Political destruction in the neoliberal era

Avatar

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

Related Post Roulette

27 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    Harvey and Davies confuse individual rights and autonomy with selfishness and nihilism. The two are quite different. And unless someone can explain how the state ought to take away individual autonomy and civil rights in order to curb seflishness and nihilism, I think this sort of explanation is just so much conservatism draped in the rhetoric of the left.Report

    • What if they’re both focusing more on the superstructure (wince) of neoliberalism rather than the folly of rights-talk?

      Actually, if that question doesn’t really address your concerns would you mind going into greater detail as to how/where you see the division and how/where they don’t?Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        Well I think it’s pretty common for progressives and paleoconservatives alike to blame consumerism for all sorts of ills. Really, though, it’s just aesthetic. For me to buy the anti-consumerist, anti-individualist argument I need an argument that shows that the *state* should intervene in some way to alter these new norms, to make us less individualistic or not want to buy things. I think they can’t, because I think it all boils down to aesthetic concerns. How dare the proles care so much about buying things! Meanwhile the haughty intellectuals buy the things they like without too much complaining. They exist as individuals and think of themselves as such. It is the *other* individuals that have lost their sense of community.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          That being said, perhaps there is some truth to this in a sense. Perhaps we are ill-equipped to truly understand how to be autonomous individuals. Perhaps the cradle-to-grave style welfare state the Brits have clashes with healthy individualism and creates a stilted, confused version of it. Hard to say.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            Perhaps the cradle-to-grave style welfare state the Brits have clashes with healthy individualism and creates a stilted, confused version of it. Hard to say.

            Perhaps the antioxidant levels in English tea are to blame. Hard to say.

            This is not a case of correlation being treated as causation, but of no correlation at all. This is little more than idle speculation, based on nothing, and getting nowhere. That’s why I think it’s funny when it’s said in Bob Cheeks language (see the previous thread). Again, I feel the need to post this:

            Report

            • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Chris says:

              The point I’m trying to make is that there is a point when you can have too much welfare, when it begins to actually harm its recipients. The British state is quite a lot “bigger” and more pervasive than ours, or than really any other government in the Anglosphere.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                How do we know when we’ve reached that point? How does it harm? What data do you have to suggest this statement is true?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                I’m with Chris on this. I think it’s perhaps an open question whether there can be too much welfare, but the claim that there in fact is – or in fact might be – is an empirical matter that can’t be resolved without making a heavy investment in data and evidence. Platitudes and moral first principles would seem as relevant

                I think the suggestion you’re getting at is that too much nanny-statism engenders a feeling of hopelessness and frustration by diluting an urgent sense of duty to oneselfReport

              • I just struggle with this line of argument considering that most of Europe looks at the state in the UK as significantly smaller and less generous than anywhere else. In this regard, the Anglo countries are the clear outliers among Western nations.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Whooops! Double post. Scratch the above comment: it’s reposted more better below.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                The point I’m trying to make is that there is a point when you can have too much welfare, when it begins to actually harm its recipients.

                I’m with Chris on this. I think it’s an open question, and perhaps an interesting one, whether there can be too much welfare. But the claim that there in fact is – or in fact might be – a point at which public welfare actually hurts the recipients is an empirical matter that can’t be resolved without making a heavy investment in data and evidence. Reducing the issue to ideologically motivated moral and political first principles doesn’t seem very useful in arriving at an answer (not that you’ve done that here).

                I think the suggestion you’re getting at here is that too much nanny-statism engenders a feeling of hopelessness and frustration precisely because it curtails the growth and expression of personal economic responsibility. Part of the problem with this line of thought – and why it’s an empirical matter rather than a priori – is that the welfare state is a response to structural issues endemic to capitalistic (and other) economies: poverty and lack of access to employment opportunities. Additional ‘nanny state’ programs like universal health care are rationally justified in any event, or justified by different types of arguments.

                So I can see the connection you’re driving at, but personally I think it’s a mistake to arrive at an answer based on ideological first principles rather than evidence grounded in real data.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Here’s a good measurement for “too much (of the wrong kind of) welfare” that I use:

                Let’s say we switched from whatever we’re doing now to direct cash payment every two weeks.

                Would the money be used for mostly rent, mostly food, with a little left over for entertainment?

                If the answer is somewhere on the continuum between “wait, you asked that question seriously?” and “no, the money was spent well before we got to the beginning of the next period” for more than, oh, 15% of the recipients, then I’d say that we are giving too much of the wrong kind of welfare.Report

            • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Chris says:

              The only thing I’d take issue with is E.D.’s idea that the individualism of neoliberalism is natural/healthy, thus putting the onus on the welfare state.

