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Neoliberalism or neo-liberalism is the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism and free market capitalism.


  • In the last three decades, neoliberalism and global capitalism have destroyed social democracies, widened gaps between rich and poor, dispossessed farmers, assaulted indigenous peoples, and marketized the entire world, all the while escalating the war on animals and intensifying the assault on every ecosystem on the earth as a whole.
    • Steven Best, The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century (2014) p. 160
  • The progress of the last 40 years has been mostly cultural, culminating, the last couple of years, in the broad legalization of same-sex marriage. But by many other measures, especially economic, things have gotten worse, thanks to the establishment of neo-liberal principles — anti-unionism, deregulation, market fundamentalism and intensified, unconscionable greed — that began with Richard Nixon and picked up steam under Ronald Reagan. Too many are suffering now because too few were fighting then.
  • Pursued through policies of privatization, deregulation, and financialization, and buttressed by an ideology of private property, free markets, and free trade, neoliberalism has entailed cuts in taxes for the rich and cuts in protections and benefits for workers and the poor, resulting in an exponential increase in inequality.
    • Jodi Dean, The Communist Horizon (2012) p. 123
  • [W]hat neoliberalism has done since the 1970s is it has created such economic misery, it has so accentuated levels of inequality, it has created such suffering, it has dismantled entire towns, it has concentrated wealth in the hands of the financial elite, and it has legitimated an enormous culture of cruelty. And it operates off the assumption that the market can solve all problems — not simply in the economy, but in all of social life — so it becomes a template and a model for all social relations. In doing so, it is at odds with any notion of the welfare state, any notion of labor unions, any notion of workers’ rights, and any notion of economic rights. It privatizes, deregulates, and commodifies everything. It sets up a series of competitive attitudes that degrades collaboration. It highlights self-interest at the expense of modes of solidarity. It so accentuates matters of inequitable relations in wealth and power that you have an enormous concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the financial elite, and this is enacted by all kinds of policies that undermine the foundations of a democracy — all of its basic institutions, from the press, to public goods such as schools and media, to politics itself.
  • Money drives politics. We all know that now. But the other side of this is that it’s not just an economic system, it’s also an ideological system. As an ideological system, what it generally does is three things that are pernicious and which set the groundwork for a kind of right-wing populism and a fascist politics. First, it operates off the assumption that all social problems are individual problems. Therefore whatever problems people face, the blame for those problems rests with themselves — whether we’re talking about ecological disasters, about poverty, about homelessness, about ignorance and illiteracy, and so forth and so on. Secondly, in doing so it tends to depoliticize people, and by depoliticizing them it becomes very difficult for people — operating under that notion of self-interest, a brutal form of competition, and this heightened notion of rugged individualism — to translate private troubles into larger systemic issues. Hence they find it very hard to understand the conditions in which they find themselves. Thirdly, it creates an enormous culture of ignorance.
  • “[S]low violence” refers to our public schools being increasingly defunded, transformed into machines for teaching to the test, and reimagined not as democratic public spheres designed to produced critical citizens, but workers willing to put up with boring work and labor abuses. As they’re increasingly defunded, it’s then claimed that they’re failing, and that then becomes an excuse to either privatize them or turn them over to charter schools. In a sense what you have here is a central element of neoliberal ideology, which is an attack on the public good, an attack on any institution that supports the public good, and an attack on forms of pedagogy that teach students about the past, critical thinking, and provide them with the tools for informed decisions and engaged dialogue. In that sense, schools are a prime target
  • One of the things that neoliberalism has done is it has taken notions that are really powerful and turned them around, basically hijacking them in ways that produce misery and suffering. Freedom doesn’t simply mean ‘freedom from’ in the traditional sense of the word, it also means the ‘freedom to’ do more than just survive or wallow in your own orbits of privatization. It means that you not only have political freedoms and individual freedoms — you have economic freedoms, and social freedoms. You cannot live in a society and believe in elections (if you believe in that myth), or believe in being an agent, or believe that you can have power, or believe that you can influence events, if you’re hungry all of the time, if you have to make a choice between medicine and food, if time is no longer a luxury but it basically incapacitates you by virtue of not having the time to do anything to develop the capacities that would allow us to be political, social, and economic agents. Freedom has been utterly distorted under this authoritarian neoliberal machine because it is a notion of freedom that has been regressively individualized and refuses to acknowledge that you cannot talk about choices without at the same time talking about constraints, whether they be economic, political, or social.
  • Neoliberalism as economic theory was always an absurdity. It had as much validity as past ruling ideologies such as the divine right of kings and fascism’s belief in the Übermensch. None of its vaunted promises were even remotely possible. Concentrating wealth in the hands of a global oligarchic elite—eight families now hold as much wealth as 50 percent of the world’s population—while demolishing government controls and regulations always creates massive income inequality and monopoly power, fuels political extremism and destroys democracy. You do not need to slog through the 577 pages of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” to figure this out. But economic rationality was never the point. The point was the restoration of class power.
  • People commonly think of neoliberalism as an ideology that promotes totally free markets, where the state retreats from the scene and abandons all interventionist policies. But if we step back a bit, it becomes clear that the extention of neoliberalism has entailed powerful new forms of state intervention. The creation of a global 'free market' required not only violent coups and dictatorships backed by Western governments, but also the invention of a totalizing global bureaucracy – the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO and bilateral free-trade agreements – with reams of new laws, backed up by the military power of the United States. In other words, an unprecedented expansion of state power was necessary to force countries around the world to liberalize their markets against their will. As the global south has known ever since the Opium Wars in 1842, when British gunboats invaded China in order to knock down China's trade barriers, free trade has never actually been about freedom. On the contrary, as we have seen, free trade has a tendency to gradually undermine national sovereignty and electoral democracy.
    • Jason Hickel, The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions (2018) p. 218
  • Neoliberalism, despite the claim by its adherents that it was simply an economic theory, was from its beginnings a class project articulated on behalf of the interests of capital.
  • [Securing] resources for large-scale economic transformational change [...] can be achieved by a government committed to subordinating markets in money, goods and services to regulatory democracy [...]. 'Free-market' neoliberal economic policies that detach markets from society's oversight achieve the reverse. They are designed to subject markets to private, not public, democratic authority.
  • In short, "neoliberalism" is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

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