This is part of a series on how neoliberal capitalism is demonstrating the extent of its human costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
http://movemyoffice.interiordimension.com/faq/ Neoliberal Capitalism
I will start with providing some context. This will require a crash course in neoliberal capitalist ideology.
Problematically, most people don’t know what neoliberalism is. To most the term comes off as a mysterious abstraction in need of extensive explanation. Indeed, it has been studied and analyzed at length by academics, political pundits, and other commentators since its ‘rollout’ took hold in the late 1970s. Since then, it has become ‘hegemonic’ (all powerful across society). Yet, the majority of people who study it tend to consider it problematic and ruinous to society. The reason for this attitude about neoliberalism is common is because, frankly – it is at the root of extensive social problems and human suffering. Well, coupled with capitalism, that is…
Put simply, neoliberalism is a political project designed to vastly empower such sectors as finance and massive transnational mega-corporations. Even more clearly it was and is a project designed to protect and ensure that the economic system of capitalism keeps going and that the wealthiest individuals are the only ones to benefit. It is, for lack of a more fitting analogy, a capitalism on steroids and cocaine. This means that neoliberalism is really to be taken as an acute amplification of the very worst aspects of late-capitalist society (e.g. exploitation, oppression, coercion, imperialism, etc.) The cliche ‘the rich get richer, the poor get poorer’ is certainly at the foundation of this ideology.
What are the main ingredients of neoliberalism? Here are a few core ‘values’ associated with neoliberalism: Consumerism, market fundamentalism, hyper-individualism (anti-collectivism), deregulation, and social Darwinism.
The above ‘isms’ are also in need of simplification for some people. Here are some very brief explanations:
buy accutane in the uk Consumerism
I’ll start with consumerism. Consumerism is at the core of neoliberalism. Basically, the ideology wants to teach people to consume as much as they can. This is because the capitalist economy underlying neoliberal ideology requires ‘perpetual growth’. And perpetual growth can only be obtained if there is constant consumption, or else the economy will shrink. This is why there is such a focus on marketing and selling at every possible venue in life – we simply cannot escape advertising. Capitalism requires endless growth, so this means endless consumption.
There are many problems associated with consumerism that span from psychological to environmental. For instance, people tend to get depressed and anxious because to keep people buying things requires endless dissatisfaction, therefore unhappiness. And on the latter the natural world cannot sustain endless resource extraction. Indeed, the climate change crisis and neoliberal capitalism are heavily correlated.
One pertinent aspect of consumption is that in non-socialized healthcare systems, the view is that healthcare is a consumer choice. This is a hallmark of neoliberal capitalism and should be kept in mind as you read this article.
Market fundamentalism really means that the market should be taken as some sort of rational entity or ‘law’ that will regulate itself without any government intervention or regulation. Some people call this ‘unfettering’ of capitalism – that giving people the freedom to do as they please in context of the market is somehow a good way of defining freedom. This pundit would disagree on this sort of argument for ‘freedom’. Instead, market freedom should be taken as nonsense propaganda. Such an idea and policy really only favours the wealthiest people in society. You’re free if you have a lot of money, less so if you are creating the wealth for those who are free because they capitalized from your labour.
“Neoliberalism means passing up food, housing, and a reasonable quality of life for everyone so that we can all have a 0.00000000000001% chance of becoming a billionaire…”
Part of market fundamentalism is the tendency for social welfare for major corporations and the wealthiest in society at the expense of taxpayers. The rationale for doing this is generally on the ‘principle’ of ‘trickle-down’ economics. The idea, undressed, is the view that if the economy is in crisis, then taxpayers (the lower working classes) should bailout their employers so they can keep their jobs. Yes, I know, this is quite perverse and profoundly contradictory idea, however, since neoliberalism became the dominant ideology, tax-funded bailouts for corporations has become normalized such that people simply don’t even consider that this sort of policy is anti-democratic and certainly against their best interests. And since neoliberal capitalism has also – according to theorists such as Mark Fisher and Slavoj Zizek – colonized the idea of ‘common sense’, the vast majority of the population see the policies associated with neoliberalism as ‘normal’. That is to say: no one is questioning these ideologies because the propaganda machine at the root of these ideologies is so powerful that any other reality can no longer be properly imagined.
In later posts I will talk about desire and oppression in neoliberal capitalist society. Principally the works of Wilhelm Reich and Erich Fromm.
free adult virginia dating Hyper-Individualism
This part of neoliberal ideology is quite pernicious (bad). It sets out to teach people that everyone should be their own caretaker. That if someone is poor, it is their fault. One argument common to hear from neoliberal ideology is that if someone is poor, ‘it is because they didn’t work hard enough’. This makes people think that poor people are poor as some sort of moral failing, which is untrue and a vastly flawed idea. The way to see through this is to consider that for any wealthy person to exist, other people must be poor.
Here’s why –
If everyone had a billion dollars, then no one would want to work in minimum wage jobs. Although, if everyone had a billion dollars, the meaning of having a billion dollars would be much different than it is in context of today’s economy. ‘Rich’ is only really possible if it is in comparison to ‘poor’. So rich and poor require each other to exist in the way they do in our current social consciousness. For someone to make money at a fast food restaurant, they must profit from the labour of their employees – this is why, for instance, the COVID-19 shutdown is creating serious economic problems. It is because workers create value, not owners of property. And typical to neoliberal ideology – the aim of the most neoliberal governments (who basically work for corporations and capital) is to force economies to re-open post haste because, well, human lives are less valuable than stock returns and economic growth. This sort of thinking is ‘justified’ by social darwinism, or the idea that nature will prune out the weakest as a part of its ‘selection’.
Yeah, but no – when you have the means to avoid human costs but fail to do so because of greed, this isn’t really darwinism, this is simply deliberate cruelty.
Hyper-individualism in context of late-capitalism is quite problematic, though, because it means that everyone in society is an island. It is the view that no one should cooperate or form social collectives but instead compete for jobs, money, status, resources and so on. This leads to extreme competition, extreme labour exploitation (e.g. employers can drive down wages, benefits, and job security because of the extreme competition for jobs etc.). This part of the ideology is also associated with the dismantling of organized labour (unions) and human rights frameworks. Moreover, hyper-individualism is associated with government policies that dismantle such things as welfare, health, and social services. This is because coupled with consumerism and market fundamentalism, such things as healthcare become consumer choices, not human rights. The implication here is that if you’re wealthy, you can access healthcare, if not, then you go without.
Moreover, people are sold the idea that taxes are bad because the government is lazy and that they should keep more of their paycheque. The backstory here is, that if you haven’t sorted this out yet, government is acting in concert with private capital (wealthy people and corporations). So to gain ‘democratic consent’ to privatize healthcare, taxes are lowered, government services suffer and malfunction, and then the neoliberal privatization of social goods gains political argumentative traction. This is the sleight-of-hand going on in the UK, where conservative (right-wing) governments operating at the will of private capital have deliberately defunded the NHS to create an argument that government cannot competently run healthcare. The final part of the malfeasance is then to break health off to private capital such that someone can profit from it. Of course, in these scenarios, that ‘someone’ is connected politically and financially (wealthy) and pre-ordained as the prime beneficiary of the shift to a for-profit health system.
Deregulation is a part of neoliberalism that is closely linked to market fundamentalism as it espouses the view that government should never interfere with any sort of business. What deregulation actually implies is that massive corporations can ‘cut red tape’ and do awful things to the environment, slash and manipulate labour laws to their favour, sell products that are potentially harmful, and lie to consumers.
Deregulation is the part of neoliberal ideology is also perversely linked to ‘freedom’. That we should want every powerful corporation to create their own policies as if they will always ‘do right’ by its customers. Of course, this is an abject failure in conception as the news headlines are generally filled with outrage articles about how an airline or company had done a terrible thing to someone and won’t make it right. ‘Freedom’, then, in the context of neoliberalism, is the notion of allowing freedom for powerful and wealthy entities to do as they wish at the expense of lower classes.
