Neoliberalism and the Withering Away of The State
"Withering away of the state" is a Marxist concept coined by Friedrich Engels referring to the idea that, with realization of the ideals of
socialism, neoliberalism, the social institution of a state will eventually become obsolete and disappear as the society will be able to govern itself without the state and its coercive enforcement of the law.
On March 10, 2020, the National Basketball Association shut itself down to prevent the spread of Covid-19, before either the Federal Government or any State had issued any such order. College basketball immediately revised its previous decision to play March Madness without fans to cancel the championship tournament. By the end of that week, toilet paper disappeared and grocery shopping became a dystopian nightmare.
At the time I thought that was bizarre and ever since I have marveled at the weird mix of public and private sector decision making in this crisis. The daily ration of "news" features much reporting and even more speculation about the creation of a vaccine, a deus ex machina that is hoped will smite the evil virus. Once it exists. So now there are literally hundreds of for profit corporations racing, literally racing, for the bonanza of getting there first. It is the policy of our government to encourage this race and that gazillion dollar payoff is considered the best inducement to ensure success.
So who is going to decide which Magic Injection is first? That implies being sure that it will work as advertised. Who makes that call? Trump? Biden? The Ghost of Mr. Science?
This begs the even bigger question of who is in charge now?
I take no position in this screed as to whether anybody intended for this to happen, but we are watching the withering away of the state, as naively predicted by Engels to give way to the fair distribution of production established by a triumphant working class. It turns out that driving force now is The Corporation. Having corrupted the State and rendered it useless through intentional incompetence, The Corporation is now replacing The State as the setter of rules and the enforcement of social discipline.
You see the First Amendment rendered obsolete by Social Media mega-corporations who now define the truth and suppress what used to called dissent as toxic disinformation.
You see the basic premise of democracy thrown out the window because of the virus. It takes "science" to deal with it, not your own ignorant and selfish point of view. So, although the elected leaders like Trump, Cuomo and Newsome are the guys on TV telling us what the decisions were, they ain't scientists either. And guess what? We have a political debate about whether each of those Electeds really listened to real science.
Where to we find Science to get the right answer? Who pays for science these days? Who signs the paychecks for the scientists who really know the right answer? How many professional researchers are drawing checks that are absolutely free of political or corporate taint?
Where I live in West Hollywood, California, there has been civil unrest, rioting, enough looting to oblige virtually every merchant to board up the storefront -- yet almost everybody wears their mask in public. For whatever reason, people around here take the virus seriously, even when they are looting. Well, they ain't obeying Trump, that's for sure. And they ain't obeying the police.
But they do obey Science.
Six months after starting the national shutdown, the National Basketball Association created a studio version of the sport and the playoffs are currently proceeding in a Disney owned property called, The Bubble. On the floor of the basketball court you see written in letters bigger than the paid advertising, "Black Lives Matter." Same thing with the women's pro league.
And you can find Black Lives Matter Public Service Announcements on television regularly and if you look quickly at the end, you can see that it was produced by The Ad Council.
I have no complaint against corporate America changing sides and supporting the idea of BLM. It is better than the opposite. But, holy shit!!! This is now a corporate institution that goes far beyond just the NBA. You have the broadcast partners at Disney and WarnerMedia, and you have all their zillion sponsors -- all driving home this message directly connected to the riots.
I repeat, I would rather have the networks saying nice things about the profound outrage that drove two weeks of mostly peaceful demonstrations all over the country than calling for the National Guard to restore order. But, uh, something is not quite right about all this.
We also have the strange movement to Defund The Police. Of all the ways to address the longing for a fair, honest, honorable and compassionate police department, cutting off the money cold turkey is probably the stupidest. It is also the surest way to motivate cops to be pigs -- to come after their jobs.
But it does occur to me that if the urban police department does not survive the coming Depression and social upheaval, the gooniest of the goons will have no trouble finding work in private security, working for corporations who will make sure that they have all the law and order they need, as the State withers away.
The original selling point of neoliberalism was that anything the State can do for you, a profit making operation can do it better. They have already "privatized" prisons and schools. The virus is speeding up the process of government discrediting itself.
The chaos of the election that both parties are planning will be a hoot. Probably the last one.