“There is a lot of confusion around the word neoliberalism, and about who is a neoliberal. And understandably so. So let’s break it down. Neoliberalism is an extreme form of capitalism that started to become dominant in the 1980s, under Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, but since the 1990s has been the reigning ideology of the world’s elites, regardless of partisan affiliation. Still, its strictest and most dogmatic adherents remain where the movement started: on the US Right.
Neoliberalism is shorthand for an economic project that vilifies the public sphere and anything that’s not either the workings of the market or the decisions of individual consumers. It is probably best summarized by another of Reagan’s famous phrases, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Under the neoliberal worldview, governments exist in order to create the optimal conditions for private interests to maximize their profits and wealth, based on the theory that the profits and economic growth that follow will benefit everyone in the trickle-down from the top—eventually. If it doesn’t work, and stubborn inequalities remain or worsen (as they invariably do), then according to this worldview, that must be the personal failing of the individuals and communities that are suffering. They must have “a culture of crime,” or lack a “work ethic,” or perhaps it’s absentee fathers, or some other racially tinged excuse for why government policy and public funds should never be used to reduce inequalities, improve lives, or address structural crises.
The primary tools of this project are all too familiar: privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sphere, and low taxes paid by cuts to public services, and all of this locked in under corporate-friendly trade deals. It’s the same recipe everywhere, regardless of context, history, or the hopes and dreams of the people who live there.
Climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests. To admit that the climate crisis is real is to admit the end of the neoliberal project. That’s why the Right is in rebellion against the physical world, against science (which is what prompted hundreds of scientists around the world to participate in the March for Science in April 2017, collectively defending a principle that really shouldn’t need defending: that knowing as much as possible about our world is a good thing.) But there is a reason why science has become such a battle zone—because it is revealing again and again that neoliberal business as usual leads to a species-threatening catastrophe.
What mainstream liberals have been saying for decades, by contrast, is that we simply need to tweak the existing system here and there and everything will be fine. You can have Goldman Sachs capitalism plus solar panels. But the challenge is much more fundamental than that. It requires throwing out the neoliberal rulebook and confront the centrality of every-expanding consumption in how we measure economic progress. In one sense, then, the members of Trump’s cabinet—with their desperate need to defy the reality of global warming, or belittle its implications—understand something that is fundamentally true: to avert climate chaos, we need to challenge the capitalist ideologies that have conquered the world since the 1980s. If you are the beneficiary of those ideologies, you are obviously going to be very unhappy about that. That’s understandable. Global warming really does have radical progressive implications. If it’s real—and it manifestly is—then the oligarch class continue to run riot without rules. Stopping them is now a matter of humanity’s collective survival.”
Naomi Klein on Q&A discussing Australia’s horrific treatment of refugees by locking them in concentration camp style facilities, such as Manus Island and Nauru, leading to countless acts of suicide and self harm (by both adults and even young children) just to escape the torment experienced in these camps. Shame on the Australian government and shame on their prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
1992 world accepts climate change* Left: we need to slowly transition off coal. Right: OK. *does nothing*
1995 *things get hotter* Left: we need to slowly transition off coal. Right: OK. *does nothing*
2000 *hotter* Left: we need to slowly transition off coal. Right: OK. *does nothing*
2010 *hotter* Left: coal?? transition?? Right: OK. *does nothing*
2017 *dangerously close to disaster heat levels* Left: It’s been 25 years!? We need to get off coal NOW. Right: Ugh, stupid unrealistic lefties. We can’t just get off coal in a day. We need a slow transition!
On the heels of yet another female U.S. Senator being told to more or less “calm down” while passionately doing the job she was elected to do, we are again wondering this: why are outspoken women so quickly accused of being hysterical? Being unapologetically loud and standing firm on your values are viewed very differently among genders, and when this perceived “hysteria” halts progress, we have a problem. Though this is not the first time this has happened, and unfortunately probably not the last, we know a little opposition can’t keep ’em down! We’ve gathered up some inspiring reads that demonstrate the power and success of strong female voices.
From the evidence so far, it’s clear that Trump and his top advisers are trying to pull off a domestic shock doctrine. The goal is all-out war on the public sphere and the public interest, whether in the form of antipollution regulations or programmes for the hungry. In their place will be unfettered power and freedom for corporations. It’s a programme so defiantly unjust and so manifestly corrupt that it can only be pulled off with the assistance of divide-and-conquer racial and sexual politics, as well as a nonstop spectacle of media distractions. And, of course, it is being backed up with a massive increase in war spending, and a dramatic escalation of military conflicts on multiple fronts.
Though Trump breaks the mould in some ways, his shock tactics do follow a script, one familiar from other countries that have had rapid changes imposed under the cover of crisis. During Trump’s first week in office, when he was signing that tsunami of executive orders and people were just reeling, madly trying to keep up, I found myself thinking about the human rights advocate Halina Bortnowska’s description of Poland’s experience when the US imposed economic shock therapy on her country in the midst of communism’s collapse. She described the velocity of change her country was going through as “the difference between dog years and human years” and she observed that “you start witnessing these semi-psychotic reactions. You can no longer expect people to act in their own best interests when they’re so disoriented they don’t know – or no longer care – what those interests are.”
Climate change: it’s complicated, it’s real and it sucks. To celebrate Earth Day, we did some (intellectual) digging to discover our favorite environmental reads. Take a peek to learn what you can do to help our planet (please!).
Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature…
It seems to me that our problem has a lot less to do with the mechanics of solar power than the politics of human power—specifically whether there can be a shift in who wields it, a shift away from corporations and toward communities, which in turn depends on whether or not the great many people who are getting a rotten deal under our current system can build a determined and diverse enough social force to change the balance of power.
Naomi Klein’s latest book, No Is Not Enough, was written hastily. It will be released this coming Tuesday, June 13. It’s about trump. In another article in The Guardian (link), Klein shares her view of trump:
“I think he is a showman and that he is aware of the way that shows can distract people,” she says. “That is the story of his business. He has always understood that he could distract his investors and bankers, his tenants, his clients from the underlying unsoundness of his business, just by putting on the Trump show. That is the core of Trump. He is undoubtedly an idiot, but do not underestimate how good he is at that.”
Excerpt from this The Guardian article, explaining it in sort of a book review:
Naomi Klein has revealed she is to publish a book taking on the Trump administration, arguing that a corporate political takeover got him elected and that a rise in activism can be utilised to resist his policies.
“It is important to be able to step back from that barrage of news that we are overwhelmed with and think about how we got here, what we can expect, how things can get worse and think strategically how things can get better.”
A key motivating factor for Klein writing the book now was her contention that Trump is not an aberration but an inevitable culmination of what she called “destructive trends” such as the rise of the “CEO saviour”, which included Trump, but also figures on the left, from Bill Gates to the Clinton foundation.
As well as looking at the factors that got Trump elected, she will also predict the kinds of crises and shocks of the future that she says we can expect the Trump administration to deliberately bring about, in order to further his agenda.
“My concern, and what’s really motivating me, is that in a moment like this, when so many people are entering politics – many of them for the first time – there is this temptation under the banner of unity to come to a lowest common denominator analysis – we all agree we don’t like Trump,” said Klein.
“Unity is great, but if that’s the only thing that’s uniting the anti-Trump resistance, we will end up back where we were before Trump, which is the place that produced Trump. We have to end up with a deeper analysis.”
Klein will use the book to explore how the key people around Trump have exploited crises in the past, whether that is Mike Pence as a public official or Steven Mnuchin, who extravagantly profited from the sub-prime mortgage crashes. “These guys are master disaster capitalists,” she said. “It’s a cabinet of destruction”.
When hardcore conservatives deny climate change, they are not just protecting the trillions in wealth that are threatened by climate action. They are also defending something even more precious to them: an entire ideological project—neoliberalism—which holds that the market is always right, regulation is always wrong, private is good and public is bad, and taxes that support public services are the worst of all.
People have a right to be angry, and a powerful, intersectional left agenda can direct that anger where it belongs, while fighting for holistic solutions that will bring a frayed society together… That is the task ahead. The Democratic party needs to be either decisively wrested from pro-corporate neoliberals, or it needs to be abandoned. From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, to the Occupy alumni who took the Bernie campaign supernova, there is a stronger field of coalition-inspiring progressive leaders out there than at any point in my lifetime. We are “leaderful”, as many in the Movement for Black Lives say. So let’s get out of shock as fast as we can and build the kind of radical movement that has a genuine answer to the hate and fear represented by the Trumps of this world. Let’s set aside whatever is keeping us apart and start right now.
“Watching Donald Trump’s rise, I’ve had a strange feeling. It’s not just that he’s applying shock politics to the most powerful and heavily armed nation on the earth. It’s more than that. In books, documentary films, and investigative reporting, I have documented a range of trends: the rise of Superbrands, the expanding power of private wealth over the political system, the global imposition of neoliberalism, often using racism and fear of the "other” as a potent tool, the damaging impacts of corporate free trade, and the deep hold that climate change denial has taken on the right side of the political spectrum. And as I research Trump, he started to seem to me like Frankenstein’s monster, sewn together out of the body parts of all of these and many other dangerous trends.
…Trump, extreme as he is, is less an aberration than a logical conclusion–a pastiche of pretty much all the worst trends of the past half century. Trump is the product of powerful systems of thought that rank human life based on race, religion, sexuality, physical appearance, and physical ability–and that have systematically used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies since the earliest days of North American colonization and the transatlantic slave trade. He is also the personification of the merger of humans and corporations–a one man megabrand, whose wife and children are spin-off brands, with all the pathologies and conflicts of interest inherent in that. He is the embodiment of the belief that money and power provide license to impose one’s will on others, whether than entitlement is expressed by grabbing women or grabbing the finite resources from a planet on the cusp of catastrophic warming. He is the produce of a business culture that fetishizes “disruptors” who make their fortunes by flagrantly ignoring both laws and regulatory standards. Most of all, he is the incarnation of a still-powerful free-market ideological project–one embraced by centrist parties as well as conservative ones–that wages war on everything public and commonly held, and imagines corporate CEOs as superpose who will save humanity.“
-Naomi Klein, NO Is Not Enough, Introduction, 1, 2, 9, 10.
We know that we are trapped within an economic system that has it backward; it behaves as if there is no end to what is actually finite (clean water, fossil fuels, and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions) while insisting that there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually quite flexible: the financial resources that human institutions manufacture, and that, if imagined differently, could build the kind of caring society we need.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism v.s. the Climate by Naomi Klein