Neoliberalism and Globalization
The last three decades of the last century – especially with the advent of Reaganism/Bushism and Thatcherism/Majorism in the United States and England – may well be considered profoundly structural for the transformations that were about to occur in the world (Harvey 2005; Steger 2005; Sousa Santos 2006; Apple 2009; Giroux 2004; Conversi 2010; Torres Santome 2005; Paraskeva 2009, 2010). The staggering economic experiences in post-Allende Chile, the great contemporary revolution in the People’s Republic of China (who took the Xiapingian formula one nation two states), and the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the United Kingdom and in the United States, respectively, coined the emergence and development of a “new world economic configuration—often subsumed under the term [neoliberal] globalization” (Harvey 2005, p. 2). Neoliberal globalization needs to be understood within a complex ideological framework that hegemonically stabilized a new radical center, paving the way for a new conception and praxis for the State and in so doing naturalizing the economic crisis and the subjectification of debt.
Such pretentious limitedness fuels a very concrete ideological (and cultural) battle(s) that is the very DNA of what Sousa Santos (2008) calls globalizations. That is an intricate multifarious social terrain in which nonmonolithic hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces – or what Sousa Santos (2008) calls insurgent cosmopolitanisms – collide vividly before, among other issues, social and cognitive justice, equality, freedom, democracy, human rights, and common good. Whereas the first is usually understood as “neoliberal, top-down globalization or globalization from above” (Sousa Santos 2008, p. 396), the latter consists of “the transnationally organized resistance against unequal exchanges produced or intensified by globalized localisms and localized globalisms” (Sousa Santos 2008, p. 397)
Far from constricting [capitalism limits] is the very impetus of its development. Herein lies the paradox proper to capitalism, its last resort: capitalism is capable of transforming its limit, its very impotence, in the source of its power—the more it ‘putrefies’ the more its immanent contradiction is aggravated, the more it must revolutionize itself to survive. It is paradox that defines surplus enjoyment: it is not a surplus which attaches itself to some ‘normal’ fundamental enjoyment because enjoyment as such emerges only in the surplus, because it is constitutively an ‘excess’. If we subtract the surplus we lose enjoyment itself, just as capitalism, which can survive only by incessantly revolutionizing its own material conditions, ceases to exists if it ‘stays the same’, if it achieves an internal balance. (p. 52)
Neoliberal globalization involves the “intensification, and acceleration of social exchange and activities [that] does not occur merely on an objective material level [and] involves the subjective plane of human consciousness” (Steger 2009, p. 12). Neoliberal globalization – in its multiple forms – did (and it is) not happen(ing) in a social vacuum. Actually, “it is precisely in its oppression of non-market forces that we see how neoliberalism operates not only as an economic system, but as a political and cultural system as well” (McChesney 1999, p. 7; Olssen 2004), which creates endless intricate tensions between cultural homogenization and cultural heterogenization (Appadurai 1996).
In analyzing the latest metamorphosis of New Rightist policies, Mouffe (2000, p. 108) stresses that both Blair and Clinton were able to construct a “radical center.” Unlike traditional political groupings, the “radical center” is a new coalition that “transcends the traditional left/right division by articulating themes and values from both sides in a new synthesis” (Mouffe 2000, p. 108). However, Fairclough (2000, pp. 44–45), unlike Mouffe (2000), stresses that the “radical center” strategy does not consist only in “bringing together elements from these [left and right] political discourses” but also in its ability to “reconcile themes which have been seen as irreconcilable beyond such contrary themes, transcending them.” Fairclough (2000) also argues that this strategy is not based on a dialogic stance. That is to say, the “radical center” achieved consent within the governed sphere “not through political [democratic] dialogue, but through managerial methods of promotion and forms of consultation with the public; [that is to say] the government tends to act like a corporation treating the public as its consumers rather than citizens” (Fairclough 2000, p. 129). While such radical centrism targets the State, it is actually the State that has been paving the way for the market (Sommers 2000; Paraskeva 2003, 2009, 2015). Recent bailouts to banks, insurance companies, and car industry bore testimony to our claim. Such State actually fosters “new privatized legal regimes [and it is] a state that has itself undergone transformation and participated in legitimizing a new doctrine about the role of the state in the economy” (Sassen 2000, p. 59).