              The degree to which the west now fetishizes the individual is not really “natural,” if we understand natural as historically consistent. I’m skeptical there’s such a thing as natural when it comes to our self-ID and am inclined to see us always as defined by our time but…yeah.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                How much of your self, your individuality, do you think it would be healthy to depart with? Which are the unhealthy parts that we should rid ourselves of?Report

              • I don’t know how to answer these questions because I struggle to even define what my “individuality” would be, much less itemize it.

                But in general I would advocate ridding ourselves of any part of us that denies that foundational cliche that we’re all in it together.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                Except this sort of behavior is not new, not by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, going after big screen TVs is new, but only because when people have done this in centuries, and millenia past, there weren’t big screen TVs! This is human behavior. Sure, we need to come up with some idea of what triggered this particular instance, and I suspect we will, though it will take time, and all of this blathering about left, right, or tea is just that, blathering.Report

              • Avatar Elias Isquith in reply to Chris says:

                Isn’t this kind of apolitical, voracious destruction the kind of thing the West hasn’t seen in quite some time? I.e., wasn’t the last time this kind of thing would happen during eras of, by today’s standards, enormous inequality?

                These aren’t rhetorical questions, by the way. I’m probably not thinking of similar instances in the more-recent future. As I said in the OP, I find it difficult to understand what’s happening in political terms of any kind — either as an explanation for their actions or as an explanation for why it’s happening, regardless of what the perpetrators think.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                This reminds me of the riots you see after some big sports games more than anything. Just rage at nothing. At boredom. At lack of purpose or meaning. But purpose and meaning have always been missing, to some degree, or tricky to find.Report

        • Ahhh, I understand this more now.

          You know, I never even think of it in these terms, but I’m positive it’s likely far more common than I’d imagine.

          I’m not a fan of consumerism; but I cop to being just as much a member of 21st century America as anyone else. My vice is apple products.

          From what I’ve read of Harvey, he’s not really moralistic or polemical enough that he ever puts forth arguments with these kind of paternalistic undertones; in general he attempts to simply diagnose as best he can. At least from what I’ve read thus far.

          And I think that’d be the better way to see their argument; it’s certainly the only way I’d want to accept it. It’s a balancing act, however, because the line between pointing out how our media universe is built on reinforcing our own self-perceptions as being invaluable and entitled to anything, and saying, in essence, “kids these days!!!” is a thin one.Report

          • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            It’s also probably at least partly true, but so are the conservative arguments about the overbearing welfare state in the UK (which looms much larger there than here or in other Anglosphere countries). There’s truth to all of it, and maybe it’s all tied together somehow, but that’s hard to parse out.Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    The answer, usually, would be to simply listen to the people, and pay attention to whatever explanations they give for themselves.

    Meh. I tried doing that yesterday. You didn’t seem too thrilled by it then.Report

  3. Avatar MFarmer says:

    “And while global capitalism may be in meltdown”

    This is misleading, as is the whole critique of “neoliberalism”. Capitalism was perverted long ago, so that one can’t speak of capitalism proper. A better depiction is that statism, in all its forms, government intervention in the economy, is in meltdown. By associating the international economic problems with capitalism, this perpetuates the ideas which may be at the root of craziness we see in London. By focusing on the fundamental problems, one of which is failed government intervention and failed welfare state, we can begin finding fundamental solutions, but as long as young people’s minds are pumped with anti-rich, anti-capitalist rhetoric, they will eventually believe that if only we could redistribute all the wealth and prevent wealth accumulation our problems will be solved. Looting is just a form of direct redistribution — they’re cutting out the middle man who’s skimming too much to their liking.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to MFarmer says:

      Capitalism was perverted long ago

      Shortly after Adam and Eve’s fall from grace? Pure capitalism has never existed. And every attempt to let markets and market-participants interact without regulation and heavy state involvement has led to major problems. For capitalism.

      That you think the state interference is the cause of the problem reverses the arrow of causality here. Capitalism needs the state more than the state needs capitalism.Report

  4. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Maybe that’s two of whichReport

  5. Avatar Potter Stewart says:

    There’s a riot in Britain where no one seems to know the reasons for and the purer-than-thou leftist brigade is blaming it on neoliberalism? Seriously? This is what you consider the most important battle now, Elias? Not battling the Tea Party or the Republicans who seem determined to drive the country over the cliff, but bashing and blaming neoliberals at every turn. Newsflash, Matt Yglesias et al aren’t that important in the great scheme of things. They may think they are (and people like you and Freddie assigning to them nefarious power and influence is probably helping them gaining that impression), but they are nothing. I would respect you more if not every post is some variation of the evils of neoliberalism. It says something about a person when all they are concerned about is infighting, and not interested at all in battling with the real enemy.Report

  6. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I dunno. I think I’ll mangle Freud and say that sometimes a bored, spoiled, drunk kid is nothing more than a bored, spoiled, drunk kid. A well-fed white man smashing a shopfront window and helping himself to a new cell phone is not an abstract response to politicial inequities.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *