As Matt Kennard observes: “We are now living through the latest, possibly last, stage of this battle between a global population that wants a democracy that prioritizes the people, not big business and not capital, and a ruling class that wants it the other way round.” [1]

The Heart of Darkness, (the system of violence) – symbolic depicted in the film Apocalypse Now (1979) – is nothing else but the force behind this ruling class. We have not just become desensitized to violence, but rather, we are being taught by this system of violence to desire it.

From movies and other commercial entertainment to acts of terror, the contemporary politics of spectacle—and disposability—curates what is seen and what is not, what is represented and what is ignored, and ultimately, whose lives matter and whose do not. The regime of neoliberalism is organized for the production of violence and wages a war on the poor removed from any concern for social costs or ethical violations.

“It is possible to overcome poverty in a way that respects the Earth and helps tackle climate change. The planet is abundant in wealth and its people infinitely resourceful. In order to do so, however, we must be prepared to challenge the logic of endless growth, greed and destruction enshrined in neoliberal capitalism.” This is from an open letter to the United Nations that appeared on the 25.9.2015 in the Huffington Post signed by Thomas Pogge, David Graeber, Noam Chomsky, Eve Ensler, Medha Patkar, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges and many others.

Today state power and the power of wealth tendentially unite in a sole expert management of monetary and population flows. Together they combine their efforts to reduce the spaces of politics. Neoliberalism is never arbitrary in its logic or complex design. It is a political project with predatory formations taking over all life systems, even as if to cast aside, contain, or render them a continual source of suspicion and endangerment. The common ideology of neoliberalism can be traced back to German neoliberalism (in its Ordoliberal form), its diffusion in France, and finally the American neoliberalism, born in 1934 with the Chicago School. Some references should also be made to the Austrian School (von Mises and Hayek), that played an important role as a bridge between the German Ordoliberals and the American neoliberals.

Let´s take a look at the matrix of the system of violence, working as basis for the neoliberal ideology. Understanding the foundations of neoliberalism is a previous condition to collectively dissolve it and be rescued from collective collapse. We all need to make conscious choices in our life that enabling us to dismantleour present ideological frame. I am proposing  10 main factors that we should consider, if we wish to overcome the power of blinding (not seeing/disinformation/intrigue/blaming others), downloading (reenacting patterns of the past), silencing other views (instead of encouraging diverse views and entering a healthy debate) and entrenching (desensing/bullying), that the neoliberal ideology has put over us.


1. Understanding the pathological space of social destruction

“Proclaiming themselves to be simply administrating the local consequences of global historical necessity, our governments take great care to banish the democratic supplement. Through the invention of supra-State institutions which are not States, which are not accountable to any people, they realize the immanent ends of their very practice: depoliticize political matters, reserve them for places that are nonplaces, places that do not leave any space for the democratic invention of polemic. So the State and their experts can quietly agree amongst themselves. (…)

A self-proclaimed group of intellectuals has a place in the media that gives it a power quite unheard-of. Regularly called upon to explain to the public what is happening and what to think about it, they bring their science to shaping the prevailing intellectual consensus. They do it all the more smugly as they do not have to revoke either their science or their progressive convictions. The key idea of the consensus is in effect that global economic development attests to an historical necessity that we will just have to get used to, and that the only ones who can deny this necessity are the representatives of archaic interests and obsolete ideologies. And indeed, it is also this idea on which their conviction and their science is based.” [2]

 

2.  Understanding the set of neoliberal epistemic commitments

“Neoliberalism masquerades as a radically populist philosophy, which begins with a set of philosophical theses about knowledge and its relationship to society. (…) In Hayekian language, it elevates a “cosmos”—a supposed spontaneous order that no one has intentionally designed or structured—over a “taxis”—rationally constructed orders designed to achieve intentional ends. But the second, and linked lesson, is that neoliberals are simultaneously elitists: they do not in fact practice what they preach. When it comes to actually organizing something, almost anything, from a Wiki to the Mont Pèlerin Society, suddenly the cosmos collapses to a taxis. In Wikipedia, what looks like a libertarian paradise is in fact a thinly disguised totalitarian hierarchy. In the spaces where spontaneous participation is permitted, knowledge in fact degrades rather than improves. But no matter, since the absolute validity of that knowledge is not the true motive or objective of the exercise, but rather subordination of the overall process to corporate strategic imperatives that provides the real justification of the format, as well as its economic foundation. It adds up to a “double truth” doctrine: one truth for the masses/participants and another for those at the top. Something like the double truth doctrine also holds for neoliberal theories of democracy. It also holds for the notion of a “constructivist” approach to social reality.” [3]

