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.