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.



31 responses to “The Neo-liberal Implosion”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Just occurred to me as I re-read this that people might be confused by my distinction between “world economy” and “planetary economy” (one that is Earth-centric). “World” is too ambiguous a term — it may refer to the universe, the human world alone, or the Earth, and no one may understand the same thing by it. “Planetary” is more appropriate term, and would be better in any case by the associated implication that one can’t separate planetary economy from planet itself- ie, the global ecology.

    • donsalmon says :

      Throughout “The Ideal of Human Unity,” Sri Aurobindo is offering different versions of what might happen as “internationalism” (as it was known during the WWI period when he was writing) becomes a reality.

      The two extremes he speaks of are (a) a kind of world-state, dominated either by authoritarian governments, plutocrats, or both; and (b) a confederation of united yet diverse, freely self-governing confederacies.

      It seems that the “world” government of the neoliberal autocrats, crying out “Freedom” while crushing true freedom (as in Hayek’s anti-democratic comments in praise of Pinochet) is related to Sri Aurobindo’s world-state, and the various versions of planetisation (Dane Rudhyar’s phrase, I think), from de Chardin to Korten, are closer to your “planetary.”

      Interestingly, Sri Aurobindo saw 2 of the 3 great ideals of the French Revolution playing out since the Enlightenment, which began, particularly in America, with the ideal of liberty, and by the end of the 19th century, when, as Sri Aurobindo put it, laissez faire capitalism was seen clearly by all who care to see to be a moral failure, equality was the next ideal. We see caricatures of this in the conservatives who call for liberty when all they mean is the freedom of corporations to rape the earth; or progressives who focus on equality as a kind of dull, utilitarian sameness.

      It is only, Sri Aurobindo wrote, by founding this on the 3rd ideal, “fraternity” that sustainable peace and justice will be possible. And the only possible foundation for fraternity – true Unity, that is, is of course, the Divine, God, Allah, the Ever-Present Origin.

      Franklin Merrell Wolff also said, using his own terminology, that it is only by “Recognition” (of non duality, God, whatever you wish to call it) – by complete awakening, that lasting peace and justice will occur.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Ain’t that a coincidence. That’s the second time since publishing this post I’ve been referred to Franklin Merrell Wolff, particularly as regards his book Experience and Philosophy

        • Steve Lavendusky says :

          Franklin Merrell Wolff’s ‘Experience and Philosophy’, you MUST read it Scott !! Have I ever let you down.

          • Scott Preston says :

            OK. that’s three times in the same day. Somebody’s trying to tell me something?

            • mikemackd says :

              Hmm. As FMW was on the path of Shankara, perhaps it may have something to do with the Shankara quote I put on the Gleichschaltung string in response to Steve’s link to the Green Hermetism article:

              “the feeling that I am doing it is the bondage”?

      • davidm58 says :

        Someone just posted this Sri Auribindo quote on FB:

        “But, in reality, the President and the executive officers, with the help of the Congress, rule despotically, and support the wrongs done by the rich, the injustice and the all consuming greed, and they themselves grow fat by the abuse of power. The subjects are free only at the time of electing representatives, but even then the rich maintain their power through huge expenditure, and even later, by buying up the representatives of the people, they exploit and dominate arbitrarily….such a consequence is inevitable for the extroverted outlook on life…for a while, swelled with rajasic forces, the asura (demon) grows powerful, great and glorious, then it’s inherent defects begin to come out, and everything breaks and dissolves”
        — Sri Aurobindo

      • Charles says :

        Good writing Don. I appreciate this line “to realize the full human potential is to create a fully humanized world.” Thompson talks about planetization in most of his books.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    The holographic universe: not something really new, but gaining in acceptance it seems.

    • donsalmon says :

      scott, was the holographic universe idea in some way related to the theme of your post?

      • Scott Preston says :

        No, but I thought I’ld post it here anyway, perhaps as a counter-point to the worldview that underlies neo-liberalism, for example, which, as I’ve suggested in the past, leads directiy into Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill” of “single vision”. The holographic universe theme is closer to Blake’s vision of things.

        • donsalmon says :

          From Sri Aurobindo’s commentary on the Isha Upanishad


          All world is a movement of the Spirit in Itself and is mutable and transient in all its formations and appearances; its only eternity is an eternity of recurrence, its only stability a semblance caused by certain apparent fixities of relation and grouping.

