Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Neoliberal Republic

Recently I emailed a friend some thoughts about a New Republic article we'd discussed. From my angry email:

So I finally read that Cioran/Eliade/Ionesco article this morning, and it was very informative, but the below paragraph indicates why I just can't stand the New Republic:

All through his later life he actively supported democratic causes, affixing his name to petitions to support the Prague Spring, the Afghan resistance against Russia, and the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate, and joining movements such as Amnesty International. He was tireless in his support of Israel, thus bucking a strong current of French gauchiste opinion. He joined Arthur Koestler, Leszek Kolakowski, and Czeslaw Milosz, among others, in his anti-communism. He is depicted as thus "sliding to the right," but doing so in defense of the values in which he had always believed: the liberty of man, humanism. As more or less of a gauchiste herself, however, Laignel-Lavastine cannot resist a dig at "the rather reactionary side of the old academician, which sometimes brings on a smile or a reaction of annoyance" when "his anti-communism becomes in the end a little ridiculous." This is a nasty thrust that does her little credit.

Submerged in whatever NR articles I read is this insistent Ground Zero of neoliberalism, the constant hat tips that, yes, "fascism was awful," "anti-semitism is evil," but above all, what one must reject and reject strenuously is any kind of anticapitalism. Liberalism, universal "values," "democracy" (a buzzword rather than a concept), "human rights" (ditto)--these are the clubs used to beat down anything Marxist or anarchist (which are always tarred-and-feathered in publications like this for their implied/perceived connections, however unreal, to Stalin and Pol Pot--the inevitable 'excesses of totalitarianism' that nice Cold War liberals "recognized" for apparently being the logical extensions of any kind of anticapitalist society). What is the "nasty thrust" of indicating that Cold War anticommunism might be "a little ridiculous"? Is it just so unthinkable that anticommunist (neo)liberalism might ever be capable of, yes, zealotry of its own or even unwitting self-parody? I'm not saying Laignel-Lavastine's "dig" is necessarily justified, I wouldn't know, only that the author of this NR article doesn't actually offer a case against it, just that smug knowing neolib nod, a "you know," that those loony altermondialists are just so quaintly, wrongly dismissive of the Great Artist Humanist Defenders of Democratic Humanistic Greatness that You & I (Democrats, Liberals, Humanists, All of Us) appreciate and defend.

This is the underlying web to everything I've read in NR; the fence they won't cross, the net below their acrobatics. Given the horrific regimes and bloodshed this neoliberalism supports I find it too sickening to deal with in heavy doses. At least with communism there are schisms, there are easily identifiable paper trails that differentiate Good Communist Dissident A from Evil Communist Dictator B, and so on. But the Gospel of Neoliberalism seems ultra-conducive to groupthink.

* * *

In case anyone flips through the current issue of Foreign Policy and sees Alvaro Vargas Llosa's piece on the Latin American "Idiot," let me sum it up for you: angry middle-class Latinos who secretly want to be wealthy go to state-run universities which teach them Marxism as a way for these angry people to twist their morality into class hatred against the wealthy folks they secretly aspire to be. An inferiority complex affecting this small class of Latinos has been responsible for Latin America's underdevelopment. (Yes, Hugo Chavez and his ilk are specifically to blame for the suffering of great America's southern neighbors.) Backwards brown people and a few privileged Anglophone fuddie-duddies support these psychologically perverse caudillos out of hatred of the United States, you see. Also, the white supporters are simply projecting utopia onto Latin America, just like old Columbus himself did. [Clever twist, that, the neoliberal apologist trying to use an anticolonial Columbus legacy against the very people who would most stand behind it!] These loony "opinion leaders" (yes, apparently Noam Chomsky et al., big and powerful figures) are influencing and corrupting concrete policy and popular thought in major, major ways--not corporations and their PR sectors. Oh, and there's this old chestnut providing an essential crux: when voters "get rid" of left-wing governments, it's a democratic expression that can't be questioned. When they vote in a left-wing government (as in the case of Chavez), it's ... uhm ... ah ... (punt).

Such is the primary role of the intellectual in our culture--sound and fury, paragraphs and paragraphs of nothing but the arrangement of words and facts and opinion presented as fact, all to shore up the foundations of powers that Cannot Be Questioned.

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