By Lynn Parramore, Senior Research Analyst at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
Political theorist Wendy Brown’s latest book, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West, traces the intellectual roots of neoliberalism and reveals how an anti-democratic project unleashed monsters – from plutocrats to neo-fascists – that its mid-20thcentury visionaries failed to anticipate. She joins the Institute for New Economic Thinking to discuss how the flawed blueprint for markets and the less-discussed focus on morality gave rise to threats to democracy and society that are distinct from what has come before.
Lynn Parramore: To many people, neoliberalism is about economic agendas. But your book explores what you describe as the moral aspect of the neoliberal project. Why is this significant?
Wendy Brown: Most critical engagement with neoliberalism focuses on economic policy – deregulation, privatization, regressive taxation, union busting and the extreme inequality and instability these generate. However, there is another aspect to neoliberalism, apparent both in its intellectual foundations and its actual roll-out, that mirrors these moves in the sphere of traditional morality. All the early schools of neoliberalism (Chicago, Austrian, Freiburg, Virginia) affirmed markets and the importance of states supporting without intervening in them.
But they also all affirmed the importance of traditional morality (centered in the patriarchal family and private property) and the importance of states supporting without intervening in it. They all supported expanding its reach from the private into the civic sphere and rolling back social justice previsions that conflict with it. Neoliberalism thus aims to de-regulate the social sphere in a way that parallels the de-regulation of markets.
Concretely this means challenging, in the name of freedom, not only regulatory and redistributive economic policy but policies aimed at gender, sexual and racial equality. It means legitimating assertions of personal freedom against equality mandates (and when corporations are identified as persons, they too are empowered to assert such freedom). Because neoliberalism has everywhere carried this moral project in addition to its economic one, and because it has everywhere opposed freedom to state imposed social justice or social protection of the vulnerable, the meaning of liberalism has been fundamentally altered in the past four decades.
That’s how it is possible to be simultaneously libertarian, ethnonationalist and patriarchal today: The right’s contemporary attack on “social justice warriors” is straight out of Hayek.
LP: You discuss economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek at length in your book. How would you distribute responsibility to him compared to other champions of conservative formulations for how neoliberalism has played out? What were his blind spots, which seem evidenced today in the rise of right-wing forces and angry populations around the world?
WB: Margaret Thatcher thumped Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty and declared it the bible of her project. She studied it, believed it, and sought to realize it. Reagan imbibed a lot of Thatcherism. Both aimed to implement the Hayekian view of markets, morals and undemocratic statism. Both accepted his demonization of society (Thatcher famously quotes him, “there’s no such thing”) and his view that state policies aimed at the good for society are already on the road to totalitarianism. Both affirmed traditional morality in combination with deregulated markets and attacks on organized labor.
I am not arguing that Hayek is the dominant influence for all times and places of neoliberalization over the past four decades—obviously the Chicago Boys [Chilean economists of the ‘70s and ‘80s trained at the University of Chicago] were key in Latin America while Ordoliberalism [a German approach to liberalism] has been a major influence in the European Union’s management of the post-2008 crises. “Progressive neoliberals” and neoliberalized institutions hauled the project in their own direction. But Hayek’s influence is critical to governing rationality of neoliberalism in the North and he also happens to be a rich and complex thinker with a fairly comprehensive worldview, one comprising law, family, morality, state, economy, liberty, equality, democracy and more.
The limitations? Hayek really believed that markets and traditional morality were both spontaneous orders of action and cooperation, while political life would always overreach and thus required tight constraints to prevent its interventions in morality or markets. It also needed to be insulated from instrumentalism by concentrated economic interests, from aspiring plutocrats to the masses. The solution, for him, was de-democratizing the state itself. He was, more generally, opposed to robust democracy and indeed to a democratic state. A thriving order in his understanding would feature substantial hierarchy and inequality, and it could tolerate authoritarian uses of political power if they respected liberalism, free markets and individual freedom.
We face an ugly, bowdlerized version of this today on the right. It is not exactly what Hayek had in mind, and he would have loathed the plutocrats, demagogues and neo-fascist masses, but his fingerprints are on it.
LP: You argue that there is now arising something distinct from past forms of fascism, authoritarianism, plutocracy, and conservatism. We see things like images of Italian right groups giving Fascist salutes that have been widely published. Is that merely atavism? What is different?
WB: Of course, the hard right traffics in prior fascist and ultra-racist iconography, including Nazism and the Klan. However, the distinctiveness of the present is better read from the quotidian right than the alt-right.
We need to understand why reaction to the neoliberal economic sinking of the middle and working class has taken such a profoundly anti-democratic form. Why so much rage against democracy and in favor of authoritarian statism while continuing to demand individual freedom? What is the unique blend of ethno-nationalism and libertarianism afoot today? Why the resentment of social welfare policy but not the plutocrats? Why the uproar over [American football player and political activist] Colin Kaepernick but not the Panama Papers [a massive document leak pointing to fraud and tax evasion among the wealthy]? Why don’t bankrupt workers want national healthcare or controls on the pharmaceutical industry? Why are those sickened from industrial effluent in their water and soil supporting a regime that wants to roll back environmental and health regulations?
Answers to these questions are mostly found within the frame of neoliberal reason, though they also pertain to racialized rancor (fanned by opportunistic demagogues and our mess of an unaccountable media), the dethronement of white masculinity from absolute rather than relative entitlement, and an intensification of nihilism itself amplified by neoliberal economization.
These contributing factors do not run along separate tracks. Rather, neoliberalism’s aim to displace democracy with markets, morals and liberal authoritarian statism legitimates a white masculinist backlash against equality and inclusion mandates. Privatization of the nation legitimates “nativist” exclusions. Individual freedom in a world of winners and losers assaults the place of equality, access and inclusion in understandings of justice.