How is Neoliberal Policy Linked to COVID-19 Pandemic?
‘Immeasurably’ is a quick response to the above. However, to answer this question precisely is tricky and will differ upon which country the analysis is oriented. This analysis is on the Canadian response. And frankly, and sadly, neoliberalism (and its cousin neoconservatism) is alive and well in Canada.
For one, government has, on record, claimed they failed to prepare for a pandemic they knew was imminent. Why? Because neoliberal thinking requires a near one-dimensional consideration of the economy as if the economy takes precedent in every policy decision. In this case, the reasons why a government wouldn’t stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE) or shore up an already vastly insufficient healthcare system is because it would cost too much. Economic arguments would take over human or ethical arguments for improving health systems, which, is another central trend in neoliberal (and neoconservative) policy – that unless it makes money, it shouldn’t exist. In such a reality, human needs are not placed first, they are put behind economic ones, which serve the interests of capital, not people. This sort of thinking is borrowed from private businesses where ‘on time’ production is most beneficial because it reduces cost inefficiencies. And since ‘inefficiency’ is a curse word in neoliberal capitalist ideology, healthcare systems should never ever spend on prevention, just treatments. To a neoliberal thinker, stockpiling resources is just too expensive and inefficient, so it is ‘impossible’.
The upshot is that, in Canada, taxpayers expect healthcare as a right. In Canada, healthcare is somewhat socialized (but not really). But instead, we get excuses to keep the healthcare system vastly dysfunctional on the basis that ‘it costs too much’ and is ‘impossible’ to change.
The irony? Since this pandemic has hit, the Federal and Provincial governments have been throwing tax-payer money everywhere bailing out every sort of business imaginable in frantic efforts to maintain the status quo. Yet, no focus has been on sorting out the health system that has failed Canadians. Instead, for instance, Trudeau gave Alberta billions to clean up ‘orphan’ oil well left by companies who came, took, and left without cleaning up their mess (because environmental responsibility is too expensive, so tax-payers should be saddled with that expense, right? Wrong.). Realistically, the lockdown and measures being taken in Canada to reduce the severity of the pandemic are oriented around ensuring the health system won’t become overwhelmed. My argument is that under normal circumstances, with 12 hour+ emergency room waits the norm, 10 year waits for family physician attachement, and lengthy weaits for surgeires, the Canadian system is already vastly overwhelmed.
But, you know, no one is really doing much about it because “it’s impossible” to fix it because “the government doesn’t have any money…” Meanwhile, people are asked to pay to park at emergency rooms as if they aren’t in a state of emergency.
The government reaction is to take away civil liberties. Like toilet paper is (not) logically linked to a virus that causes respiratory and heart failure, neither is passing legislation that allows for companies to use big data analytics in concert with government to spy and trace smartphones. This is yet another example of the extent to which people are ‘free’ in neoliberal society. The government and capital will employ any excuse to erode civil liberties during a crisis. And of course, the average person thinks this is a great idea on the basis of some sort of error in reasoning that supposes that government and capital have their best interests in mind.
The reality? There is no good reason to take away any civil liberties because of a pandemic. There are, however just ordinary reasons that aren’t really ‘good’ for society but perhaps ‘good’ for government and capital. One reason is to use this crisis to manufacture consent to do things that wouldn’t normally be tolerated in a so-called democratic society.
This sort of thing happens when there’s a crisis in neoliberal capitalist society. Take 9/11. The U.S. reacted by creating an abstract concept, ‘terrorism’ to erode civil liberties by enacting the ‘Patriot Act’ and spy on its own citizens. The same sort of thing is being tried in context of the COVID-19 pandemic. If people are confused and afraid, they will simply believe anything positioned as ‘good’ or ‘protective’ of them, which in this case implies losing privacy on smartphones. The implication of this is profound, yet, no one is paying attention because the talking points from politicians and ‘leaders’ have been ‘wash your hands’ and ‘physically distance’ for the past 2 months. In fact, these two banal utterances are the extent to which government has done anything of actual value in terms of managing this pandemic.