 

3.  Understanding the War Machine

The West is primarily responsible for the distress of millions of refugees. The calculated destabilization of the Arab Middle East possibly and partly has its origin in the rise of neoliberal ideology and its influence on Washington’s foreign Policy. Neoconservative ideology requires that Washington maintain its unique-power status, because this status is necessary for the hegemony of few feudal families and maybe some historical “glorious” narrative, an historical purpose. France, Britain and other members of the Coalition are also complicit. – Let’s not even talk about government-approved arms sales from these countries to Africa and the Middle East. In short, the West’s meddling, bungling and questionable actions in Middle East have slash back, as a human deluge.

 

4. Understanding Meta-political misrepresentation

“Meta-political misrepresentation arises when states and transnational elites monopolize the activity of frame-setting, denying voice to those who may be harmed in the process and blocking creation of democratic fora where the latter´s claims can be vetted and redressed.” [4]

 

 5. Understanding the rules of violence

“The neoliberal phase of capitalism appears to be an interminable and uninterrupted process of deregulation, but in fact it is the exact opposite. As all rules of coexistence are abolished, the rules of violence are imposed. As the regulations that set limits to the invasiveness of the principles of competition are removed, hard-and-fast automatisms are introduced in material relations between people, who become more enslaved as the enterprise becomes freer. The process of deregulation unremittingly removes the rules that bridle the mobility of productivity and hinder the expansive power of capital.” [5]

A state of permanent war requires modes of public pedagogy to form obedient subjects who abide by its values, ideology, and narratives of greed and violence. The all notion of the always flawed self is permanently reinforced by the neoliberal mantra that negotiating life’s problems is solely an individual challenge. At the same time nearly half of the world´s top 100 global companies are trying to subvert climate policies by lobbying, advertising, and influence-peddling according to the UK-based non-profit, Influence Map.

 

6. Understanding neoliberal rationality

“Neoliberalism as a political rationality has launched a frontal assault on the fundaments of liberal democracy, displacing its basic principles of constitutionalism, legal equality, political and civil liberty, political autonomy, and universal inclusion with market criteria of cost/benefit ratios, efficiency, profitability, and efficacy. It is through a neoliberal rationality that rights, information access, and other constitutional protections as well as governmental openness, accountability, and proceduralism are easily circumvented or set aside and, above all, that the state is forthrightly reconfigured from an embodiment of popular rule to an operation of business management. Neoliberal rationality renders every human being and institution, including the constitutional state, on the model of the firm and hence supplants democratic principles with entrepreneurial ones in the political sphere. Having reduced the political substance of democracy to rubble, neoliberalism then snatches the term for its own purposes, with the consequence that “market democracy”— once a term of derision for right-wing governance by unregulated capital—is now an ordinary descriptor for a form that has precisely nothing to do with the people ruling themselves.” [6]

 

7. Understanding governing through insecurity

Neoliberal ideology means governing through insecurity, the government of the precarious. Precarization as an instrument of govern­ing and, at the same time, a basis for capitalist accumulation that serves social regulation and control. Precarization means more than insecure jobs, more than the lack of security given by waged employment. By way of insecurity and danger it embraces the whole of existence, the body, modes of subjectivation.

The idea of freedom is conflated with the neoliberal condition of choice. In the neoliberal dynamic of governmental precariza­tion, the illusion of individual security is maintained specifically through the anxiety over being exposed to existential vulnerability. In the permanent race for the hoped-for securing of one’s own life and that of one’s immediate social milieu against competing others, the fact that a lastingly better life cannot be an individual matter is obscured.

 

8. Understanding the overwork/paranoia complex

“Labour under neoliberal ideology corresponds to a performative activity by which everybody becomes a self-entrepreneur. In addition, work is closely linked with the denial of labour rights and citizenship rights, but also with the lack of the right to be cared for and to carry our care work under conditions of dignity.

