My notes from Lecture 1 ‘The Neoliberal Condition and its predecessors: Redemption, Fulfilment, Appreciation’ 2013
Michel Feher lectures—The Neoliberal Condition Goldsmiths London
Outline of lectures
1. The precursors of the Neoliberal Condition
· The Augustinian Condition and Pastoral Power C5th AD to C17th AD.
o Good disposition=charity.
o Bad disposition=cupidity/ desire
· The Liberal Condition C18th AD.
o Good disposition=yearning to pursue one’s interests rationally and be recognised as praiseworthy.
o Bad disposition=Passions- violent, rash, inconsistent
2. Shift from Liberal to Neoliberal economy. From profit to credit
3. Shift from Liberal to Neoliberal psychology
a. Liberal subject seeks to optimize satisfaction: from want to fulfilment
b. Neoliberal subject seeks to maximize self-esteem: from self-hatred to self-appreciation, making the NLS (Neoliberal subject) vulnerable, opposed to the ‘wanting’ Liberal subject.
4. Social and love life of L and NL subject. Shift in sociality
a. Liberal subject is subject of exchange: interested and disinterested
b. NLS is subject of sharing: credit and (debt?) ‘Credit is bound to self-esteem in same way that profit is bound to satisfaction’
(Lectures 5 + 6 not outlined)
The NLC (Neoliberal Condition)
2 central propositions put forward in the lectures:
1. Ascertaining the existence of the NLC
· Past 30 yrs transformed statecraft/ coporate governance and personal motivation and conduct
2. Embracing the NLC as means to resist and fight current NL policies. Turn key practices and concepts to social aims. Must recognise how resilient Neoliberalism has been, even after 2008 financial crash.
The terms belongs to the foes and critics of Neoliberalism
Alexnader Rustov coined term c1938 Walter Lippmann Conference
Key NL figures did not use term to identify their approaches/ theories:
· Milton Freidman saw himself as laissez faire, old style classical Liberal
· von Hayek saw himself as an old whig
Term reappeared with Balir/ Clinton 3rd way—indicates they didn’t know its history
Neoliberalism as term only used today by critics, yet amongst these critics there is no agreement about what it is:
1. A return to pre-welfare state capitalism. Dismantlement of post-war Fordism
2. ‘Neo’ refers to a set of new practices and concepts (Feher identifies with this approach). 4 major changes:
Rise of financial markets
Deregulation of these markets—FK (Financial Capital) circulates globally and across institutions
Innovative financial engineering eg derivatives
b. Transformation in corporate governance
Creating value for shareholders—new phenomenon late 1970s/80s
c. New Public Managament
Transformation in statecraft: state is managed the way corporations are managed now.
As sharholders are for corporations, the bondholders are for states. State is accountable, in final instance, to bondholders as corporations are to shareholders.
Replaced/ replacing welfare
Social programs to help people ‘return’ to work
Aim no longer full employment but employability. From being employed to being employable
3. Our condition has changed —subjective form, personal motivation and conduct.
Foucault BOBP (Birth of Biopolitics 1979): Neoliberalism is radically new—a subjective transformation—self-entrepreneur: entrepreneur of oneself
Feher will lean heavily of Foucault in the lectures but his (Feher’s) view is informed by dominance of Financialization: self as entrepreneur is obselete replaced by self as portfolio manager (portfolio of conducts)
Neoliberalism brings a representation of the human condition with it
Every mode of government is sustained, is articulated, is predictaed on a certain representation of the human condition
(Leaning heavily of Foucault for the following)
2 kinds of power in the West (Foucault)
1. Sovereign power—sovereignty
· Power to take and redistribute—a special right belonging to the sovereign
· Power to levy and reallocate/ confiscate and redistribute/ take and give back/ kill and give grace/ tax and redistribute
2. Government power—governmentality
· Acting on people’s action rather than taking and giving back
· Modifying people’s conduct to certain ends/ goals eg pastoral power: Priest seeks to modify conduct of faithful to being about their salvation.
· In Medieval/ early renaissance (C12th) period, power of the church is exceeded. Pastoral power expands beyond the church
1. Sovereign power: ruler has special quality/ God’s mandate/ popular mandate
2. Government: is needed because of the special defect(s) of the governed as they are not able to govern themselves. These defects are known because of the ‘natural’ propensities in each historical instance of the human condition—natural, spontaneous propensities in people in their pre-governed state/ condition. This makes government necessary and possible/ justified and effective.
Good and bad dispositions
Forms of government presuppose a human condition, and a human condition presupposes a form of government. Government implies that people have two types of inclinations/ propensities/ dispositions:
1. Bad propensities
These make it impossible for a subject/ person to govern themselves without help/ governmental intervention
2. Good propensities
Show governing is possible and necessary. Tells you what good government is and does
Good govt. enhances and stimulatesgood dispositions and wards off bad ones.
If there are only bad propensities then government might be necessary but good government would be impossible.
