After Neoliberalism?

By Tabb, William K. | Monthly Review, June 2003 | Go to article overview

After Neoliberalism?


Tabb, William K., Monthly Review


What comes after neoliberalism? To answer that question we must ask a more fundamental question: What do neoliberalism and neoconservatism have in common with the antiglobalization and antiwar movements? The answer is that all ostensibly share a focus on redefining democracy in the contemporary world system. "Spreading democracy" is the rallying cry of both the Washington Consensus and the Bush Doctrine. The "Washington Consensus" is the claim that global neoliberalism and core finance capital's economic control of the periphery and the entire world by means of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only realistic alternative to misery and disaster. The "Bush Doctrine" is the bald neoconservative justification of U.S. global military domination and preemptive war--as part of a renewed attempt to make the world safe for democracy. For the antiglobalization and antiwar movements these establishment doctrines, insofar as they profess to be "spreading democracy," are n othing but window dressing for the global dictatorship of the U.S. and core corporate governing elites. While focusing their attack on the institutions that enforce this dictatorship, these movements also strive to create an alternative, a genuine participatory democracy.

The first thing to recognize is that neoliberalism is widely understood, even by many mainstream economists and policy wonks, to have failed in terms of its announced goals. It has not brought more rapid economic growth, reduced poverty, or made economies more stable. In fact, over the years of neoliberal hegemony, growth has slowed, poverty has increased, and economic and financial crises have been epidemic. The data on all of this are overwhelming. Neoliberalism has, however, succeeded as the class project of capital. In this, its unannounced goal, it has increased the dominance of transnational corporations, international financiers, and sectors of local elites.

The admission that neoliberalism has failed in terms of its announced goals has forced its proponents to a tactical retreat--defending the broad thrust of the neoliberal policy agenda under cover of "reform." The result is an augmented Washington Consensus that blames client states and not international institutions or transnational capital for the failures of neoliberalism. It is the poor who are expected to make still further adjustments along neoliberal lines. From this point of view, what comes after neoliberalism must be more neoliberalism.

September 11, 2001 offered the Bush Administration an opportunity to pursue an even more ambitious program of control, which may be called Global Bonapartism. The Bush Doctrine of preemptive wars and regime change reflects a new level of imperial ambition by the most ideologically-driven fraction of the governing elite. The liberal institutionalists of Clinton White House, and the realists of the first Bush administration, however aggressive they were, remained aware of the downside of policies which alienated the rest of the world. In contrast, the second Bush's agenda is neoconservative--it celebrates a unique American moral right to remake the world. It is, as the president has said, a crusade against evil, spreading truth, justice, and the American way whether the rest of the world likes it or not. Despite the weakness of the economy at home, the Bush agenda has changed the subject from meeting human needs to the fear of terrorists. It is a distraction, as well, from the consequences of neoliberal policie s at home, diverting attention away from the sea of corporate scandals and the class-biased impact of tax cuts and slashed social spending. The administration has put us on a permanent war footing complete with domestic repression and duct tape. It is a plan which scares voters into not asking questions and into acquiescing to a war and domestic policies that are not in their interests.

Neoliberalism

Let us look further at the failure of IMF and WTO policies. …

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