445. IN OUR NEOLIBERAL WORLD, FITTING-IN IS TO BE WELL ADJUSTED TO INJUSTICE. (Cornel West)

Neoliberalism should not be separated from a more general understanding of capitalism

-The notion that free markets are the most efficient and desirable basis of human organization and the claim that states are inherently inefficient are at the heart of the logic and appeal of neoliberalism.
-The so-called free-market system is indeed a global war system, based on violence against nature, against humanity and especially against women and children. (Vandana Shiva)

1. A label such as neoliberalism is, of course, not by itself capable of capturing the complex dynamics and myriad details of social formations. This truism should not be used to fudge the issue of the relevance of neoliberalism though. The ‘neo’ in neoliberal sees neoliberalism as a revival of classic laissez-faire liberalism, marked domestically by a return to the minimal state and internationally by the re-subordination of national policy priorities to the forces of economic and financial globalization. Neoliberal policy models uncover the hidden machinations of neoliberal think tanks and their attempts to shift/influence the prevailing climate of opinion. Purposefully, the neoliberal thought publicly advocates free markets, small state machineries and scant attention to human rights (HR), whereas in their own private meetings and those with policy elites they advocate for the state-enforcement of market rules (!).* Central to this also is a much greater engagement of corporations in the delivery of social services through policies of privatization and marketization. Add to this the extensive deregulation of industries including a financial deregulation that enables financial capital to play a more dominant role within the global economy and indeed in people’s everyday lives. Not to be forgotten is neoliberalism’s confrontation of the power of labor unions. (Damien Cahill and Martijn Koning)
*: The mere discovery of such a conspiracy should not lead us to assume that it must succeed in realizing its goals though since, not to despair, those cast aside by the neoliberal order still have an economic market (purchasing) clout that both the liberal class and the rich right wing better acknowledge. (Chris Hedges)

And then there are the apologists and champions of neoliberalism

2. Neoliberal economics is a cultural product. Yes, it is a social science, but one marked by controversial debate. It is mostly confined to offering a variety of models concerning business cycles –HR not included.

3. Establishment economists just overlook the increasingly deplorable state of the planet and treat it as a passive byproduct. Not only that, but quite a few also disregard climate change and the massive climate- or conflict-motivated migrations. The evidence too often seems to have no value in their judgment. They are there to sell us magic potions and being used to formulate hypotheses with their classical ‘all other things being unchanged’, i.e., “I modify one variable, but leave all the others constant” (but about the latter they do not utter a word…). (Louis Casado)

4. In the blind GDPism race we are in, these economists relegate Gini Coefficient considerations to the back burner. (The Gini measures inequality –a score of zero indicates perfect equality, where everyone has the same, and a score of 100 indicates complete inequality, where one person or country has everything, and all others have nothing. The highest scoring countries have scores of over 50, whilst the lowest score between 25 and 30).

Until now, the rich and powerful have gotten away with having the have-nots pay for their own submission and oppression (L. Casado)

The rich are clearly willing to risk their own economic future rather than acknowledging the fact that their fate is now inexorably intermeshed with that of those rendered poor in their respective nations. (The Times of India)

5. What is progressively clear is that nations as such have less weight than the rich private sector actors who have little interest in what the governments are considering and negotiating –including on HR-related issues. They want to do business not having obligatory regulations harassing them. The end result is a pronounced trend towards privatizing international governance and the breakup of multilateralism into the resurgence of bilateralism. This has opened the space for the private sector, more so when the state is perceived as a hindrance to the market despite the rescue the financial sector has welcome when taxpayers money has been thrown in with total impunity. The multilateral system is increasingly (and intolerably) more market-based and less state-based. This shift to private funding, plus the shift in the private agenda, gives unmistakable signs that policy discussions and decisions related to global public goods (health, education, the environment, HR) are being held with de-facto private interests in mind. The corporate sector further firmly holds its own private self-regulating view on global public goods. In sum, there is an attempt to regulate global public goods through a private global system. A market-led economy is bringing alongside a ‘market-ruled governance’ as the new and future institutional framework. Yet this generates deep contradictions when global public goods that badly need to be protected are at stake. (Oscar Ugarteche)

When big business is pitted against small and medium-sized business, the government most often sides with big business (Hans JH Verolme)

The so-called ‘corporate capitalist spirit’ has been often associated with Calvinism. (Calvin favored a mixture of democracy and aristocracy as the best form of government). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvinism#Politics_and_society). (L. Casado)