State sovereignty has never been in jeopardy within the contemporary global cultural flows (Appadurai 1996). In fact, such radical centrism, while searching for the dissolution of old contradictions between “right” and “left” (Fergusson 2001), was able to lay the solid foundation for the gradual emergence of a new concept of the State (especially with regard its role) anchored in a need to modernize government at almost at any cost. Democratic forces have been colonized by managerial insights in such a way that governments end up being weak executives of a Res plc (Ball 2007), which operates with the blessing of an anemic popular vote (Fergusson (2001).
We argue that such mercantilist neofundamentalism has paved the way for what Agamben (2005) called a “State of exception” – the embryo of what I have called neoradical centrism. While radical centrism claims to offer a broad managerial concept for the public good by showing new managerial dynamics in and of itself (Newman 2001, p. 46), neoradical centrism actually refines the entire commonsense cartography edified and sutured by radical centrism (Hall 1988). What is at stake nowadays for the neoradical centrists is not the rapacious need for modernizing forms of governments but precisely the unbalanced tension between force and law. In short, force transcends law, paradoxically, in the so-called democratic nations. In fact, neoliberal globalization “is having pronounced effects on the exclusive territoriality of the nation state, that is its effects are not on territory as such but on its institutional encasements” (Sassen 2000, p. 50).
Nowadays the issue goes well beyond the creation of mixed economies of welfare, or the emergence of a new public management, of transforming citizens in consumers, or even the emergence of forms of entrepreneurial government (Clarke et al. 2001); it goes beyond the tension(s) welfare without a State (Clarke and Newman 1997).
In the midst of nowadays welfarecide – orchestrated and paved by the so-called radical centrism policies – neoradical centrism emerges as an answer to a compound framework of needs prompted precisely as the consequence of such welfarecide. While radical centrism cannot be seen as a crises but an answer to the crises (Apple 2000), neoradical centrism cannot be seen as a need but the only answer to address ever more pressing needs. As Agamben (2005) argues – anchored in Schmitt’s approach (1922) – “the necessities transcends the law” (p. 1). In this way, and to rely on Agamben’s approach (2005), neoradical centrism is able to overcome the multifarious tensions prompted by “state of exception vs. state sovereignty” and edifies a “point of imbalance between public law and political fact” (p. 1). In fact, Agamben (2005) claims the state of exception “appears as the legal form of what cannot have legal form” (p. 1). Neoradical centrism is “ambiguous, uncertain, borderline fringe, at the intersection of the legal and the political” in its layout, making it conveniently well situated in coded no man’s land and quite juicy for marketers (Agamben 2005, pp. 1–2).
Why then, despite almost three decades of distressing effects on society and attacks on “the even more localized rest” (Bauman 2004, p. 3), does a hegemonic bloc continue to dominate? As Jessop et al. (1984) and Apple (2000, p. 23) remind us, one must question, “How is such an ideological vision legitimated and accepted?” It is undeniable that neoradical centrism is not exactly a pure detour from the orthodoxies laid out by the radical centrism. It is actually a moment of complexities, and in some ways it is a platform that, as Hall (1992) would put it, goes toward radical centrism by taking advantage of particular kind of contradictions within the very marrow of neoliberal globalization. Neoradical centrism should be seen as the latest capitalist metamorphosis of righting the left. Such aim cannot be detached from the politics of the commonsense and the role that the media plays in building a particular yarn of meanings.
much ‘creative destruction,’ not only of prior institutional frameworks and powers (even challenging traditional forms of state sovereignty) but also divisions of labour, social relations, welfare provisions, technological mixes, ways of life and thought, reproductive activities, attachments to the land and habits of the hearth. (Harvey 2005, p. 3)
Such state (of exception) (Agamben 2005) and the need to marketize everything (Harvey 2005) are two sides of the same coin, a devastating currency for sectors such a public education, a currency that pushes societies to a state of permanent economic emergency, functioning as part of a neoliberal praxis.
Permanent Economic Emergency
One cannot understand a neoliberal philosophy of praxis without viewing it as an attack on the State and its resultant deregulation and austerity policies. Austerity policies and practices play within the very core of the wrangle Fordism-post-Fordism-neoliberalism; they are cause and consequence.
Rationales about neoliberalism’s crisis-driven modus operandi by Žižek (2010) as well as Foster and McChesney’s (2012) deserve to be highlighted. While the former places the emphasis on state of permanent crisis, the latter focuses on the need to understand the crisis between the pendulum of financialization and stagnation as the tout court framework of the current economic havoc. Foster and McChesney (2012) subscribe that “the world capitalist economy is facing the threat of long-run economic stagnation” that fuels conditions for slow economic growth, high unemployment, and financial instability (p. 1). Moreover, “the defining characteristic of such depressions was not negative economic growth, in the trough of the business cycle, but rather protracted slow growth once economic recovery had commenced” (Foster and McChesney 2012, p. 2). One of the reasons for such a puzzled state is what Foster and McChesney (2012) refer to as the explicit “denial of history” and in particular the history of economic crisis, a denial that supports models that positively excluded the very possibility of a crisis (p. 4).
It is actually such take that we see in Amin (2013) when he argues that the current monopoly-financial capitalism is imposing ever-demanding yet unsustainable changes within the civil archeology that puts the system in a kind of self-destruction mode since it is incapable to find the right formula to address its owns unsuitable demands. The system is exhausted because it exhausted its very social matrix. Needless to say, the impact of such conflictive state has serious implications on education. Education and educators are under the gun to come up with answers for a problem that is beyond their jurisdiction. Education and educators are kept with a permanent tourniquet on them in order to maintain and revitalize an economy that shows daily signs of unsustainability, which is beyond their power of saving. More than ever before, education is playing a crucial part in the new equation of the current political economy (Lipman 2011). The best way to address such crisis is to unravel the rampage of austerity politics. Disconcertedly, the idea is to rescue the system, not the people.
Žižek (2010, p. 85) presents a similar position when he describes the current crisis as “a permanent economic emergency.” Relying on the Eurozone as plus qui parfait scenario to examine austerity politics, Žižek (2010) argues that the draconian measures imposed on nations, such as Greece, Italy, Ireland, and Spain (and we would add Portugal), deepened the unfathomable abyss between two complex perspectives. The first is the self-proclaimed neutral mainstream that “proposes a de-politicized naturalization of the crisis [that is] the regulatory measures are presented not as decisions grounded in political choices, but as the imperatives of a neutral financial logic—if we want our economies to stabilize, [then] we simply have to swallow the bitter pill” (Žižek 2010, p. 85); and second is the position led by social groups, such as “protesting workers, students and pensioners, [that] see the austerity measures as yet another attempt by international financial capital to dismantle the last remainders of the welfare state” (Žižek 2010, p. 85).
As the stagnation (Foster and McChesney 2012) or permanent economic emergency (Žižek 2010) keeps growing, or as we would say instability stabilizes, democracy keeps shrinking to a point that, for instance, in the case of Europe, “the true message of the Eurozone crisis is that not only the Euro, but the project of the united Europe itself is dead” (p. 86). While identity is at stake here, such challenges need to be seen as an opportunity for new utopias or, as Sousa Santos (2006) would argue, alternative ways to build more coherent alternatives. That is, in the face of all the de-politicizing attempts, the current social terrain frames the strategies to address the crisis as “neutral” or, as Žižek (2010) argues, “a re-politicized Europe, founded on a shared emancipatory project” (p. 86). Such a trend needs to “avoid the temptation to react to the ongoing financial crisis with a retreat to fully sovereign nation-states, easy prey for free-floating international capital, which can play one state against the other. More than ever, the reply to every crisis should be more internationalist and universalist than the universality of global capital” (Žižek 2010, p. 86). This is the best way to address the new period facing dominant and counter-dominant trenches.
I am not claiming here an economic reductive approach. In fact, neoliberal globalization is much more than economics. Thus, it would be a critical mistake to deny globalization as a form of cultural politics, thus producing greater cultural and economic rewards (Strange 1996; Mennell 2009) for the globalized few, as Bauman (1998) would put it. To think that all of these economic, cultural, and social transformations would not interfere and affect the consulate of the public policies and politics is a mistake. In fact, education is one of the crucial apparatuses that have been used to foster one of the key arguments developed by neoliberal global policies, especially after the fall of the Berlin wall – the fading of the “iron curtain of ideology and the vigorous emergence of the velvet curtain of culture” (Žižek 2007).
Privatization and deregulation policies paved the way for the crisis and for the answer for the crisis in the form of austerity politics, and, in so doing, it ferment a state of bewilderment and rusty perplexity gradually normalizing debt as a new form of cultural politics.
[neoliberal globalization] is particularly assiduous in seeking privatization of assets. The absence of clear property rights… is seen as one of the greatest of all institutional barriers to economic development and the improvement of human welfare. Enclosure and the assignment of private property rights is considered the best to protect against the so called tragedy of the commons. Sectors formerly run or regulated by the state must be turned over to the private sphere and be deregulated. Competition—between individuals, between firms, between territorial entities—is held to be a primary virtue. Privatization and deregulation, combined with competition, it is claimed, eliminate bureaucratic red tape, increase efficiency and productivity, improve quality, and reduce costs both directly to the consumer through cheaper commodities and services and indirectly through reduction of the tax burden. (p. 65)
The Subjectification of Debt
Neoliberal answers to the current fabricated global crisis that Varoufakis (2011) claims “put even Lenin’s post 1927 exploits to shame” (p. 2). We are living a collective aporia – that is, a “state of intense puzzlement in which we find ourselves when our certainties fall to pieces; when suddenly we get caught in an impasse, at a loss to explain what our eyes can see, our fingers can touch, our ears can hear … At those rare moments, as our reasons valiantly struggle to fathom what the senses are reporting, our aporia humbles us and readies the prepared mind for previously unbearable truths” (p. 1). This violent attack on an educational system that promotes well-informed and critical citizens has been taking place over the last four decades and has fostered a school system that produces uncritical citizens and an apathetic citizenry that has contributed greatly to the current global aporia described by Varoufakis (2011). In fact, one of the most lethal dimensions of this aporia is that schooling is profoundly engaged in promoting and endorsing a particular coloniality of being, power, knowledge, and labor (Quijano 1992; Mignolo 2000, 2011; Maldonado-Torres 2003, 2008; Grosfoguel 2010, 2011).
Needless to say that such wrangle “creditor-debtor” is a power relation – or fuels and it is fueled by power relations – “since it is itself a power relation, one of the most important and universal of moder-day capitalism” (Lazzarato 2011, p. 30), thus “intensifying the mechanisms of exploitation and domination at every level of society” (Lazzarato 2011, p. 7).
Viewing debt as the archetype of social relations means two things. On one hand it means conceiving economy and society on the basis of an asymmetry of power and not on that of a commercial exchange that implies and presupposes equality. On the other hand, debt means immediately making the economy subjective, since debt is an economic relation, which in order to exist, implies the molding and control of subjectivity such that labor becomes indistinguishable from work in the self. (p. 33)
The neoliberal economy is not a finance economy but a debt economy. To be more precise, within the complex neoliberal global mantra, “what we call finance is indicative of the increasing force of the relation creditor-debitor relation” (Lazzarato 2011, p. 22). The subjectification of debt, Lazzarato (2011) claims, is cultivated daily and it is ultimately an ideological position (p. 31).
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