The Failure Of Capitalism As An Ideology
Isabella Weber writes “The neoliberal state is neither small nor weak, but strong (e.g., Bonefeld, 2013, 2017; Chang, 2002; Davies, 2018). Its purpose is to fortify the market.” Freedom is narrowly constrained as the freedom of the richest person to do what they want, even if the poorest cannot get what they need. Indeed, because the poorest cannot get what they need.
Neoliberalism is broadly the idea that markets know best. That governments (ie, democratic institutions) should not be directly involved in economic activity and that businesses (ie, oligarchs) should be left alone, their individual greed stitched into collective good by an ‘invisible hand’. It is a frankly religious belief in the mathematically divine right of the merchant class no different than the divine right of kings. It is equally false if you look at it closely enough, ie at all.
The collapse of the Soviet Union is viewed as ‘proof’ of the superiority of capitalism, but just look at what the imposition of shock therapy (what Weber calls ‘the quintessentially neoliberal policy prescript’—did to Russia.
“The average real income of 99 percent of people in Russia was lower in 2015 than it had been in 1991… As a result of shock therapy, Russia experienced a rise in mortality beyond that of any previous peacetime experiences of an industrialized country (Notzon et al., 1998).”
Meanwhile, China’s socialism with Chinese characteristics and incorporation of markets into socialism both produced more wealth and lifted more people out of poverty faster than any nation in history. This is ignorantly credited to them ‘becoming capitalist’ but I invite you to read Weber’s review of the actual literature and history to see that it was anything but. Indeed, if you read Marx it is very much about production and running an economy, just running it differently.
Capitalism is viewed as generating wealth and ‘trickling it down’ but this is again a false religious belief, no different from the feudal idea of noblesse oblige. As Jason Hickle et al document in a recent paper (and tweetstorm):
First, the rise of capitalism from the 1500s onward was associated with a dramatic…