advocates for a cancellation of debts to save populations from being reduced to debt bondage and dependency (and ultimately to serfdom), and redistribution of lands to prevent its ownership from becoming polarized and concentrated in the hands of creditors and-landlords. This polarization is the key feature of US neoliberal political/economy.
Furthermore, Hudson argues that this dynamic is the key to understanding why the US has declared war on Russia and China. China and Russia are existential threats to the global expansion of financialized rentier wealth. Today’s Cold War 2.0 aims to deter China and potentially other counties from socializing their financial systems, land and natural resources, and keeping infrastructure utilities public to prevent their being monopolized in private hands to siphon off economic rents at the expense of productive investment in economic growth.
As you can see, Hudson makes the crucial distinction between productive and extractive economic activities, something the neoliberals have spent decades obscuring. The key to Hudsonism is a robust infrastructure that creates a productive, low cost economy, open to small businesses and entrepreneurs, rather than the toll-booth economy 40 years of neoliberalism has produced.
Presently, Congress and the Biden administration is struggling to pass an infrastructure bill that illuminates our situation. In a perverse twist, the pandemic has provided a space for an appraisal of past behavior. The intolerable costs of austerity and a culture that celebrated individualism and undermined the state has been starkly revealed.
Not only do members question whether Congress can work, some of them don’t think it should. One of the “pay-fors” in the bipartisan package involves privatizing the government’s assets, or selling off public assets to find the money to build the infrastructure. (This is sometimes called “asset recycling.”)
“Asset recycling” contradicts the essence of Hudsonism, where a muscular public sector can benefit everyone’s interests. Instead, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of neoliberals, there’s this deep-seated belief that government can’t do things it did routinely in the past, and only by creating private toll roads and selling water systems can we improve the country’s infrastructure. It’s untrue, but it’s part of a belief system that government shouldn’t be a factor in people’s lives.
Understanding this dynamic allows us to glimpse the endgame where the infrastructure bill will be more of the same privatization of governance through public/private partnership. In the name of building world-class infrastructure, these lawmakers would sell it off in fire sales to private financiers.
As the American Prospect’s David Dayen has pointed out, the bill is, quietly, a vehicle to retry Trump’s failed attempt to sell the country’s public infrastructure to corporate America, so they can jack up road tolls and other user fees and further pick the pockets of ordinary working Americans. Wall Street is positively licking its lips at the prospect.
Presently the stakes could not be higher. It’s not an exaggeration to state that every critical problem facing our country is caused by neoliberalism.
Even as hundreds of thousand Americans died and millions lost their livelihoods, America’s billionaires made out like bandits, but neoliberalism treats inequality not as a problem but a “necessary functional characteristic of their ideal market system.” The privatization of infrastructure, schools and other key governmental functions are to be applauded not decried. The ongoing wars of empire where the U.S. continues to spend more on its military than the next thirteen countries combined, while Americans they are told that they cannot enjoy a sustainable let alone quality standard of living without working two or three dreary hourly-wage, benefits-free jobs for rapacious corporations.
If there’s any chance of stopping this assault it’s crucial to understand our enemy. But it’s also crucial to devise a path forward from “there is no alternative” to neoliberalism.
Hudsonism is our travel guide.