Representation of the Human Condition (HC)
Not ideologies produced by governments to justify what they do
Rather, govt. and HC are a relationshop of mutual presuppositions: Govt and HC presuppose and lean on each other
A certain representation of the HC can be raised to justify a mode or government and to criticise it—Feher’s strategy throughout the lecture series will be to use key elements of the Neoliberal Condition (the Neoliberal instantiation of the Human Condition) to critique and show a way through Neoliberal Government.
The NLC is a new representation of the Human Condition: the correlative of the Neoliberal mode of government.
Major shifts in representations of the Human Condition
2 major shifts since 5th Century AD
1. The Augustinian Condition and Pastoral Power C5th to C17th AD.
a. Good disposition=charity—yearning/ desire to give
b. Bad disposition=cupidity/ desire
This representation of the HC, challenged and accommodated over this period
2. The Liberal Condition C18th AD.
a. Good disposition=yearning to pursue one’s interests rationally and be recognised as praiseworthy.
b. Bad disposition=Passions—violent, rash, inconsistent
3. The Neoliberal Condition late 1970s/ 80s
a. Good disposition=Self-appreciation
b. Bad disposition=Self-loathing
The Augustinian Condition
Augustine responding to the Pelagian controvery c411—422 AD
Pelagius (390-418) Christian aristocrats merged Hellenist/classical ideals with Christianity—God Given scriptures + free will. Challenged the pastoral power of the church.
Classical and Hellenistic world
Source of evil is external
Men (and subject=men-citizens) are endangered by fate/ fortuna/ hazzard/ matter the devil.
A pure soul beset by external dangers and internal appetites/ senses/ fantasies.
Kernel of soul remained pure/ rational.
This part needed to dominate the lower, bodily part. Need self-mastery—autonomy from outside attack. Purify the self.
Aim: redemption/ salvation
Augustine’s human condition: cupidity and charity
Reinterprets the Fall: HC is original sin
We are ruled by cupiditas—utterly infected by original sin/ nothing good in us/ nothing that we can save
Only good that is in us is the charity that God has put in our hearts—we can access it, but it’s not ours—it’s his
Cupidity—insatiable, ungovernable and irrepressible desires.
· Can’t be vanquished—they are too strong
· Lust—desire for pleasure
· Greed—desire for possession
· Pride—desire for domination
How to access charity when cupidity is overwhelming?
2 ways—realise we are slave to desires:
1. Pride of Adam
· try to control=libertine response
· try to eliminate=ascetic response
· Realise you are a slave and humbled before desires. In this state of humiliation, God’s love can enter from the outside. God loves you for the desire soaked, wretch you are. You are awed and humbled.
· You cultivate your humilityàgratitudeàaccess to charity
· Charity is gift of God—countervailling power to give—giving to others with no regard for own satisfaction
Charity expresses piety and love neighbour because unlike God, neighbours are very hard to love.
Cultivating humility is core of Augustinian ethics—how to access charity
Augustinian Pastoral Government
Priests govern flock via cultivating humility to escape nature
Becomes general mode of ethics by C12th
Because most people too fallen to being to be humble, only clergy to have access
Late C11th to early C 12th economic development à everyone can be charitable. Can turn lust, greed and pride into charity
What matters in your act is your intention—true charity, which earns salvation, requires true intention
Merchants satisfying self=sin satisfying others=charity influenced by Luke’s gospel
Adaptations of the Augustinian Condition (AC)
From C12 onwards—appropriations of the AC as ethics and mode of government
2 profane appropriations:
1. Development of Charity
Largesse of lords is reciprocated by loyalty, creating a virtuous circle. Lord give fiefàloyalty.
A profane treatment of pride
NOT an exchange
2. Development of lust (Christianizing nobility)
Noble man wants a lady’s mercy/ gift
Not greed (?) usury is not charity but its opposite antidora (?)
The Liberal Condition (LC)
Full bloom market Km (Capitalism) doesn’t arrive until early C20
Development of LC—mostly associated with Scottish Enlightenment of C18-David Hume and Adam Smith
Rehabilitation of INTEREST as a form of greed
2 canonical books addressing this topic:
· Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
· Albert Hirschman’s The Passions and the Interest
Interest (avarice) rehabilitated by theorists/ proponent of Reason of State (Hirschman and Foucault)
Post-Machiavellian advisors to absolutist monarchs
Reason of State
C17=time when states accept they are here to stay/ sustainable and in competition with other states
Governmentality moves out of pastoral domain and becomes a way of reinforcing the state which needs to be strong by mobilizing its populationà
· People to become more disciplined, work harder, commit to prosperity of the state, maximise their docility and utility
à Problem, because people still dominated by their cupidity—passsions—desires which are volient and inconstant
Reason of State advisors: people have passions and interests
Interests are passions informed by reason—thinking about how to get what you want abd thinking about the risk and the relationship between rick/ rewards—costs/ benefits
State needs to stimulate and cultivate these interests to make population more productive and controllable because interests are calculated and calculations can be strimulated and reproduced à
Absolutist monarchs’ mercantilist/ protectionist policies in C17. Develops manufacturing and wealth and glory of the state.
Liberals—intervene in this in name of the merchant middle class—Scottish Enlightenment.
· They accept the representation of the human condition (subect of passions and interests) BUT
· Argue that because of these elements to the HC the state should leave us alone (Fouc’s we are governed too much)
· Because these intereste are rational and productive, YOU should not govern us too much.
· Liberal appropriation of subject of interests is turned against absolutist state/govt.
· Give us what we need to pursue our interests, then leave us aloneàdevelop interests of nation + state
Moral Anthropologies—Hume and Smith
1. David Hume
· We are motivated by our passions/ desires
· Basic orientation is to max. pleasure/ min. pain
· Anti-Augustinian—not a sin
· We also have instrumental reasonàthink on best way to satisfy passion/ desires
· Interest = passion informed by reason
· Society? Comes from sexual attractionà pleasure, which creates benevolence between lovers and within familie/ kin and small local groups—extended families
· Sex makes for benevolent kin groups but these are too atomistic as basis for Society which requires the development of interestsà systems of exchange and forms of justice—3 rules:
i. Right to private propertyu (protected)
ii. Right to alienate/ sell what is yours
iii. Obligation to respect/ honour contracts
· Society is based on Justice—rule of law—alongside which runs a slow process of optimizing interests.
2. Adam Smith
Takes Hume a step further
WON (Wealth of Nations) + (TMS) Theory of Moral Sentiments are contradictory?
WON—we are all driven by pursuit of interests, But
TMS—we are all driven by pursuit of sympathy
Not a contradiction (or rather, the contradiction is ‘resolved’ in a specific way: via modes of government) because
The source of pursuit of interests to improve conditions comes from SON (State of Nature)
SON is a primitive state ruled by scarcity—survival is hard and atomistic
Best way to improve conditions is by multiplying exchanges, but this is not known in SON, rather there is a dormant propensity to exchange à commerceàinterest is best served by exchanging, in turn à division of labour, increased productivity and specialization
Development of market economy
All pursuing self-interest—guided by invisible handàcreate max. prosperity for all + evenly distributed . . .but Smith asks why is this taking so long? Because there is a residual/ remnant propensity from SON to hoard
The more we exchange the more we live in societyà Sympathy—a new yearning. At best we have ability to simulate the thoughts/feelings of others so that we can increase access to self via gaze of others. Wanting to know whether or not you are liked is beginning of morality
Some want to be praised-to be liked but it is better to be likable/ praiseworthyàQ how do you choose the right person to ask if you are praiseworthy?
1. these are the people you find praiseworthy. You then, abstract the best qualities from these people into an impartial spectator in your mind (super ego?) who monitors own conduct cf panopticon
Only by engaging in exchanges with others do you begin to build up a bank of praiseworthy experiences
These are not commercial exchanges–but exchanges of information—giving receiving judgmentàdevelopment of a disinterested exchange
· Disinterested praiseworthiness (cf aesthetics of Kant, M. Arnold)—be recognized as likable and praiseworthy
How to combine the 2?
Smith—one of the best ways to be recognized as praiseworthy is to get rich
But, have to mindful of others who envy you, and watch for the poor who might band together. Smith also has some doubts . . .
Smith applies Hume’s 2 spheres: private/benevolent -- Public/justice
Victorian Liberal Condition
Men pursue interests in the public sphere where they seek praise and the invisible hand of the market rules
In the private sphere, the realm of disinterested exchanges, the invisible hand of the difference of the sexes rules . . .
Women’s nature is ruled by 2 qualities: modesty and maternal/ motherly love
While some desires can be turned into interest, sex cannot as men are brutes
Women are naturally modest and will resist attacks on their virtueàmen admire women who keep their virtue entact
Men are looking for someone who is worthy of calling him praiseworthy—an admirable person/ impartial spectatoràhe offers marriage to this person. Once married her modesty is replaced by motherly love.
The man respects his wife and makes $ in the public sphere which he brings into the household.
Public sphere dominated by men and a private sphere dominated by morality.
This sketch of the Victorian Liberal Condition (VLC) can be seen Richardson’s Pamela.
Thus VLC= 2 invisible hands:
1. Realm of interest=market that allows and enable self-interested people to produce collective prosperity—interested commercial exchanges
2. Realm of disinterest=domestic sphere, based on maternal love—disinterested, domestic-intimate exchanges
Good liberal government is not anarchic, but responsible:
1. Sustains markets—private property/ freedom of exchange/up holds conracts
2. Ensures families prosper—encourages women to be modest + maternal + incites men to respect modesty
Exchanges in both spheres:
· governs taxpayers—maximizes their interests
· fosters disinterested relationship between Nation + mother-children of the nation—gives national identity and children given life for war
Different appropriations of the liberal condition:
Evolution and crisis of liberal condition à rise of Neoliberalism.