Is Neoliberalism On It's Deathbed Around the World?

In the American media, the 2017 French presidential election has been portrayed as a rehash of the 2016 US presidential election, with far-right populist Marine Le Pen playing the role of Donald Trump and her opponent - centrist Emmanuel Macron - standing in for Hillary Clinton.

And while France is a very different country than the United States, the comparison is a good one, because the French election - like its 2016 American counterpart - was a referendum on neoliberalism, whether the political establishments here or in France want to admit it or not.

In the final French presidential debate Le Pen, the right wing populist candidate, tried to tar her opponent with the crimes of neoliberalism:

"The political choice the French have to make is clear: Mr. Macron is the candidate of globalisation gone wild, of neoliberalisation, uncertainty, social brutality, the dog-eat-dog war, the economic wrecking of big companies..."

This sounds like the kind of economic nationalist language we heard from Trump all last summer and fall.

Le Pen lost, but with a record number of votes for her party.

Where is this outrage against neoliberalism coming from?


tim1234 5 years 45 weeks ago

The outrage is coming from an increased awareness by the people hurt by the policies. On France, they are different as the memory of WWII collaborators is strong. The far right is tainted by this. To the extent the French woman wanted to win she had to put the anti-muslim stuff in the backround so it did not ring any bells. She needed to focus totally on economic populism and a Frankexit. Way different from here as there is no push back against the far right from older people with memories of betrayal and treason.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 5 years 45 weeks ago

Yes, I agree with Tim1234, that here there is no pushback against the far right from older people with memories of betrayal and treason. I was watching some news clip video that featured an interview with a husband and wife re the loss of their health care under the new Trump care, and I was stunned, shocked, and horrified all at the same moment to see and hear this man accept it with a whimper while his wife (dutifully) stood by (knowing and keeping her place ) being silent. These two should have been shouting and screaming and punching the air with their fists. Nope. Nothing of the sort. Just a firmly tucked tail, a whimper, and skulking off without an ounce of outrage or fight. Just appalling how low Americans have sunk. So, I'll say it one more time: As long as Americans keep accepting the abuse and making accommodations for it, the worse it's going to get. If America thinks that the uber wealthy are going to do ANYTHING good for them; they are just plain crazy and in full on denial. As far as I am concerned, we are in the hands of madmen. I mean complete sociopaths if not psychopaths (and I favor the latter.) The people who are running this country are serial killers, and the doctors and physician's assistants are the biggest drug pushers out there. If America ever decides to get up off the couch, turn off CNN and Fox and wake the heck up, MAYBE we won't end up locked into being a banana republic like Cuba for the next ten generations.

Alan Lunn's picture
Alan Lunn 5 years 45 weeks ago

I think of neoliberalism as the basic program of cutting taxes, starving government (the beast), and then selling it (privatization). Under the present neoliberal GOP, I think we are at the stage of privatization (vulture economic exploitation). We even have Bill Gates, the savior of the third world, out to privatize American education.

The Brexit nationalism has infected Europe because people are stunned by the failures of globalism and IMF austerity programs, even if they don't know where their problems come from. They may blame government, or the EU. Younger people just know they're getting screwed (kind of like the Iraqui youth) so they drift into communist and fascist organizations that fan their anger and bewilderment. Le Pen comes from her father's fascist idealism and the rats follow the pied piper.

This is fertile ground for demagoguery and would-be despots rising through the political channels. Also, as Eric Hoffer revealed in "The True Believer," you have the rise of movements fueled by those recently economically disaffected. The poorest tend to be resigned to their slaughter. It is those falling through the gaping holes of ravaged safety nets or loss of employment to cheap labor or robots who become fodder for radical movements.

The founders of the neoliberal theft machine -- the conniving oligarchs -- are grabbing all the gusto they can via political channels before the collapse of the system. They may even believe in their own fables. In other words, these are symptoms of greedy exploitation gone berserk. The Kochs aren't into Trump nationalism and the orange man can't really buck them. They control the GOP. So Trump in his obsessive narcissism doesn't really care what the GOP does as long as he gets the praise, which is all self-generated by his advancing mental illness.

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b4barrister 5 years 45 weeks ago

I'm just finishing Thomas Frank's book "Listen Liberal" and have read Chris Hedges "Death of the Liberal Class" where the Neoliberals are described as too much part of the establishment to really push for big social, economic change. The Neoliberals with their meritocracy seem to believe in a modified Protestant Work Ethic: I'm better off because I function at a higher level and if you just get a better education, or "graduate better" as Mr. Frank says, you will too.