          *****Every separate object in the universe is, in truth, itself the whole universe presenting a certain front or outward appearance of its movement. The microcosm is one with the macrocosm.*****

          Yet in their relation of principle of movement and result of movement they are continent and contained, world in world, movement in movement. The individual therefore partakes of the nature of the universal, refers back to it for its source of ac- tivity, is, as we say, subject to its laws and part of cosmic Nature.

          Spirit is lord of Its movement, one, immutable, free, stable and eternal.
          The Movement with all its formed objects has been created in order to provide a habitation for the Spirit who, being One, yet dwells multitudinously in the multiplicity of His mansions.

          It is the same Lord who dwells in the sum and the part, in the Cosmos as a whole and in each being, force or object in the Cosmos.
          Since He is one and indivisible, the Spirit in all is one and their multiplicity is a play of His cosmic consciousness.

          Therefore each human being is in his essence one with all others, free, eternal, immutable, lord of Nature.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    On the distinction between “globalism” and “globalisation”, I very highly recommend Mark Ritchies 1996 article. In a sense, they differ like “background” and “foreground” effects and processes, but perhaps the distinction is like that mentioned… between “making love and rape”.

    • mikemackd says :

      Globalization is the telos of the Machine: globalism is the telos of life.

      • donsalmon says :

        Great quote from a French farmer in that article by Mark Ritchies:

        “The difference between internationalism and globalization is like the difference between making love and rape.”

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s a good way to put it. What comes to mind, though, is what Heraclitus said about Dionysus and of Athena too — that Hades was the polar nature of Dionysus as the Gorgon was the polar aspect of Athena.

        That polarity of Dionysus (who is life-force) and Hades (who is death-force) reappears in Freuds “instincts” called “eros” and “thanatos”, which are Gebser’s life-pole and death-pole of the psyche, and which fundamentally pertain to Heraclitus’s notion of “strife being the father of all things” or Blake’s meaning of “without contraries there is no progression”.

        These are also the two aspects of the Great Mother — as the Beneficent Mother, on the one hand, and the “Dark Mother” (Kali Ma) on the other. Nature is both eros and thanatos itself. It cannot exist except in both aspects, just as we cannot be without both aspects — eros and thanatos correspond to the polarity of cosmos and chaos within the human form.

        • mikemackd says :

          So Eros, Thanatos, Dionysus, Hades, the Great Mother, Kali, life-pole, death-pole, Athena, the Gorgon – all are mythologised aspects of the life-death cycle. But the Machine isn’t: it is lifeless, depending on the meme machine with its Gorgonic gaze for its creation, construction, and utilisation.

          That is why Mumford said it was not born alone. It requires the immortal Gorgons, those of Hades, of Thanatos, the vivisectional mentality of the death pole, that of Kali-Ma, of Caliban, and is born with them. Without Satan there is no progression, but Prospero, Athena et al are to be Satan’s Masters for that progression to happen at all.

          Only then will our demons be able to be redeemed to become our light-bringers of our paths towards towards our optimal value, that being the social integration of all Scheler’s values and our insights into a dynamic heterarchy of selves manifesting our optimal application of wisdom and compassion in our contexts.

          I guess that’s why Jesus said that whenever two or more come together in his name, there he is among them. Contraries are preconditional for the emergences to occur, and they are preconditional to that integration.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    The present barrage of lies, disinformation, fake news, and alternative facts seems deliberately designed to confuse, perplex, and disorient — to deliberately overwhelm the critical faculties. It’s been done before. Trump is following the “Big Lie Theory” — repeat a lie often enough and insistently enough and people will eventually assimilate it as the truth.

    This is going to have terrible consequences, already foreshadowed in the instances of violence at protests which, I suspect, are going to become more severe — greater civil strife. No consensus or unanimity about shared truth, common reality, and no common language to express it. I think you can probably already feel the severe stress and tension yourselves, can’t you?

    When you reach that state where there’s “nothing more to be said”, it can mean two things — enlightenment or war.

    • davidm58 says :

      A disturbing article about how far propaganda has come, with psychometrics: “The Data that Turned the World Upside Down.”

      “Trump’s striking inconsistencies, his much-criticized fickleness, and the resulting array of contradictory messages, suddenly turned out to be his great asset: a different message for every voter. The notion that Trump acted like a perfectly opportunistic algorithm following audience reactions is something the mathematician Cathy O’Neil observed in August 2016.”

      “Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven,” Alexander Nix remembers. On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump’s team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video. This fine-tuning reaches all the way down to the smallest groups, Nix explained in an interview with us. “We can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals.”

