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Cast Away Illusions, Part Two

Cast Away Illusions, Part Two

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Published by Christopher Carrico

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Published by: Christopher Carrico on Nov 02, 2013
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By Christopher Carrico http://ccarrico.wordpress.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Official_portrait_of_Barack_Obama.jpg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:5.3.10SarahPalinByDavidShankbone.jpg One contradiction that both neo-liberals and neo-conservatives face is the difficulty of how to protect the free pursuit of liberty, (especially though markets, private property, and the accumulation of wealth), from the democratic demands of the majority for social  justice, intervention in the market, and the equitable distribution of wealth. While neo-libs and neo-cons are both, in theory, against intervention into the economy by the state, both have come to be for the very aggressive use of the state when state intervention is useful for the protection of property, wealth, and entrenched power. Paraphrasing David Harvey, I noted in this blog last month that:
 As in the case of some of the classical theories of liberal democracy, neo-liberal theorists are concerned that the free functioning of the liberal economy be protected from the sometimes irrational influences of the democratic masses, whose demands for equality, a social safety net, collective ownership, or national protection could irrationally interfere with the smooth functioning of otherwise ideal liberal capitalist economies. Following the argument put forth by Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy in their book
Captial Resurgen
 (2004), David Harvey argues that neo-liberalism is most coherent not when viewed as an economic model or as a political theory, but rather when seen as a project for the
restoration or creation of capitalist class power 
. Hence its contradictory relationship with the state: it claims to be against state intervention, while being heavily in support of state actions that are intended to buttress the power of capitalist elites. Neo-conservatives also put forth rhetoric
against “big government” intervention into th
e economy, while at the same time supporting state interventions intended to protect and promote the economic interests of ruling elites. Neo-conservatism, while differing in emphasis in some ways, is perfectly in keeping with the neo-liberal goal of strengthening capitalist class power. The reign of the free market, the unchecked power of capital, and economic and military imperialism, all create a great deal of social disruption, anomie, and chaos. The capitalist freedoms that both neo-liberals and neo-conservatives advocate are forces that are constantly threatening to tear apart the very fabric of society. (Harvey 2005: 81-86) The neo-conservative answer to the chaos and anomie that permeates the world that the liberals created, is not to question liberalism
 fundamental economic premises. Rather, neo-conservatism seeks to address the social disorder caused by capitalism by
advocating a strong state with coercive powers to control “the chaos of individual interests.” (Harvey: 82) In this sense,
neo-conservative views of the role and function of the state are similar to those put forth by Thomas Hobbes in
(1651). When neo-cons talk about their desire to check the
“excesses” of liberalism
 they reveal one of the ways in which neo-conservatism in practice is as deeply contradictory as neo-liberalism in practice. By no means do neo-conservatives want to control and regulate capitalist interests (the real source of social disruption). Instead, neo-cons hope to make democratic majorities more governable through the use of a coercive state, and through an appeal to morality, religion, nationalism, and tradition.  Again, quoting David Harvey at length is worthwhile here:
“… the moral values that have now become central to the neo
-conservatives can best be understood as products of the particular coalition that was built in the 1970s, between elite class and business interests intent on restoring their class power, on the one hand, and an
electoral base among the „moral majority‟ of the disaffected
 white working class on the other. The moral values centered on cultural nationalism, moral righteousness, Christianity (of a certain evangelical sort), family values, and right-to-life issues, and on the antagonism to the new social movements such as feminism, gay rights, affirmative action, and
environmentalism.” (84)
 These forces have gathered more strength today than ever in the US, best exemplified by the emergence of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. Furthermore, similar sets of conditions have led to similar outcomes in many parts of the world. Conservative calls for a return to tradition (and even outright calls for authoritarian governance) have been seen as answers to the chaos that has been caused by liberal capitalism. To the Tea Party we can add the resurgence of neo-fascism in Europe, the rise of the
Bharatiya Janata Party 
 and other Hindu right-wing parties in India, and the rise of authoritarian states (and violent and reactionary non-state actors) in much of the Islamic world. The evocation of national, religious, and racial solidarities in a world that was (many told us) supposed to be becoming more globalized, cosmopolitan and tolerant, has been one serious sign of broad based right wing politics of fear mongering. Rather than looking at structural economic problems: declining standard of living for the majority of Americans, increasing unemployment or peripheral employment, the overwhelming and unprecedented burden of debt taken on in every sector of the economy, from households, to corporations, to local, state and federal governments, etc., neo-conservatives find scapegoats in non-white immigrants (legal and illegal) from all over the world, in Islamic terrorists, and in competition for markets and resources with developing countries whose labor costs are far lower than labor costs in the U.S.
2. Cast Away Illusions, Prepare for Struggle.
Those progressives who are today disappointed in Barack Obama need to examine their worldviews, see which of their hopes were realistic in 2008, and prepare for struggle in what are most likely going to be a bitter two years ahead for American politics. As I noted in Part One of this blog, neo-liberal policy was a bi-partisan project. It was initiated in earnest in the U.S. under the administration of Ronald Reagan.

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