Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rudd's post-Neoliberalism

Neoliberalism can become dominant as governmentality without being dominant as ideology -- the former refers to governing practices and the latter to a popular order of belief that may or may not be fully in line with the former, and that may even be a site of resistance to it.

Wendy Brown "Neoliberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy" Edgework: 49

The retreat of the state which is supposed to constitute neoliberalism in fact corresponds to an extension of government.

Jacques Donzelot interview with C. Gordon. Foucault Studies 5. Jan 2008: 53.

Ideology -
a society's unconscious tailoring of criteria of objectivity to fit its own interests.

Paul Hamilton, Historicism:4.


Neoliberalism is a political project which treats citizens as consumers and entrepreneurs, and treats democratic politics as best pursued through market relationships. The rhetoric, or ideology, of Neoliberalism, rather than its full implementation, is what is now rightly in retreat. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's essay in the social-liberal magazine The Monthly is a political intervention: concerned with the language of politics and the orthodox ways of thinking about the relationship between states and markets. In other words, it is ideology, rather than governmentality, that is being contested by Rudd in his essay. The heat and noise in the op-ed pages of the Australian is about ideology, and what is fascinating is to watch the rhetoricians of Neoliberalism at News Ltd admit that, of course, government plays a role in regulating markets, and that the danger is governing too much, not government as such.

There is a sense that we are now living through just such a time: barely a decade into the new millennium, barely 20 years since the end of the Cold War and barely 30 years since the triumph of neo-liberalism - that particular brand of free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed which became the economic orthodoxy of our time.

The agent for this change is what we now call the global financial crisis. In the space of just 18 months, this crisis has become one of the greatest assaults on global economic stability to have occurred in three-quarters of a century. As others have written, it "reflects the greatest regulatory failure in modern history". It is not simply a crisis facing the world's largest private financial institutions - systemically serious as that is in its own right. It is more than a crisis in credit markets, debt markets, derivatives markets, property markets and equity markets - notwithstanding the importance of each of these.
Kevin Rudd

Since the early 1970s Chicago School liberalism -- a.k.a Neoliberalism -- has been ascendant and has been presented in terms of Government (state authoritarianism) versus markets (civil libertarianism). The mantra was get government out of our lives so we can be free and prosper. The reality during the past 35 years was that states acted in concert with forms of markets that redistributed risk down the social scale, and made life more precarious for millions of people. The state never retreated from governing (as Foucault puts it - conducting conduct) over the last 35 years, but, as many neoliberal commentators are now admitting, states governed in the interests of finance capital. Rudd's anti-neoliberal rhetoric is the antidote to the pro-neoliberal rhetoric of the past 35 years and needs to be seen within the basic terms of liberalism which opposes markets to states: always a false opposition. Arguing for a greater role for the state, as Rudd does, is code for redistributing risk more evenly across social strata, and hopefully, between generations.

Here are some links to previous posts on this blog which attempt to expand on and explain what s meant by Neoliberalism as governmentality. Here, here, here and here.

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