      In the Miami district of Little Haiti, for instance, Trump’s campaign provided inhabitants with news about the failure of the Clinton Foundation following the earthquake in Haiti, in order to keep them from voting for Hillary Clinton. This was one of the goals: to keep potential Clinton voters (which include wavering left-wingers, African-Americans, and young women) away from the ballot box, to “suppress” their vote, as one senior campaign official told Bloomberg in the weeks before the election. These “dark posts”—sponsored news-feed-style ads in Facebook timelines that can only be seen by users with specific profiles—included videos aimed at African-Americans in which Hillary Clinton refers to black men as predators, for example.

      Nix finishes his lecture at the Concordia Summit by stating that traditional blanket advertising is dead. “My children will certainly never, ever understand this concept of mass communication.” And before leaving the stage, he announced that since Cruz had left the race, the company was helping one of the remaining presidential candidates.”

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      No consensus or unanimity about shared truth, common reality, and no common language to express it.

      Who needs a common language to express it? You’ve been illustrating the “synoymous” (for lack of a better term) for years. Common language is utterly unnecessary.

      What I wonder, though, is how many generations we have to expend creating new terms for ancient pointers? Seriously…. How many different words does it take to connote “self” and “ego”, “master” and “emissary”, “power” and “energy”.


  5. Scott Preston says :

    Trump: “you have to fight fire with fire” he stated in justifying torture (and seemingly much else barbaric in nature).

    Yet what does this very mindless, commonplace cliche “fighting fire with fire” mean except rationalising the very process of becoming the thing which you claim to hate? That’s what it means, doesn’t it?

    And that’s just another way in describing how all altogether are drawn into the vortex of “maelstrom of blind anxiety” as Gebser called it.

    There are, after all, other ways of fighting fire other than by fire — by watering it, by depriving it of oxygen, by covering it with Earth.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I just read this new article in the Guardian after I posted this comment. It’s a quote from Hakim Merdassi on the shootings at the Grand Mosque in Quebec City:

      His voice laced with sadness, he added: “Certain politicians have been pyromaniac firefighters and today we have all been burned.”

      Perfect! “Pyromaniac firefighter” couldn’t be more appropriate description of Trump’s “fighting fire with fire”.

    • mikemackd says :

      Silly old Gandhi. When he said “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”, what was he thinking? Certainly not like a dealmaker like Donald. There are many massive deals involved in setting about making the whole world blind. Opportunity knocks! (Reference: Torbert in my post below).

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Our cosmos is built on limits, so is the human as an integral part of the cosmos, but the most important conscious fixture to understand the wonders of our divine creations including understanding the self the goal of all seekers. Any excess lead to calamity. Look on the over-eaters and their obesity and all the disorders in the world as an expressions of excesses, political or otherwise. Some time I wonder are we sitting in a void where our thrown words vanish in nothingness, then all artists and thinkers are talking in vain. Of course that is not reasonable. We are living with a talking god that talks with us through his nature as the seen part of his unseen essence. What are we doing but addressing the problems of excesses and the abuse of limits. Excess of information is blinding as intelligence when is divorced from its divine origin becomes tool of eliminating intelligence. I think the anatomy of the future which Mike referred to cover that issue very well and shows how the emphasis on means has chased out the ends the main purpose of our existence from circulation. I am sorry to say that excessive excess in the mental arena leaves the spirit of the human in the dark. We are consumed in addressing the systemic , the procedural and the institutional and giving little attention to the operational value code of our life which is the main problems we are complaining from. When are we going to reach a safe abode or are we doomed to be on the move all the time. Death is a saver. Yes Scott ii is a very harsh and strenuous transition. I hope the butterfly comes healthy.

  7. mikemackd says :

    Looking at McGilchrist again, and his advocacy of Max Scheler, I suppose there could be a right-hemisphere equivalent to the Dunning-Kruger Effect that could account for the hijacking of Hayek, Adam Smith et al. by the neoliberals.

    (The Dunning-Kruger Effect refers to those who are too intellectually limited to realise how intellectually limited they are [they say “stupid”, but stupid people can’t help being stupid, and it’s a loaded, condemnatory word]).

    Maybe what I mean could be called the “Scheler Effect”, referring to people who are so incompetent in intrinsic valuation that they have no inkling that they are valuationally deficient, like I am colour deficient. They can’t see much farther than extrinsic valuation, those of the Machine mind, the bottom of Scheler’s hierarchy of values: “this occasionally introduced fifth level in his scheme {which} is the lowest of all (Cutting, J. 2016 at

    (BTW I consider Scheler’s hierarchy would be more accurately described as a heterarchy of values: “a person can simultaneously experience several emotions, if each is from a different layer” [Cutting, ibid]).

