Magazine article Soundings

Rethinking the Neoliberal World Order: How Neoliberalism Disorganises the World

Magazine article Soundings

Rethinking the Neoliberal World Order: How Neoliberalism Disorganises the World

Article excerpt

Earlier instalments of the Kilburn Manifesto have focused on the impacts of neoliberalism on British society, and on how we might begin to conceive of feasible alternatives to that regime. But in thinking about the sphere of international relations, and the position Britain takes up within the world, it is necessary to take a more global perspective. We are taking as our starting point for understanding these issues the situation that emerged following the defeat of Communism and the end of the Cold War at the end of the 1980s. What is in the forefront of our analysis here is the continuing sequence of failures--catastrophes in fact--that have characterised the international policies of the west during that entire period, now of more than thirty years. There is need to understand the dynamic forces, and the ideological beliefs, which have brought this situation about.

We are going to focus particular attention on the sequence of crises that have taken place in the Middle East, and now in Europe. These include the disintegration of Iraq into warring sub-states and of Libya into warring fiefdoms, a bloody and unresolved civil war in Syria, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan as the strongest power, the ungoverned and self-destructive brutality of Israel in the treatment of the population of Gaza, and the descent of the Ukraine into a state of civil war. And most recently there has been added the emergence of 'Isis', The Islamic State, which has swept aside resistance and is engaged in the establishment of a new theocratic state, or caliphate, occupying territories which were until now part of Iraq, Syria, and the defacto autonomous region of Kurdistan. Scarcely ever have governments the world over seemed less capable of responding with clear understanding and capability to the problems they encounter. It is not without significance that the situation in the Ukraine called forth comparisons with the chaotic situation which led to the outbreak of the First World War and the end of the 'long peace' of the nineteenth century. We think of these events as a series of catastrophes not because of any particular commitment to the regimes and territorial arrangements which preceded these upheavals, but rather because of the huge losses of life, expulsions of populations, and disintegration of more or less peaceable conditions of social order, that have been their consequence. (1)

Our contention is that this has not been a contingent series of events, a random sequence of foreign policy accidents, but that they are in their own way systemic--a kind of organised disorder--and that understanding them is closely related to the task we have set ourselves in this Manifesto's analysis and critique of neoliberalism as a global system.

The politics of the post-second world war period seemed to have been so largely shaped by the Cold War that its end was expected by many to be a moment of opportunity. At least the risk of nuclear war had been significantly lessened, and several 'proxy wars' between the west and the Communist east (for example in Angola and Mozambique) were able to be resolved after the 'Second Cold War'. (2) The end of the apartheid regime in South Africa was hastened once the possible implications for the Cold War of the assumption of power by the African National Congress lost their significance. In Latin America, anti-communist perspectives which had legitimised interventions by the United States in several nations lost at least their overt relevance (for example the overthrow of Allende in Chile in 1973, the condoning of military dictatorship in Argentina from 1976 to 1983, and Brazil from 1964 to 1985, covert support by the United States for the subversion of Nicaragua's elected government by the Contras). For the first time for many decades major Latin American nations such as Brazil found space to pursue more radical agendas, with less interference from the United States.

Yet at a time when progressive development might seem to have become possible in several continents, including Europe (both east and west), the western powers, led by the United States, and with Britain as its most compliant ally, found themselves engaged in a gathering series of armed interventions. …

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