The doxa of neoliberalism as the post second world war dominant ideology spreads utilitarianism, narrow visions of life, individualistic values, and competitive-essentialist knowledge traditions that destroy the emancipatory and collective foundations of social, political, cultural and economic life. It has dismantled the collective foundations of families, states and governments.
The ideological and political differences have submerged within different waves of neoliberalism. Such an ideology has consummated the states and governments around the world. But the ravages of Coronavirus pandemic unravels the dynamic nature of neoliberalism and its abilities to transform individuals, communities, societies and states singing the glories of its free-market ideology and hide all its failures.
Neoliberalism has failed as an ideology and as a project of global capitalism. The neoliberal states, governments and policy agendas have also failed earlier and during the Coronavirus led pandemic. The failure of neoliberalism does not mean the end of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism survives within structures of state and its governance practices. The governments around the world follow different variants of neoliberalism in their everyday policy formulation and implementation. The elusive neoliberal ideological framework of governance and its principles continue to destroy every available alternative for a better tomorrow. The ambiguity and incoherence of neoliberalism as an ideology is not merely a survival strategy but its doctrinaire core.
In spite of its ideological commitment to free market and opposition to state intervention, the survival of neoliberalism depends on a strong and securitised state and a corporate compliant government. It is a necessary requirement. Therefore, it is a fundamental mistake to write off neoliberalism and its intrinsic relationship with powerful states and authoritarian governments.
The neoliberal culture has successfully managed to enter into electoral practices of constitutional democracies, where corporate media manipulates the minds of citizens with unsatiable and unnecessary desires. The failure of markets, states and governments are branded as failure of individuals for their greedy desires. In reality, the austerity programmes and policies have destroyed the abilities of individuals, states and governments to perform during a crisis. Neoliberalism and its market compliant states and governments are acting as barriers to successfully control, contain and manage to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and economic downturn.
The fraudulent worldview of neoliberalism based on individual freedom, prosperity, economic growth and development continue to attract people to reimpose their faith on such a reactionary project, which was further exposed by the pandemic. But neoliberalism is resilient process, which weakens the states and governments for the welfare of the citizens but strengthens the states and governments to protect corporate capitalism. Such a contradictory character of neoliberalism breeds multiple forms of crisis that helps capitalism to growth without any democratic barriers. The pestilence of Coronavirus has created havocs for last thirteen months and exposed the failures of neoliberalism, but it could not destroy its ideological and institutional apparatus led by states and governments. It has not only helped to deepen multiple forms of crisis from health, employment to education but also successful in maintaining its hegemony policies and practices over people and planet.
In the name of entrepreneurship, competition, efficiency and freedom, neoliberal capitalism has destroyed the social and communitarian foundations of availability, accessibility, distribution and exchange mechanisms to disconnect producers from the consumers. Such a disconnection process is central for the creation of independent market which can control demand and supply with the help of pricing tool independent of consumers and producers.
Such a profit driven market system destroyed both the independence and abilities of both producers and consumers. The states and governments have played a major role in accelerating market forces through both democratic and authoritarian means. The pyramid of neoliberalism has created a monetised society where usefulness and disposability of individuals and communities depend on their abilities to access market and engage with culture of consumerism. Neoliberalism enforces the idea of strong states and governments to pursue its own agendas.
The strong states and governments are sponsored by the corporate powers to increase security apparatus to protect the consolidation of corporate wealth with the help of legal and judicial frameworks. The systems are designed to control the people and provide absolute freedom to market forces. The pandemic is an opportunity for the neoliberal ideologues to ensure that strong states and governments to reorganise and impose their version of society that remains subordinated to the needs of the markets with the help of worldwide culture of consumerism. The unquestionable orthodoxy of neoliberalism is neither new nor liberal. It shows all its medieval and feudal tendencies in letter and spirit. It forms alliance with authoritarian, fascists and reactionary forces to promote the primacy of profit and dominance of markets over individuals, families, communities, states and societies.
Mass alienation of individuals, betrayal of citizenship rights, corporatisation of states, governments and societies, dismantling of communities and families, unemployment, hunger, homelessness, poverty, inequality, exploitation, discrimination and destitution are the net outcomes of neoliberalism as an ideology and a project of global capitalism. Neoliberalism produces its own structures power based on deceptive culture, politics and knowledge traditions to sustain itself as a dominant ruling ideology with the help of strong states and governments. The disenchanted economics and anti-politics cultural machines are weapons of neoliberalism to establish absolute control over people and resources. The structural pandemic of neoliberalism is as dangerous as Coronavirus ruining lives and livelihoods of people. The mass struggles against neoliberalism are only ways towards the renewal of collective spirit of democracy, peace, prosperity, health and wellbeing.
*Bhabani Shankar Nayak, University of Glasgow, UK