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August 5, 2014 9:24 AM   Subscribe

"Neoliberal is the new hipster: everybody's it except you, and nobody can explain what it means"
I think that’s well-put, and that the similarity between the terms is no accident; hipsterism is an especially salient iteration of neoliberal subjectivity, one that gains currency by being slippery and inarticulable. These concepts become normalized by becoming boring and frustrating to talk about. The apparent vagueness in the terms seems to make them unalterable. The struggle to define them reflects the stakes of keeping them amorphous, capable of absorbing more and more behavior, making the way of thinking they describe feel inescapable, natural.

We Are All Neoliberals
Neoliberalism has become an increasingly popular word in contemporary critical thought and philosophy. Its popularity has come at a cost, however, as the meaning of the word has been reduced to a few vague inclinations about the truly bad kind of capitalism held together by invocations of competition, markets, and individualism. It has become what Althusser called a descriptive theory at best, and at worse a way to speak about capitalism without speaking about capitalism. In the worse case it became the name for a kind of nostalgia for an earlier kinder and gentler capitalism, one that we could get back to as soon as the full impact of the recession was felt and people started really paying attention to Paul Krugman.
foucault's freedom
I wanted examine the link between neoliberalism and political violence in order to challenge some of the common ways of understanding it. The relationship between neoliberalism and political violence has been commonly understood in two diametrically opposite ways by its supporters on the one hand and its critics on the other. Some of the most famous supporters of free markets forged an intrinsic link between the planned economy and political violence. For Friedrich Hayek, for example, neoliberalism represented the way out of political violence in a post-war Europe debilitated and scared by Nazism. Some of the most important critics of neoliberalism have attempted to turn this argument around: they have sought to demonstrate the violence accompanying the spread of neoliberalism. Perhaps its most famous recent critic, Naomi Klein, argued in The Shock Doctrine (2007) that it is in fact the implementation of neoliberal policies around the globe that has been accompanied by the consistent use of terror – brutal coercion intended to shock the population into accepting the new unpopular economic and political order. The problem that both of these approaches have in common is, in my view, that they understand the connection between a certain type of governmental rationality and political violence as purely external.
Brad DeLong: Karl Polyani, Classical Liberalism, and the Varieties of "Neoliberalism"

via Sunday Reading
posted by the man of twists and turns (74 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
hipsterism is an especially salient iteration of neoliberal subjectivity
Oh that this were part of a satire on sub-Zizek grad-school maunderings. Sadly, I think the writer is laboring under the delusion that they actually have a point.
posted by yoink at 9:29 AM on August 5, 2014 [21 favorites]


I always assumed the term represented a revival of the notion of Lockean radical individualism, blended with Benthamite utilitarianism, and laissez-faire economics, often with strong antipathies towards institutional regulation (in the mode of the Austrian School).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:30 AM on August 5, 2014 [19 favorites]


"Neoliberal", used in any context, is an excellent code word for "you can stop listening to me now".

including this comment
posted by phooky at 9:31 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hey, just like 'hipster!'
posted by box at 9:38 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Look at that fucking neoliberal
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:39 AM on August 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


Buh?
posted by General Tonic at 9:42 AM on August 5, 2014


El Sabor Asiatico: "Look at that fucking neoliberal"

Excuse me, is this economic policy free range Misesian?
posted by boo_radley at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2014 [14 favorites]


Yes, but what about the feminist neoliberals?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2014


Hipsterism went out of fashion, worthwhile discussion, when Norman Mailer wrote about it.
posted by Postroad at 9:45 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Neoliberal has a pretty specific meaning, no? a modern form of classical liberalism that means deregulation, markets, and western financial hegemony. What am I missing?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2014 [64 favorites]


Hipster is a word for a real phenomenon that has no other simple descriptive term.
The fact that one of the observable features of hipsters is denying that they're hipsters doesn't negate the usefulness of the word.
Same goes for neoliberals.
posted by rocket88 at 9:51 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"I always assumed the term represented a revival of the notion of Lockean radical individualism, blended with Benthamite utilitarianism, and laissez-faire economics, often with strong antipathies towards institutional regulation (in the mode of the Austrian School)."

I go with the slightly shorter 'Economically selfish people'.
posted by Wordshore at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


That's 21 letters more than me.
posted by fullerine at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2014


Hipster is a word for a real phenomenon that has no other simple descriptive term.
The fact that one of the observable features of hipsters is denying that they're hipsters doesn't negate the usefulness of the word.