    It seems to me that a lot of neoliberals are pretty smart cookies. Their IQs do not seem deficient to be, but their values seem to be jawdroppingly so. In Scheler’s scheme, being “nothing but” at the lower levels of Scheler’s hierarchy would make one a despairing denizen of Mumford’s hell.

    I got to thinking about this when Steve raised the term “alchemist” by his link to Green Hermeticism, which prompted me to recall Bill Torbert’s use of the word.
    Torbert has opportunists near the bottom of his leadership hierarchy, and alchemists at (or near) the top.

    For example, he wrote an article with David Rooke at quote from that link, they say “Our most comforting finding was that only 5% of the leaders in our sample were characterized by mistrust, egocentrism, and manipulativeness. We call these leaders Opportunists, a title that reflects their tendency to focus on personal wins and see the world and other people as opportunities to be exploited.” That seems likely to be homologous to Scheler’s lower valuation levels.

    At the other extreme, Alchemists have “an extraordinary capacity to deal simultaneously with many situations at multiple levels. The Alchemist can talk with both kings and commoners. He can deal with immediate priorities yet never lose sight of long-term goals” Such persons are “typically charismatic and extremely aware individuals who live by high moral standards. They focus intensely on the truth. Perhaps most important, they’re able to catch unique moments in the history of their organizations, creating symbols and metaphors that speak to people’s hearts and minds”.

    How much is an Opportunist channelling Caliban, and how like Albion is an alchemist?

    In sum, being quick on the uptake (IQ) has extrinsic value, and a reduced likelihood of suffering from the Dunning Kruger Effect, but has nothing to say about the Scheler Effect, and it is our values that determine where we look in the first place: it’s then when we can be quick on the uptake. The light bringer in its proper role is the Emissary: but when enclosed within the Scheler effect, it is Satan.

  8. abdulmonem says :

    I forget to mention that we are charged by the divine to accomplish our mission on earth through our devotional, honest work, the one that I have never stopped talking to. The only universal force despite the human different labels , the force that sets limits to our biological existence, reminding us that there is no limit to the spiritual journey in order to occupy ourselves with it and not be misled by the perverted and be occupied with the transitional, that is why I said death is a saver because it gives me the opportunity to meet the power of the universal force, Botte-Taylor talked about. What a happy meeting without strokes.

  9. donsalmon says :

    Regarding the notion that Trump is somehow wisely calculating in order to create chaos. I can believe this of Bannon – and certainly of Putin, and perhaps Trump’s team gave him feedback from all that research, but Trump himself?

    Have any of you ever spent time with a very seriously narcissistic person, one who is by any criterion (assuming the current notion has any value whatsoever – see “Thomas Insel”) mentally ill?

    One of the first things you discover is if you aren’t careful, you start to feel confused, doubting your own sanity, having to make considerable effort to stay balanced. I have a family member who has been living in a group home for nearly 10 years, bipolar and borderline (look up borderline if you want to understand more about DT – it’s very close to narcissistic personality disorder in many ways). Many, MANY times during the campaign I’d hear something the orange haired baby-man would say, and turn to my wife and say, “That’s exactly what D. would say.”

    The chaos he unleashes is just a reflection of the chaos in his own mind. Just imagine, that night when he was up at 3 tweeting out counterattacks to Alicia Machado, the beauty pageant winner he trashed. What abject misery, pain and suffering he was in. He simply could not bear to think this woman had bested him, and through Hilary Clinton as well.

    This is exactly what happens when my family member feels slighted. She literally can’t think – you can see it on her face. She may be quiet for a minute, or 10 minutes or more, and then boom! a torrent of attacks on the person she feels has insulted her.

    And the most amazing part – she might curse them to the deepest hells of the hell realm, and once she’s over it, she absolutely insists that she is the kindest, sweetest person on earth and she would never say anything to hurt anybody.

    Not that DT claims he’s a nice person, but I doubt if he has ever felt once in his life that he’s done anything wrong. Wrong, that is, by his standards.

    We have a crazy person in the position of the most powerful office on the planet. Crazy.

    It’s up to us to keep our balance, and we can’t do that by reason – as Kabir says, “The house of reason is very far away from Love.”

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