Krystal Ball's "crackup of neoliberalism" talk

Now, I fully expect that the conversation today will be dominated by today's confirmation of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade -- but I don't really see a lot of movement on such a matter yet, for reasons I've pointed out before and will point out below. Today I want to shift reader focus to this idea that, somehow, neoliberalism is "cracking up" amidst the atmosphere of general crisis the neoliberals have themselves generated.

First, though, Krystal Ball's discussion of neoliberalism, as follows:

My first question here would be: do any of you personally know Krystal Ball? I ask because I think it would be useful at this point for someone to send her a copy of Philip Mirowski's Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste. Mirowski's book is about an old crisis, the economic downturn of 2008-2009, so the information is old, but highly pertinent to the situation going on today. Mirowski starts with discussions of all of the people who, in light of that past crisis, predicted the end of the neoliberal order (as Krystal Ball wants to do). He goes through each one and discusses why each commentator in question has no idea about what he or she is talking about.

Mirowski then proceeds to discuss the extremely deep roots of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism pervades the academies of the world (with epicenter in the departments of Economics), its consultancies, the banking structure, and Wall Street. Neoliberalism is moreover a theory of everything. Its model for all of human being is the entrepreneur. For neoliberalism, as Foucault pointed out, everyone is an entrepreneur of him- or herself, from the fetus (and this is where the recent Supreme Court ruling comes in) to the dying individual. It argues that not only should the government support markets, but rather that markets should be forced upon people because, it assumes, people are too stupid to properly do things for themselves. Neoliberalism is suffused with elite contempt for the masses.

To the extent, then, that people are not entrepreneurs of themselves, neoliberalism forces them to be just that. If it doesn't work, devise a different "market solution," and double down, over and over again, ad infinitum. This pattern is evident in neoliberal non-solutions to climate change, from denial to emissions markets to telling people to buy an electric car or something.

Never mind, of course, that neoliberalism is basically wrong. Neoliberals live in denial, fortified by deep-foundationed walls of cognitive dissonance. The neoliberal edifice is not strong because it actually has something meaningful to say about reality, but rather because its destructive prescriptions are supported by all of the Important People.

Krystal Ball, like many other well-meaning people, needs to be disabused of the idea that there is some vast alternative edifice not built upon neoliberal foundations that is waiting to take the place of neoliberalism when it so completely and obviously fails. There is no counter-foundation. There is no counter-foundation in the Bernie Sanders vision of America as a social democracy, and there is no counter-foundation in whatever it is that people are calling "fascism." There are two forms of politics in America. There is neoliberal politics, and there are idle fantasies that things could be otherwise.

One can see this reality in the status of the Green Party in America. The Green Party, unlike the two dominant neoliberal parties, begins its search for power (if it can be called that) with the presumption that there ought to be real political solutions to the problems facing Americans today. The Green Party in nearly all of America barely holds on to ballot status. Its candidates' votes, to the extent they are even counted, amount to at best a 4% showing in any particular election outside of a few municipalities. Nobody in America knows who the Greens are -- they have no credentials, no office-certified backgrounds, and no CVs of importance. The rest of American politics is, of course, "compromise" with vast cadres of neoliberal important people, what Mirowski calls the "Neoliberal Thought Collective."

The obvious solution to all this neoliberal problem, the solution Mirowski is too exasperated (or too academically ensconced -- he's at Notre Dame) to detail, is to create that foundation for a world that isn't neoliberal, step by step, brick by brick. Now, me, personally, I don't think it can be done on the grounds of capitalism. The Bernie Sanders "solution" still leaves the current edifice in place, which is obviously a problem. But that's another debate. Another world may be possible. But a lot of people, which is to say those who can break through the massive wall of cognitive dissonance the neoliberals have erected, need to be disabused of the notion that the foundations for that other world exist ready-made. They don't. The foundations for our world are neoliberal ones, and if carried far enough we will get the world of Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam trilogy: elite compounds walled off from the world, and a "pleeblands" of masses barely existing amidst constant disaster.

As for the recent Supreme Court ruling, expect a "market solution" to the problems it will create.

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Cassiodorus's picture

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"The future is inside us/ It's not somewhere else." -- Radiohead

The Liberal Moonbat's picture

Mirowski then proceeds to discuss the extremely deep roots of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism pervades the academies of the world (with epicenter in the departments of Economics), its consultancies, the banking structure, and Wall Street.

Where are these pro-capitalism academies? My undergrad economics teacher certainly wasn't. Foucault pointed out...

Honestly, I get "triggered" every time I see this name; I only heard about him a few years ago, but he makes me livid (I mean, really, when Noam Chomsky says you're "the most amoral person [he's] ever met", sounds like you've got a problem); wasn't he a "neoliberal" darling, basically a prophet and architect of all the current Neo-Medievalism? I don't understand why he keeps getting thrown around out of nowhere. I spent years earning a liberal arts/humanities/poli-sci degree, and never once heard about him or any of these other suddenly-important names (Marcuse, Horkheimer, etc.) I've only ever heard since 2018.

Its model for all of human being is the entrepreneur. It argues that...people are too stupid to properly do things for themselves. Neoliberalism is suffused with elite contempt for the masses.

This just sounds flat-out self-contradictory; I am immediately reminded of North Korea's "Juche", which somehow parleys the precept that "a man controls his own destiny" into totalitarianism.

I cannot help but think that you're mistaking a game of MAD LIBS for a novel or something, like what we're really seeing is the words of intelligent dead people being appropriated by Dunning-Kruger poster-children who don't get the material they're so enthused with and aggressively scorn anyone who actually does (see also The Chronicles of Narnia -> The Last Battle -> Shift the Ape, whom I'd consider one of the most underrated villains in the literary history).

As for "what to replace capitalism with?" My stance is: Nothing. The very question assumes a certain format that I think is itself fallacious, like "capitalism" occupies a slot that needs to be filled by something. I think I've seen this "format fallacy" pop up in other areas of life, and it's clearly a HUGE obstacle to discourse.

"The economy", like most of society, is just an endless game of improv. The Ancient Egyptians didn't need an "economist" around to implement Keynesianism millennia before Keynes, and Thomas Paine and other Enlightenment thinkers said most of what Marx and Lenin would later say without the malignant baggage. As someone once said, the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.

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In the Land of the Blind, the one-eyed man is declared insane when he speaks of colors.

To paraphrase Jodie Foster: Human is not something to aspire to, it's something to get away from.

Cassiodorus's picture

@The Liberal Moonbat

It is time for Dems to fear their own voters

in a column he posted today.

The column is of course Sirota's call for an uprising in light of the Supreme Court's annulment of Roe v. Wade. But part of it has a rather incisive critique of the Obama administration, to wit:

At the same time, Barack Obama and his administration persuaded normie Democrats that the celebrity candidate would save the day, that progressive pressure campaigns are “fucking retarded,” and that Obama’s hand-picked candidate, Hillary Clinton, was the most viable successor. Meanwhile, the labor movement was crushed by Democrats’ trade deals and corporate union busting, disempowering what had been a radicalizing force inside the Democratic coalition.

And yet, here’s the admission: It wasn’t just external factors that undermined this effort to mobilize normies. It was a failure of an entire generation of operatives, activist