No. What negates the usefulness of the word is that it is applied to utterly disparate and even incompatible traits which seem to add up to nothing more than "people I don't like."
posted by yoink at 10:09 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


David Harvey gave a solid account of neoliberalism in a very accessible book almost ten years back now.
posted by Abiezer at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sadly, I think the writer is laboring under the delusion that they actually have a point.

This is not entirely fair. Horning may be rambling and speaking a very unpretty form of academese, but he still has two pretty obvious points:

1. People use "neoliberal" as a fuzzy pejorative a lot, and it's often nearly meaningless when they do. (The Jason Read piece he refers to is a bit clearer than he is about this.)
2. Really we should use it to refer to a newly forming mode of subjectivity, which is radically individualist yet leads to fragmentation of the self.

Certainly one can disagree with either or both of these — myself, I think #1 is an indicator that you need to start talking to more interesting people, and #2 is sort of a Horning idée fixe that doesn't match what the word actually means — but they still count as identifiable theses.
posted by RogerB at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Hipster" is, indeed, a more-or-less useless term. It can signal all kinds of things:

- shock troops of gentrification
- "incorrect" performance of gender (girly men! women who don't shave!)
- Kids These Days (They're Awful)
- a particularly cutting sort of cultural one-up-man-ship
- Hippies without the idealism
- the performance of being lower class while not actually being poor
- [Zizek mode] and so on and so on [/Zizek mode]

whereas "neoliberal" has a precise definition, which several people have given above, and if you do not understand it then that's on you, and not on the useful. accurate, clearly delineated technical term that you're encountering.
posted by erlking at 10:18 AM on August 5, 2014 [27 favorites]


I think it's worth reading the "Foucault's Freedom" interview. The book discussed therein - Foucault, Politics and Violence - sounds like it would be of interest to many mefites. Also, I find her argument about state violence as governmentality really intriguing. This sounds like a slight oversimplification of her thesis:

Practices of state violence are not just instruments for upholding sovereignty and for enforcing the law. They have increasingly got their own internal ends that legitimize them and law is used simply as a particular tactic for the achievement of these ends. The deployment of law thus becomes strategic: it functions as means to predetermined policy ends and not as the ground of their legitimacy. In the book I attempt to illustrate this problem with a discussion of the new interrogation techniques – including waterboarding – that were introduced at Guantanamo Bay detainee camp in 2002. What made these new, considerably more aggressive interrogation techniques possible was not the suspension of international law, but an interpretation of it that made it consistent with pregiven policy aims: the effective gathering of intelligence for national security. The law was respected by the state, but it was used strategically: the policy should have been drawn up around the law, but instead the legal advice was fitted around the policy. Legality was subsumed under efficiency and professionalism.

It also sounds like she's taking a similar tack to Richard Seymour's Liberal Defense of Murder but now with more Foucault.
posted by Frowner at 10:18 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Neoliberal is the new hipster fascist.

And I'm not just talking terminology.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:19 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


2. Really we should use it to refer to a newly forming mode of subjectivity, which is radically individualist yet leads to fragmentation of the self.

If that is his point, then can I continue to ignore him? I mean what do we do with that?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2014


(Also, the notion that neoliberalism is hard to define is ludicrous. Wikipedia manages it in one sentence: "Neoliberalism is a label for economic liberalism, which advocates — under reference to neoclassical economic theory — support for great economic liberalization, privatization, free trade, open markets, deregulation, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.")
posted by Sys Rq at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2014 [10 favorites]


Chuck Mertz had an interview with historian Philip Mirowski (author of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown) on his radio show "This Is Hell" back in June. Mirowski mostly focused on the intellectual and philosophic underpinnings of neoliberalism, and had a very different and interesting take on it. Here's the link (soundcloud).

(here's a review and critique of Mirowski's ideological analysis in Jacobin)
posted by Auden at 10:24 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


the notion that neoliberalism is hard to define is ludicrous

That rather depends on whether you're being descriptive or prescriptive. That is, there is, as you say, a perfectly clear definition of the term out there. Unfortunately, if you hang around on, say, a university campus you will hear and read the word being used in truly bizarre ways, so that it ends up meaning, essentially, "stuff we don't like." It's the equivalent of the way "fascist" was used in the '60s.