6. Do we want unelected companies to control the decisions, policies, and actions of our elected governments and of the UN? Human rights considerations are right in the middle here. This issue does not represent a clash between saints and devils. It is a conflict of purpose and power between the interests of the public good and people’s rights and the interests of companies’ profits.** (Gabrielle Palmer) [“The profits of tomorrow, give them to us today”]. With their enormous economic power, corporations use science (and certain scientists and politicians) to achieve their own purposes even while giving the appearance that they are taking a new lead in addressing global problems usually through tabling proposals recommending simplistic ‘solutions’ to complex problems. One clear lesson is that such a top-down magic bullet approach is generally linked to corporate profit. (Wilma Freire)
**: In the process of globalization, local and indigenous cultures of people are veritably ‘appropriated’ by the resulting/existing power dynamic reflecting the unfair balance of power operating in which the appropriated culture is systematically oppressed by the dominating appropriating culture. (Mehgan Gallagher)

7. In such endeavors, all we get is yet more talk of ‘trust’, of ‘partnerships’, of PPPs, of ‘shared goals’, but in a backdrop of unenforceable ethics and a good touch of cynicism –with no real analysis of the difference of what is corporate and what is human. (Patti Rundall)

8. Corporate capitalism cannot be regulated, reformed or corrected –and this is not an over-statement. A socialist movement dedicated to demolishing the cruelty of the corporate state will do more to curb the elitism and power of the dominant classes than listening to the lessons of moral righteousness uttered by liberal demagogues. (C. Hedges)

Bottom line: Ideas matter

9. As the paramount ideological expression of capitalism, neoliberalism is nothing but its adapted day-to-day way of organizing economic life. But the credibility of neoliberalism, to which free trade principles are central,*** has been deeply damaged by a succession of events over the last two decades. What one finds puzzling is that, despite this loss of credibility, neoliberalism does continue to rule; academic economists continue to teach it, and technocrats continue to prescribe it. To borrow an image from the old western films, the train engineer has been shot and killed, but his dead hand continues to push down on the throttle, with the train gathering more and more speed. The takeaway from this is that, so long as there are interests that are served by the neoliberal ideology, even a succession of devastating crises of credibility is not enough to overthrow the paradigm. Historically, it was the non-establishment-left and the left wing of social-movements that began and developed the critique of globalization, of neoliberalism, and of free trade in the 1990s and the 2000s. But for a variety of reasons, they (we) were not able to translate their (our) politics into an effective movement. The extreme right, on the other hand, opportunistically expropriated/kidnapped these messages, rebranded themselves as anti-neoliberals in relation to the center-right, as well as the center-left, and now they are eating our lunch. Our failure to move from a critique of neoliberal capitalism to a powerful alternative model is part of the problem. (!) The task thus is to integrate the theoretical blocks we have solidly worked-on, not only into an intellectually coherent model that includes HR, but into an inspiring narrative that combines vision, theory, program, and action –and one that rests firmly on the values of justice, equity, HR and environmental sustainability. We must not only be convinced that it is necessary, but also be confident that it is possible to come up with an alternative that will rally most of the people behind us. To borrow the old biblical saying, “Without vision, the people perish.” A progressive future is not guaranteed. We must work to bring it about –and we will. (Walden Bello)
***: Caveat: Most people associate economic globalization with trade liberalization, but the evidence suggests that financial globalization has grown far more significantly beyond trade globalization. (Jomo Sundaram)

10. Note: Is, as Yanis Varoufakis calls-for, ditching both globalism and isolationism in favor of an authentic internationalism the answer to our economic and HR ills? He argues it lies neither in more deregulation nor in greater Keynesian stimulae, but in finding ways to put to useful purpose the global glut of savings. (I am not sure I agree…)?

11. In our troubled world, the only route left is revolt. (Am I being extreme…?) If this revolt is to succeed, it must be expressed in the language of HR, as well as economic justice. It will be a political and a cultural war, a war that is against the anti-left-politics that defines the corporate state. The oligarchs and corporations, many of them proponents of a flawed ‘political correctness’, are the enemy. (C. Hedges)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
schuftan@gmail.com
www.clauudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
-When the logic of capitalism means universities are run as businesses, much is lost. Furthermore, the difficulty is to teach currently spoon-fed students how to really read and think –including them understanding how their alma mater can be and often is a profit-making machine. (Tegan Bennett)
-It is in good part science that fragmented knowledge into disciplines; this has helped to justify the domination of “those who know over those who (purportedly) do not know”. (Julio Monsalvo)
-Intellectual capital will always trump financial capital. (Paul Tudor Jones) While goods and services are becoming demonetized, knowledge is becoming increasingly valuable. A fundamental level of knowledge is gradually becoming its own important and unique form of currency. In other words, knowledge is the new money. But, unlike money, when you use knowledge or give it away, you don’t lose it. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. Its value compounds over time faster than money. It helps you think bigger. The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. (Alvin Toffler) We often believe we cannot afford the time it takes to learn, but the opposite is true: None of us can afford not to learn. Learning is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. If you are not spending five hours per week learning, you are being irresponsible. (Michael Simmons)

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