Friday, October 03, 2008

What ever happened to (the discourse on) Neoliberalism?

Not so long ago, it seemed to me that it was generally accepted among most of my political allies that NAFTA-style "globalization," and the financial and legislative chicanery that went along with it, were part of a very conscious tilting of the political-economic playing field, which we referred to as "neoliberalism." The term is one which has had a range of uses, but we were probably most influenced at the time by the writings of Subcommandante Marcos of the EZLN and by "first world" commentaries at least partially inspired by those same writings. And, in that context, "neoliberalism" was very much a matter of flows and their freedom: capital experienced a reduction in barriers to movement, coupled with legislative override privileges when it encountered many sorts local resistance; labor faced all the old barriers, and a range of new ones. The post-9/11 world seems to have witnessed, if anything, an acceleration of the trend, but the critical narrative seems to have bumped into some obstacle in the collective memory of radicals.

When I hear progressives, and even some anarchists and libertarians, talk so blithely about the history of "deregulation of the market" and "laissez faire," it's hard to believe how recently "anti-globalization" discourse was centered around governmental restructuring of world markets.

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