If you were trying to write a descriptivist dictionary entry for "neoliberal," it would truly be difficult to come up with a definition that meant anything more precise than "not the sort of thing someone who thinks of themselves as a progressive approves of."
posted by yoink at 10:28 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, er, how many mefites in here hanging about on campus a lot these days?
posted by ominous_paws at 10:39 AM on August 5, 2014


I am and I don't hear it like that. Maybe its confined to groups/subfields/disciplines?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:40 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've never quite understood the term neoliberal. There's nothing "liberal" to neoliberalism and, honestly, neoliberals seem quite indistinguishable (to me) from neocons.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've never liked using the word 'Neoliberal' because the sound implies the opposite of what it is. It's almost like doublespeak. In conversation I'd probably use 'laissez-faire' or 'Thatcherism' or 'Chicago-School' instead. Might not mean exactly the same thing, but often close enough.
posted by ovvl at 10:55 AM on August 5, 2014


I always assumed the term represented a revival of the notion of Lockean radical individualism, blended with Benthamite utilitarianism, and laissez-faire economics, often with strong antipathies towards institutional regulation (in the mode of the Austrian School).

I don't think so, that sounds more like a neorealist thing. Neoliberalism often stresses the importance of international institutions in setting regulations and frameworks for trade and cooperation etc. It's a response to the idea that "might makes right" is the only basis of inter-national interaction; not necessarily an endorsement of utilitarianism or laissez-faire economics (though not incompatible with--these approaches seem to be favorites of the type of people found in top national leadership positions that deal with the economy for whatever reason).
posted by Hoopo at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've never quite understood the term neoliberal. There's nothing "liberal" to neoliberalism and, honestly, neoliberals seem quite indistinguishable (to me) from neocons.

It's liberalism in the sense of liberal democracy. It's the liberalism that Libertarians are referring to when they call themselves "classical liberals".

Neoconservatism sits fairly comfortably next to neoliberalism in that neoconservatism is more oriented around foreign policy and and aggressive militarism while neoliberalism looks more at economics. That's massively oversimplified, but the roots of both are not really parallel and trying to look at them as opposed ideologies won't produce any understanding.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:04 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Liberal" in the economic sense has an entirely different meaning than the political definition of the word.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


2. Really we should use it to refer to a newly forming mode of subjectivity, which is radically individualist yet leads to fragmentation of the self.

If that is his point, then can I continue to ignore him? I mean what do we do with that?



Well, many ideologies do have effects that are different or even contrary to their stated objectives. However, whether or not a phenomenon (such as this fragmentation of the self) is a direct consequence of the ideology in question, or part of a larger set of circumstances of which the ideology is but one component is open for debate (much of which would hinge on how one actually defines the self).

Similarly, it could be argued that neoliberal ideology is strongly anti-institution, and yet very often recruits and deploys institutional structures to achieve its goals; however whether or not this is the actual aim of neoliberalism, or an unforeseen consequence, remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, suggesting that "neoliberal" cannot be defined as a concept or represents some sort of floating signifier, is disingenuous at best.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


I always assumed the term represented a revival of the notion of Lockean radical individualism, blended with Benthamite utilitarianism, and laissez-faire economics, often with strong antipathies towards institutional regulation (in the mode of the Austrian School).

I don't think so, that sounds more like a neorealist thing.


Its not. No realist I know of has strong antipathies towards institution regulation. To be sure, they are skeptical of the effectiveness of international institutions to mitigate the coercive pressures of international anarchy, but that's where it stops. Moreover, that tendency is not limited to neorealism; the classical realism of Morganthou, Herz, and Carr also shared this skepticism for a variety of reasons. Waltzian neorealism by and large is a positive not a normative theory with deep affection for parsimony and acutely aware of the structural pressures that states face in the international arena.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is part of the problem that "neoliberal" is often used as a fuzzy term for "right wing" - like yoink says "fascist" was used in the '60s - even though there's a gulf between the right wing populist "keep your government hands off my Medicare", the right wing corporatist "lower my taxes and I'll contribute to your campaign fund", the right wing social conservative "I'm worried that someone, somewhere, might be having fun", and the remaining handful of think-tank and IMF libertarians who might actually be accurately called neoliberals?
posted by clawsoon at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I remember in school being shown that four quadrant graph like this one (guess its call a Nolan chart). I'm wholly unfamiliar with this new partisan fracturing efforts of calling things neoliberalism (my guess is that it is as meaningless and sloppily abused as neo-con was a decade ago). But help me figure out where it falls on this chart. Like on the center line of the y-axis but to the far right on the x-axis?
posted by dios at 11:25 AM on August 5, 2014


However, whether or not a phenomenon (such as this fragmentation of the self)

I guess my point is that: what the hell does this mean? Can it be measured? predicted? studied? what utility does this claim, assuming its true, have?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:27 AM on August 5, 2014


The Nolan chart is nonsense, as is anything that calls a lack of business regulations and taxes "economic liberty".

Also, for a chart which is supposed to be for mapping political positions, it's funny how anti-state leftism is literally impossible to graph because it runs on underlying ideas which are incoherent and incompatible with the assumptions and elisions made by the creator of the Nolan chart. To accept the Nolan chart as descriptive of reality is to make certain thoughts impossible.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


dios--the nolan chart is too broad. zoom in.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2014


I guess my point is that: what the hell does this mean? Can it be measured? predicted? studied? what utility does this claim, assuming its true, have?


I think that's a much more interesting aspect of his argument to engage with, than whether or not neoliberals are a thing.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2014


who's doing the latter?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2014


No realist I know of has strong antipathies towards institution regulation

Well, perhaps not academics who identified as neorealists, but those who practice it with or without the label (I'm thinking of the Bush administration) certainly had outright contempt for it.
posted by Hoopo at 11:37 AM on August 5, 2014


oh wait i just realized you guys are talking about a different neoliberalism. This is about the domestic kind, right?
posted by Hoopo at 11:38 AM on August 5, 2014


western financial hegemony

Oh God its intellectual grey goo. Mental smatter. Run! Run for the hills!
posted by Slackermagee at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


How was the Bush administration's foreign policy neorealist?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2014


"I always assumed the term represented a revival of the notion of Lockean radical individualism, blended with Benthamite utilitarianism, and laissez-faire economics, often with strong antipathies towards institutional regulation (in the mode of the Austrian School)."

One of the better points of the second link was distinguishing neoliberalism from laissez-faire economics, where neoliberalism explicitly crafts regulations to promote competition, rather than abjuring regulation altogether.

For American readers, NAFTA is an example of neoliberal policies and might be better characterized by selective deregulation combined with privatization under the rubric of increasing competition. It's a philosophy that ends up being profoundly corrosive to social welfare in the global south, as the "competition" is explicitly framed in realist terms, i.e. competing now rather than having similar development profiles (tariffs, etc.). It can be a bit of the economists' version of, "I don't see race."
posted by klangklangston at 11:43 AM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Liberal" in the economic sense has an entirely different meaning than the political definition of the word.

The difference is really more geographical.

In the UK & Australia, Liberal means neoliberal, i.e. rimjobs for corporations, and is generally aligned with social conservatism; in the US & Canada, it's just flipped around so that Conservatism is the entree and neoliberalism (more often under the misleading banner of "libertarianism" because Liberal means, you know, liberal) is the side-dish.

How was the Bush administration's foreign policy neorealist?

Bush is more of a Fauvist, really.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


western financial hegemony

Oh God its intellectual grey goo. Mental smatter. Run! Run for the hills!


Western financial hegemony is actually a very real and specific phenomenon that is the subject of intense study by scholars in International Political Economy.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wait, you mean a cleary-defined term has been incorrectly and excessively used in casual speech, and so now some smarty-pants is saying it can no longer be used? Well, I never...

So, while we're throwing "neoliberal" on the heap with "fascist" (and "marxist" and "anarchist" and...), let's agree that the word "exponential" can no longer be used. Henceforth, if you have to describe a growth rate of a quantity that's proportional to its current value, I would suggest that you refer to it as fast-tastic , which is, of course, a new form of subjectivity that revolts against the hegemony of boundedness.

... hipsterism is an especially salient iteration of neoliberal subjectivity, one that gains currency by being slippery and inarticulable.

Oh the irony, that critical theory aficionados would think of "being slippery and inarticulable" as particular to any one thing. I mean, doesn't that describe what's frustrating about talking about anything with anyone who's professionally po-mo?

