The Neo-liberal Implosion
Mohamed El-Erian has published a piece in today’s Guardian entitled “Retreat from globalisation will destabilise the world economy“. I can’t help but comment on this because it was precisely neo-liberalism that constituted the unstable factor in globalisation and globalism. Neo-liberalism (in which I include neo-conservatism and neo-socialism as well) was an edifice erected upon a foundation of running water. Only the willfully blind could fail to see that it would inevitably implode on its own self-contradictions through a process I’ve frequently described as “ironic reversal”.
The destabilisation of the (neo-liberal) world economy signals the intensification of that “chaotic transition” that is the theme of The Chrysalis. But, at the same time, it might be considered the prelude to a transformation of the existing world economy into a truly planetary economy on a sounder basis than it is presently. Neo-liberal economics was always promiscuous in its disregard for limits.
That isn’t the worst of its assumptions and premises, however. Neo-liberalism had a built-in self-destruct mechanism that guaranteed its own self-negation. That self-devouring, self-contradiction was the conclusion that market monopolies — and by extension, monopolies of power — should be condoned as the reward of “efficiency”. Neo-liberalism thus undermines itself, for it leads, in the course of its own logic, into authoritarianism — or even techno-fascism or “inverted totalitarianism” — as a consequence of its own inherently unstable and clearly duplicitous logic, already anticipated in the phrase “illiberal liberalism”.
(And, one might add, a non-conserving conservatism).
The fathers of neo-liberal ideology — Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman (the favourites of Thatcher and Reagan, respectively) — proved their own self-contradiction in practice by their upholding the “Pinochet Model” of “economic freedoms” but without political freedoms. This contradictory logic also insinuated itself into Niall Ferguson‘s neo-imperialist programme for globalisation during the Bush Administration — maximum market freedoms for developing nations but with no political liberty or choice. It was also formalised in Robert Cooper’s The Breaking of Nations as “normalisation of the double-standard”, as well as being the inevitable consequence of Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis.
It’s not difficult to appreciate how “post-rational” and “post-truth” society has been a few decades in the making.
The destabilising factor — the chaotic seed — was already implicit in neo-liberal ideology itself. If, as Pope Francis has aptly remarked “duplicity is the currency of the day”, it has much to do with this inherent self-contradiction in neo-liberalism asserting itself as the process of ironic reversal.
O yes! Lip-service is still paid to the value of “freedom”, but it rings hollow. You only have to read recent statements from Trump advisor Myron Ebell to appreciate the double-think and double-speak that this self-contradiction leads to (“Green movement ‘greatest threat to freedom’ says Trump adviser“). It’s this myopia, this blindness to one’s own self-contradictions, that Gebser describes as the “deficient mode” of perspectival consciousness, and which incoherence reflects its self-alienation become dis-integration.
Neo-liberal ideology seems completely and willfully blind to its own fundamental self-contradiction, and the ironic reversal implied in that self-contradiction beginning to forcefully assert itself — the process we call “enantiodromia” through which it eventually negates itself as Nemesis. It has become, itself, the vector for global instability and chaos as a consequence, and a reflection of the general tendency towards nihilism.
The chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost.