Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wasting time, wandering around
The end of the book brings us up to the “ideological tidal wave” of neoliberalism and, thus, “Marx’s revenge” of the title. (Marx’s revenge is on the Marxists, by the way.) Monetarism and the first wave of privatizations in the ’70s and ’80s were 
midwife to the much more deep-seated change which came in its wake: the revival on nineteenth-century liberal beliefs. They are now being labelled libertarian, but they are basically the set of ideas that all nineteenth-century thinkers — Left and Right — espoused. The basic notion is civil society (the market, as well as larger society) as an organic process which is a result of human action, but not of human design. Thus, no one single agency, or even a handful of conspiring institutions, is responsible for the course of events which unfolds every day. Marx does not blame monopoly capitalists; he talks of a class monopoly of ownership. Even capitalists only seek to make profit and accumulate. They do not control the market, nor can they overcome competition.
I'm sorry, but if the argument is that simple it's just stupid. Libertarians have a dislike of any constraints on individual freedom, and therefore are not interested in—and know nothing about—culture. The organic process of civil society includes the various attempts to design and control it, and it is the struggle among these forces, of which individuals are representatives, that defines the whole. Democracy without debate is not democracy, and limiting the debate to those subjects defined by and within the market is no more or less than defining religion as anything within Catholic doctrine. Society without constraints on the both the individual and the collective is neither social nor productive, and Harry Shearer is better than Josh Marshall. "If the twentieth century taught us anything, and it didn't, it was to be very cautious about large-scale social projects based on the way people "ought to" behave."

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