Eh. Snark aside, the "foucault's freedom" article is pretty interesting.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:50 AM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Hipster" is, indeed, a more-or-less useless term. It can signal all kinds of things:

A lot of words in our language are context-sensitive, modified, or otherwise nuanced beyond the word itself. You wrote a decent enough list of meanings. In a lot of conversations, you can easily pick out which of those usages is being applied. That marks a useful term, albeit also suggests a market for a greater range of more-specific pejoratives... :)
posted by anonymisc at 12:02 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


hipsterism is an especially salient iteration of neoliberal subjectivity

I'm staring at this sentence and I honestly don't know whether to giggle, cry, or put my head on my desk and have a little lie down.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:08 PM on August 5, 2014


John Maynard Keynes: "Am I a Liberal?" (1925)
Now take my own case—where am I landed on this negative test? How could I bring myself to be a Conservative? They offer me neither food nor drink—neither intellectual nor spiritual consolation. I should not be amused or excited or edified. That which is common to the atmosphere, the mentality, the view of life of—well, I will not mention names—promotes neither my self-interest nor the public good. It leads nowhere; it satisfies no ideal; it conforms to no intellectual standard; it is not even safe, or calculated to preserve from spoilers that degree of civilisation which we have already attained.

Ought I, then, to join the Labour Party? Superficially that is more attractive. But looked at closer, there are great difculties. To begin with, it is a class party, and the class is not my class. If I am going to pursue sectional interests at all, I shall pursue my own. When it comes to the class struggle as such, my local and personal patriotisms, like those of every one else, except certain unpleasant zealous ones, are attached to my own surroundings. I can be influenced by what seems to me to be justice ad good sense; but the class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie.

But, above all, I do not believe that the intellectual elements in the Labour Party will ever exercise adequate control; too much will always be decided by those who do not know at all what they are talking about; and if—which is not unlikely—the control of the party is seized by an autocratic inner ring, this control will be exercised in the interests of the extreme left wing—the section of the Labour Party which I shall designate the party of catastrophe.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:16 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


So, while we're throwing "neoliberal" on the heap with "fascist" (and "marxist" and "anarchist" and...)

Right. Words and labels do have meanings, obviously they can be overly simplistic and we can argue about their precise definitions but:

fascism: school of thought that reacts to and opposes democracy and communism, calls for a militaristic, ethnically pure state that elevates conformity to official norms and the marginalization or elimination of 'impure' elements

marxism: school of thought that calls for a radical reordering of society which will result in the state being controlled by a body which represents ordinary workers

anarchism: school of thought which rejects hierarchical control by states and employers in favor of a radically democratic, consensus-based society

neo-liberalism: reaction to the modern welfare state which emphasizes free trade/markets, a relatively weak regulatory structure and the maximization of individual freedom at the expense of social justice

This whole business of "oh, well, labels are inherently oppressive" or whatever is usually an attempt to muddy the waters. I rather think that the present time will go down in history as the Summer When Everyone Tried To Get Away With Bullshit And Pretty Well Succeeded.

Follow the money, follow the hate-speech, follow the liars. Look at who is suffering and at who is prospering on the backs of the poor. I am thisclose to issuing a WAKEUPSHEEPLE blast, please spare me that shame....
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:25 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and as far as I'm concerned 'hipster' means young middle-class person that wears jeans and drinks beer. So I am totally willing to agree that said label is meaningless.
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:28 PM on August 5, 2014


But ugh, that first article may be good but it is utterly unreadable:

"Neoliberalism is largely about fostering competition among atomized individuals and suppressing any sense of collectivity within society. Its tool for doing this, by and large, is quantification: surveillance to yield measurements. By combining an expanded Taylorism with entrepreneurial conceptions of the self as an enterprise, these measurements can be used to make efficiency a requirement of more and more of one’s life, effectively turning it all into work. When measured and circulated, all forms of behavior can become “productive” — can be recast as a kind of value that capitalism can capture. By making the self an enterprise, “growth” becomes the only means to make the self continue to seem real."

My translation attempt:

Neoliberalism means making people fight with each other for the things they need, instead of helping them to work together to meet their needs. It does this by trying to chop everything and everyone up into little pieces that can be measured and tracked. This leads to a situation where every little thing we do or have has a value that can be sold and resold. And it ends up making us feel like our "worth" is the same as our economic value, added up like a dinner bill.
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:52 PM on August 5, 2014 [6 favorites]


A lot of words in our language are context-sensitive, modified, or otherwise nuanced beyond the word itself. You wrote a decent enough list of meanings. In a lot of conversations, you can easily pick out which of those usages is being applied. That marks a useful term, albeit also suggests a market for a greater range of more-specific pejoratives... :)

Sure, sure, but if people were forced to use more specific perjoratives, it would also force them to articulate the nature of their distaste whenever they otherwise spit "hipster!" and be done. It might get uncomfortable real fast, because (at least in my experience), the root of hipster-distaste is often found in classism, gender-policing, or ageism. Even if it's none of those things, it can often be boiled down to "a culture I don't like! those people are existing wrong and it makes me mad enough to spit!" Which is never really a good look on anyone.

