Counterpunch - September 27, 2019
"Neoliberalism, like the ‘spectacle’ it evolved from, mediates all social relations. It reduces them to performative, choreographed transactions in the service of an ideology that dare not speak its name for fear of inviting unwanted scrutiny into the void at its center. It has the vampire ability to elude reflection. Put a mirror in front of it and you’ll end up with a selfie that bears an uncanny resemblance to ‘The Scream’."
The question, “What is neoliberalism?” invites a response similar to the old canard about art: “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it”. Unlike art, which seldom rears its head outside a rarified, specially designated setting, neoliberalism is everywhere, which is why we seldom acknowledge its ubiquity, even as we endure its predations on every aspect of our lives.
If neoconservatism is late-stage capitalism on rage-inducing steroids, ranting about imaginary external threats, then neoliberalism is peak capitalism on hallucinogenic horse tranquilizers, dreaming about itself. Unlike its bug-eyed, more visibly bloodthirsty counterpart, neoliberalism doesn’t appear when the occasion demands it, but remains thoroughly entrenched in everything it touches, leaving nothing untouched or unscathed.
The word itself brings to mind a host of vague concepts that add up to little in terms of understanding just what it is exactly. Can it be described as “free market fundamentalism”, the pushing through of democratic sounding reforms to jump-start a global feeding frenzy on another country’s resources? “The stealth deliverance of violence (economic and military) under an internationally agreed upon humanitarian framework, as opposed to a boots-on-the-ground occupation” might be closer to the mark. Or maybe it’s just some guy on a mountain bike staring at sunrise in an online video ad touting “Global Solutions”.
Whatever it is, you suffer under it gratefully, perhaps dimly aware of a darker, less “tolerant” age when you could shut off communication with the outside world long enough to sleep. Or perhaps, you can’t imagine not being tethered to a radioactive surveillance device that is collating your genome sequence in order to sell you a healthcare plan, or better cater to your growing fascination with assault weapons after being told for the umpteenth time that your password is incorrect.
Neoliberalism, under the subterfuge guise of technology and “progress”, keeps you interminably on hold and demands that you not only agree to, but rather embrace its terms of service in order to proceed with a transaction it invented five minutes ago to extract more data from you. It calls this sadistic vampire process of life-depleting exsanguination, “a time-saving solution”. You seldom notice that there was never a problem to begin with, only a confounding technology to now overcome in order to do something that was once as simple as blowing your nose. ...
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