Think that’s an unfair claim? Here are some of the policies rolled out in BC and in Canada:
‘Gatherings over 50 people are banned.’
Yes, because the virus is happy to pass over infection for 50 people and under. This, of course, is an arbitrary and indefensible policy.
‘Essential services will remain open… realtors are an essential service… major infrastructure projects and controversial construction projects are essential services…’
Yes, right. The above is entirely divorced from politics, isn’t it? Not.
‘Public parks are to close… Costco and Walmart are to remain open…’
This one boggles the mind. It has literally no grounding in any sort of scientific epistemology or even basic appeals to any sort of reason. Well, except political reasoning, which is that capitalist food supply chains are privatized and therefore need to be opened as essential because the population would starve if they closed. But this doesn’t imply that parks should be closed for any reason. Any reasonable use of logic would find that the risks of spread in a department store are the same or worse than a public park. Notwithstanding, people can go to other outdoor places and congregate, so the relevance of closing public parks is not only stupid, but alienating.
I could go on. But the point here is that the government response wasn’t just poor, it was political and poor. This considering that health departments generally hide behind claims of scientific evidence, which, of course – they don’t have. This, though, hasn’t stopped them from using a veneer of scientific discourse to justify the political nincompoopery as illustrated above.
Back to state surreptitiously eroding of civil liberties. Another reality here is that isolating oneself to avoid spreading a virus is not the same as capitulating and consenting to mass surveillance. There are good reasons to isolate given this virus outbreak, but no good reasons to lose civil liberties in perpetuity after it has passed. Indeed, it was always going to be up to the people to contain a pandemic such as this one given the vast inadequacies neoliberal government has created in all aspects of social and health care (because ‘it’s too expensive’ and ‘we have no money for it’). Keep in close mind such statement are then jaw-droppingly juxtaposed with government spending billions spent on corporate welfare and oil and gas projects in the midst of a shift towards sustainable energy and a climate change revolution.
So now that a pandemic has hit, the public is expected to do everything to contain it while the government bails out private capital. Indeed, this situation may be an even bigger case of corporate welfare than the now very delinquent loans and bailouts given to banks and massive corporations after the crash of 07′-08′. The focus has certainly not been on shoring up the healthcare system, it has been one that has delegated all responsibility to the people who are paying the bills – the taxpayers. And for our money, we have a government that is interested in further eroding civil liberties and shoring up an economic system that, in all human respects, was seriously malfunctioning before this pandemic took hold. This is because neoliberalism and late-capitalism are not ideas and social constructs interested in human needs, but instead the needs of capital. And if you don’t have capital or are not part of the capitalist class, you are being taken.
There’s a saying associated with neoliberal capitalism: ‘never waste a good crisis’. The backdrop and historical preamble to this entire pandemic is that in 2019, capitalism was expected to crash again (because this happens regularly and should be expected with this system) and was going to need trillions in tax-funded bailouts (also keep in mind, corporations and wealthy people don’t pay taxes, they hide their money, so it isn’t as if they’re bailing themselves out, it is the working classes who are doing the bailing, which is a form of self-oppression, which will be touched on in later posts). While there is no insinuation or suggestion here that this pandemic was orchestrated or intentional, Naomi Klein’s thesis of ‘shock capitalism’ is certainly palpable. It is not as if the powers that be are taking this opportunity to make changes in social structures to usher in a fairer and more humane society, they are instead bailing out multinational corporations, who are, in turn, top-funnelling the proceeds to their shareholders and executives while simultaneously laying off workers.
This is the conclusion of part I of this series. The principles of neoliberalism as described above and their relation to COVID-19 policies will be discussed at length in future posts.