It's why "hipster" is such a popular perjorative - it's an empty signifier which just says "I dislike and disapprove" without communicating any strong claim as to why. "Hipster" just glides across the surface of language, because it's completely unspecific.
posted by erlking at 12:52 PM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


How was the Bush administration's foreign policy neorealist?

It wasn't. I was in IR grad school at the time of the Iraq War and the one thing everyone agreed on was that Bush's international-relations doctrine was pretty standard classical-liberal.

It's unfortunate that the L word shows up in all these contexts, since IR-liberal basically means not-isolationist, economic-liberal encourages deference to markets without intervention (the position The Economist claims), and political-liberal is highly context-dependent (focusing on civil rights and liberties in the U.S., for one).

People use "neoliberal" as a fuzzy pejorative a lot, and it's often nearly meaningless when they do.

God, yes, this. Years ago I used to read Jezebel's "Crappy Hour" feature since it touched on a number of topics I found interesting, but at some point they started deriding Angelina Jolie as a neoliberal for her perspective on humanitarian aid and that was pritnear the end of it for me.

posted by psoas at 12:59 PM on August 5, 2014


Jesus people. The term is well defined in several university curricula.
posted by clvrmnky at 1:08 PM on August 5, 2014


Jesus people. The term is well defined in several university curricula.

Yeah well it's not well-defined in my ignorance and I think we all know which is more important.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:12 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


"fascism: school of thought that reacts to and opposes democracy and communism, calls for a militaristic, ethnically pure state that elevates conformity to official norms and the marginalization or elimination of 'impure' elements"

More a post-democratic totalitarian ideology that emphasizes active militarism, patriotism and power as heroic within an eternal struggle against internal and external weakness, while consolidating public and private stakeholders, right? I think the over-emphasis of "ethnically pure" is a mistake; it can be part of the patriotism myth, but Mussolini largely emphasized culture over race or ethnicity, as did Franco.

(Sorry, I just tend to think that over-focusing on the racial part of fascism leads to thinking that Nazis were sui generis and that fascism was Nazism, which diminishes anti-fascist critiques of other governments, including the American strands of fascism.)
posted by klangklangston at 1:18 PM on August 5, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think both of those are good and useful descriptions for the complex phenomenon that is fascism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:42 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


How was the Bush administration's foreign policy neorealist?

That was just my observation which I thought was demonstrated by their approach to a transnational terrorist threat. They began by singling out states (the Axis of Evil speech, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan), which appeared to me to be an indication they saw the state as the fundamental primary actor. The whole Project for A New American Century seems to me to confirm they see the machinations of international relations as being entirely rooted at the level of states' interactions. I also saw their actions in the Middle East as emblematic of a world view rooted in maximizing power both in real terms and relative to its perceived rivals, and the mistrust and working-around of the UN (and attempted hijacking of NATO) shows they really don't place a high value on international institutions and cooperation.

It wasn't. I was in IR grad school at the time of the Iraq War and the one thing everyone agreed on was that Bush's international-relations doctrine was pretty standard classical-liberal.

I only looked at IR as an undergrad, but personally I think that for all the talk of the Bush administration's "spreading democracy" in the Middle East and democratic regime building, it was pretty transparently a play for US economic and geopolitical interests in the region that have little or nothing to do with democracy and democracy likely has no effect on. It was PR like so much else. Also in terms of free trade, they were only in it insofar as the US comes out on top -- the softwood lumber dispute with Canada comes to mind, and the steel tariffs etc. Yes they signed a number of free trade agreements but it seems more or less as though Bush wanted trade to be free for the US, but only for their partners when it's convenient. They also showed contempt for existing, long-standing good relations, international institutions, law, and norms in favor of short-term goals. I can't think of a time in my life when borders were more important than in the Bush years. I guess I don't see how classical liberalism factors in, in any sense other than lip-service.
posted by Hoopo at 1:45 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


tivalasvegas: This whole business of "oh, well, labels are inherently oppressive" or whatever is usually an attempt to muddy the waters.

As someone who's very familiar with Ivory Tower cultural theory types (some of my best friends, and all that...), it's always been bitterly ironic to me that the most po-mo people actually functioning outside of academia are on the hard right. I mean, what could be more po-mo than the "reality based community" quote attributed to Karl Rove in the (in)famous Suskind article of 2004:
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."*
As pointed out by Ecco, and more recently by Robin (and I'm sure many others), rightist ideology has a shape-shifter quality to it that makes it hard to pin down. And that's not a bug, it's a feature.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:51 PM on August 5, 2014 [4 favorites]


And empires do rise, and create their own reality, and empires do fall.

What remains is the community of love, the community that listens and learns and grows within itself until it encompasses every side and perspective. The community that is, God forbid! empathetic and which welcomes in the voice of the stranger until the stranger is no longer a stranger.

The community of the whole human race, and beyond it, the whole wide world of green things that live and grow.
posted by tivalasvegas at 2:18 PM on August 5, 2014



neo-liberalism: reaction to the modern welfare state which emphasizes free trade/markets, a relatively weak regulatory structure and the maximization of individual freedom at the expense of social justice


“The ultimate operative unit in our society is the family, not the individual.”
— Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, 1962

Neoliberalism isn't about setting individuals free (except for the mythical Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark/John Galt übermensch); it's about setting private hierarchies (families, dynasties and businesses ) free, and eliminating the universalist structures which undermine a patriarch or boss's authority over his inferiors (such as collective bargaining rights, human rights not contingent upon the means to exercise them and such).
posted by acb at 2:50 PM on August 5, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think Mirowski is worth reading to put Neoliberalism in a historical context. Setting aside the shape-shifting qualities and the issues of terminology, what remains is a right-wing ideology with a very specific structure, which has been created to advance that ideology. And once you see it you can't unsee it.
posted by sneebler at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2014 [5 favorites]


"Conservatism is the politics of reality." -William F. Buckley, Jr.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:38 PM on August 5, 2014


"Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama" -Christopher Buckley

setting private hierarchies

"I propose going back to a more healthy and well-grounded libertarian rootstock — encouraging the vast creative power of open-flat-fair competition... a word that libertarians scarcely mention, anymore. Because it conflicts fundamentally with their current focus — promoting inherited oligarchy." -David Brin
posted by kliuless at 4:14 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's the idea that market-fundamentalism is a system of ethics that produces a Utopian society by superseding all other considerations.

In the parlance of Star Trek:

"Milton Friedman and Pinochet, at Santiago."

More perversely it is the idea that The Market is the superior mechanism for determining the value of anything: the commodification of everything.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:28 PM on August 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


Jesus people. The term is well defined in several university curricula.

And all this time I thought they were simply called Christians. OK, Jesus people it is then.
posted by chambers at 5:31 PM on August 5, 2014


worst case


worst case!


.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 6:10 PM on August 5, 2014


But, above all, I do not believe that the intellectual elements in the Labour Party will ever exercise adequate control; too much will always be decided by those who do not know at all what they are talking about; and if—which is not unlikely—the control of the party is seized by an autocratic inner ring, this control will be exercised in the interests of the extreme left wing—the section of the Labour Party which I shall designate the party of catastrophe.

Well, he ultimately got that pretty wrong.
posted by srboisvert at 6:19 PM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hipsters have at least been a real thing. I have been a hipster. I have been a hipster, and still have many of the same aesthetic preferences I had in my hipster days.
posted by Anything at 12:49 AM on August 6, 2014


As pointed out by Ecco, and more recently by Robin (and I'm sure many others), rightist ideology has a shape-shifter quality to it that makes it hard to pin down. And that's not a bug, it's a feature.

That dolphin was smart.


sorry.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:44 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]


Neoliberalism isn't about setting individuals free (except for the mythical Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark/John Galt übermensch); it's about setting private hierarchies (families, dynasties and businesses ) free, and eliminating the universalist structures which undermine a patriarch or boss's authority over his inferiors (such as collective bargaining rights, human rights not contingent upon the means to exercise them and such).
See also: libertarianism.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:12 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]


-Sick of this market-driven world? You should be: "The self-serving con of neoliberalism is that it has eroded the human values the market was supposed to emancipate."
-A New Progressive Political Economy: "David Sainsbury says that countries that cling to neoliberal pieties will be unable to compete globally."
posted by kliuless at 4:19 PM on August 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


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