I grew up in Flint, Detroit, and Lansing Michigan and it was the shop workers and former shop workers there who helped Trump get, as Michael Moores smartly says, "appointed by the Electoral College." Clearly, the Neoliberals were not addressing their pain.

The Democratic Party needs to do some soul-searching and, in my opinion, realize that they need to head in the direction of Bernie Sander's priorities and not Bill Clinton or even Barak Obama. The party needs to get back to the F.D.R., Party of the People.

It seems to come back to Marx and class conflict, and as usual, those with the most power are kicking the snot out of those with less. Democracy is the only thing standing in the way. Meanwhile, in an election where I live this past Saturday, 6% of the registered voters bothered to vote. And the beat goes on.... Thanks for reading. I feel better.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 5 years 45 weeks ago

The French decided that voting for a neoliberal was better than voting for a neofascist.

With that said, the European outrage against neoliberalism can be traced to the giant free trade agreement that the European Union is. We all know that free trade agreements create massive wealth for a few and an economic race to the bottom for the rest of us. What enlightened working class citizen wouldn't be pissed about this?

Free trade just like trickle down is an economic fraud....a tool used by greedy neoliberals to screw workers everywhere.

Legend 5 years 45 weeks ago

I honestly could not compare an election in France or any other country to the USA. We are a unique monstrosity. Basically a 2 year plus election process. Tons of money involved. A mainstream media owned and operated by the 1% that has incredible control. A voting system that is different from state to state and poorly documented in all. An easily manipulated voting system. Lobbyists have free reign. Donators are uncontrolled. The population is very uninformed. No other country could compare.

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 5 years 45 weeks ago

Unrelated but important: I'm hearing a lot of talk from eastern european outlets that Putin has been targeted for assassination....not just run of the mill threats either.

leoanduna's picture
leoanduna 5 years 45 weeks ago

The only reason Hilliary Clinton lost was because James Comey scared the willeys out of a bunch of people.

Outback 5 years 45 weeks ago

"Where is this outrage against neoliberalism coming from? " Ask the people of Detroit. And please avoid inane rhetorical questions, OK?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 5 years 45 weeks ago

leoanduna -- It seems there are too many subtleties to the HRC loss for you to state Comey is the only reason she lost. First, I agree that if Comey would have kept his mouth shut HRC would have won. However, if there were no interstate crosscheck by Chris Kobach, and Comey still did what he did, it seems HRC would have won.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 5 years 45 weeks ago

How many neo-liberals, neo-conservatives, neo-Christians, neo-this, and neo-that, are aware they are merely spouting the same old, right-wing economic, religious, and political absurdities -- me-first greed, ideological intolerance, and concentrated power -- that have existed in one form or another since the dawn of civilization?

Indeed, how many Americans today realize just how much their country owes its founding values and principles to the great thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment during the 18th century, many of them French, who conveyed profound, "new-age" insights, which resonated with the common people throughout society as something true and timeless, insights which led directly to the American Revolution, closely followed by the French Revolution, and, really, to all the rest of the democratic movements in modern times?

The progression of the human spirit back then, arguably the most pivotal in all of human history, was populated by radicals and revolutionaries (liberals) who pushed back as hard as they could against established, reactionary, political and religious authoritarianism. Have we come full circle in just 250 years? Is it ripe for a new revolution? Or, do we bow our heads and submit like good little citizens, reversing the course of progress?

"Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world." --Voltaire

(Usually shortened to: "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.")

bollivar 5 years 45 weeks ago

deepspace. Thank you for a great post by Votaire. Mind opening. As a retired person who has lived through Viet Nam, Kennedy Assasination, Watergage, Whitewater, Iran Contra, CIA running cocaine to America and so on, and am very well educated, I would have preferred that nobody had voted for either candidate. There would be the greatest statement ever made in America if no one voted for either candidate. Imagine. We had the opportunity to show the world just how an intelligent mass of people would not vote for a criminal, or a con man, etc. So, for the most of us, we are not intelligent and very misinformed. Trump was elected.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 5 years 45 weeks ago

We have strayed afar.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 5 years 45 weeks ago

There is one aspect of autocracy I never see anyone discuss. It seems to me the great appeal is that if you let the dictator run things you no longer have to think. Analyzing issues and making decisions, none of them perfect, is avoided as much as one can.

I have lunch with people who have advanced degrees in the sciences, mathematics and engineering. Many of them latched on to HRC transferring data from the state dept to the ex-prez's server. They say the can't vote for a person who would take that risk. The latch onto that and say they can't vote for her. They do not want to worry about economic inequality and our sinking into a 3rd world.

I wish someone would point out the seduction of not thinking.

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