Under neoliberal ideology the ‘I, Job’ function is almost indistinguishable from what we are. But security has nothing to do with employment today, especially following the systematic demolition of labour unions, pension schemes and protective legislation. We can depict the endless spiral that characterizes the overwork/paranoia complex. At the centre of the system is the ‘truth’ of neoliberalism that is also ideological because of the actions it inspires. The centerpiece of neoliberal incorporation is desire. We are brainwashed by the contemporary enterprise and willingly subjugate ourselves to its wishes as we succumb to the boss’s compliments, playfulness and employee-engagement exercises.” [7]

 

 9. Understanding criminalization as a vital task under neoliberal ideology

“The precarious cannot be unified or represented, their interests are so disparate that classical forms of corporate organizing are not effective. The many precarious are dispersed both in relations of production and through diverse modes of production, which absorb and engender subjectivities, extend their economic exploitation, and multiply identities and work places. It is not only work that is precarious and dispersed, but life itself. In all their differences, the precarious tend to be isolated and indi­vidualized, because they do short-term jobs, get by from project to project, and often fall through collective social- security systems. There are no lobbies or forms of representation for the diverse precarious.

Criminalization has a vital task under neoliberal ideology for providing scapegoats for the various types of race-and class-based insecurities; such scapegoats offer an easy target for unloading anxieties. These “others” are integral to fear-based societies and the carceral industries of violence and punishment that profit immensely from their management.” [8]

 

10. Understanding the commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment

Citizens under neoliberal ideology are reduced to market and surveillance data, consumers, and commodities, and as such inhabit identities in which they increasingly become unknowables, with no human rights and with no one accountable for their condition. This condition includes the production of zones of total social exclusion marked by deep inequalities in power, wealth, and income. The people live then in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment. If they can not find a way to play an adequate role as consumers or citizens, they have to be forced to inhabit further “zones of social abandonment” extending from schools on the margins of financial existence to bulging detention centers to prisons.

How to transform this System of Violence in a peaceful way?

“What we might need to dissolve the neoliberal ideology would be acts of free association that develop a reconstitution of social life that allow all citizens, all workers, to be creative co-producers of social life. “The factories of the arts”—by artists themselves. We have to expand our definition of art to include not just objects of contemplation, but also tools, implements, software, farming, objects of daily utility, houses and buildings and zones of recreation that would be open to all. We know that by generating narratives in the media, actions can either have deeply transformative potential,or they can reinforce existing norms and power relations. They can either accept the limits of a given context—and implicitly affirm them—or they can change the nature of that context altogether. We believe that a shift is beginning to occur.” [9]

How to transform this System of Violence in a peaceful way? How to go through this transition without falling into the traps of revolution and counter-revolution? One answer could be to form a global network of sustainable self-organizing local communities. But how to organize the jurisdiction, technological and economic framework for a global transition in connection with such ongoing local activities? If we want our society to deal with underlying problems in an effective way we need a new media structure to nurture communication in a truthful manner, sustaining both social awareness and dissidence, rather than in a manner designed to enforce and reproduce existing social biases and submerge dissent.
“With the neoliberal privatization of social life and the liquidation of the public sphere, the space and time necessary for the cultivation of a shared social imagination have been almost totally foreclosed. Bodies that are marked, exploited or circumscribed will imagine the world and their personal and political potentialities very differently than those that ‘pass’ without notice, fear or exploitation in the world.

Understanding imagination as always embodied and relational, recognizing that the radical imagination is a space of encounter, learning and disruption, takes us beyond vague calls for more ‘political consciousness’ and allows us to explore critically the radical imagination – to take it and its possibilities and limitations seriously. Neoliberal ideology holds that the market is the best system for harnessing the power of the imagination for social good: only under the free market will ‘useful’ imagination be encouraged and rewarded.

Within this shift, imagination has gone from being a shorthand for liberation and possibility to functioning as a rhetoric of economic and personal restructuring for the new economy.” [10]

In a following post I will define a peaceful path for Whole System Change using the holistic science of complexity in combination with ageless wisdom.

Sources

[1]   Kennard, M.  The Racket  (2015)
[2]   Ranciere, J. Hatred of Democracy (2014)
[3]   Mirowski, P. / Plehwe, D.  The Road from Mont Pèlerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective  (2009)
[4]   Fraser, N. et al.  Transnationalizing: The Public Sphere (2014)

[5]   Bernardi, F.   Precarious Rhapsody Semiocapitalism and the pathologies of the post-alpha generation (2009)
[6]   Brown, W. We are all democrats now in Democracy In What State? (2011)
[7]   Fleming, P. The Mythology of Work (2015)
[8]   Lorey, I.   State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious (2015)
[9]   http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/on-direct-action-an-address-to-cultural-workers/
[10] Haiven, M.  Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power (2014)

For helpful discussions around this post I would like to thank Andrés Ginestet and James Gien Varney-Wong

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