LP: Despite your view of democratized capitalism as an “oxymoron,” you also observe that capitalism can be modulated in order to promote equality among citizens. How is this feasible given the influence of money in politics? What can we do to mitigate the corruption of wealth?
WB: Citizens United certainly set back the project of achieving the political equality required by and for democracy. I wrote about this in a previous book, Undoing the Demos, and Timothy Kuhner offers a superb account of the significance of wealth in politics in Capitalism V. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution. Both of us argue that the Citizens United decision, and the several important campaign finance and campaign speech decisions that preceded it, are themselves the result of a neoliberalized jurisprudence. That is, corporate dominance of elections becomes possible when political life as a whole is cast as a marketplace rather than a distinctive sphere in which humans attempt to set the values and possibilities of common life. Identifying elections as political marketplaces is at the heart of Citizens United.
So does a future for democracy in the United States depend on overturning that decision?
Hardly. Democracy is a practice, an ideal, an imaginary, a struggle, not an achieved state. It is always incomplete, or better, always aspirational. There is plenty of that aspiration afoot these days—in social movements and in statehouses big and small. This doesn’t make the future of democracy rosy. It is challenged from a dozen directions – divestment from public higher education, the trashing of truth and facticity, the unaccountability of media platforms, both corporate and social, external influence and trolling, active voter suppression and gerrymandering, and the neoliberal assault on the very value of democracy we’ve been discussing. So the winds are hardly at democracy’s back.
I think Milton Friedman was vastly more important than Hayek is shaping the worldview of American conservatives on economic policy. Until Hayek won the Nobel he was virtually forgotten in the US. Don’t know about the UK, but his leaving the London School of Economics undoubtedly reduced his influence there. Hayek was very isolated at the University of Chicago even from the libertarians at the Department of Economics, largely due to methodological issues. The Chicago economists thought was really more of as philosopher, not a real economist like them.
Friedman was working for Hayek, in the sense that Hayek instigated the program that Friedman fronted.
I was amused by a BBC radio piece a couple of years ago in which some City economist was trying to convince us that Hayek was a forgotten genius who we ought to dig up and worship, as if he doesn’t already rule the World from his seat at God’s right hand.
A couple of thoughts:
Citizens United: The conservative originalists keep whining about activist judges making up rights, like the “right to privacy” in Roe v. Wade. Yet they were able to come up with Citizens United that gave a whole new class of rights to corporations to effectively give them the rights of individuals (the People that show up regularly in the Constitution, including the opening phrase). If you search the Constitution, “company”, “corporation” etc. don’t even show up as included in the Constitution. “Commerce” shows up a couple of times, specifically as something regulated by Congress. Citizens United effectively flips the script of the Constitution in giving the companies doing Commerce the ability to regulate Congress. I think Citizen’s United is the least conservative ruling that the conservative court could have come up with, bordering on fascism instead of the principles clearly enunciated throughout the Constitution. It is likely to be the “Dred Scott” decision of the 21st century.
2. Neo-liberalism is like Marxism and a bunch of other isms, where the principles look fine on paper until you apply them to real-world people and societies. This is the difference between Thaler’s “econs” vs “humans”. It works in theory, but not in practice because people are not purely rational and the behavioral aspects of the people and societies throw things out of kilter very quickly. That is a primary purpose of regulation, to be a rational fly-wheel keeping things from spinning out of control to the right or left. Marxism quickly turned into Stalinism in Russia while Friedman quickly turned into massive inequality and Donald Trump in the US. The word “regulate” shows up more frequently in the Constitution than “commerce”, or “freedom” (only shows up in First Amendment), or “liberty” (deprivation of liberty has to follow due process of law which is a form of regulation). So the Constitution never conceived of a self-regulating society in the way Hayek and Friedman think things should naturally work – writing court rulings on the neo-liberal approach is a radical activist departure from the Constitution.
The foundation was laid for Citizens United long before, I think, when the Supreme Court decided that corporations were essentially people, and that money was essentially speech. It would be nice if some justice started hacking away at those erroneous decisions (along with what they did with the 2nd Amendment in D.C. v Heller.)
I honestly think the corporations are people was good and the money is speech is terrible. If most of the big corporations were actually treated like people those people would be in jail. They are treated better than people are now. Poor people, anyway. When your corporation is too big not to commit crimes, it’s too big and should go in time out at least.
My understanding is that corporate personhood arose as a convenience to allow a corporation to be named as a single entity in legal actions, rather than having to name every last stockholder, officer, employee etc. Unfortunately the concept was gradually expanded far past its usefulness for the rest of us.
“If most of the big corporations were actually treated like people those people would be in jail.”
Thats part of the problem: Corporations CANNOT be put in jail because they are organizations, not people, but they are given the same ‘rights’ as people. That is fundamentally part of the problem.
True, but corporations are directed by people who *can* be jailed. Often they are compensated as if they were taking full liability when in fact they face none. I think its long past time to revisit the concept of limited liability.
“Limited Liability” is basic to the concept of the corporation. How about some “limited liability” for individuals? The whole point of neo-liberalism is “lawlessness” or the “Law of the Jungle” in unfettered markets. The idea is to rationalize raw power, both over society and the family, the last stand of male dominance, the patriarchy. The women who succeed in this eco-system, eschew the nurturing feminine and espouse the predatory masculine. “We came, we saw, he died.” Psychopaths all!
The executives need to go to jail. Until then, corporate fines are just a cost of doing business and white collar lawbreaking will continue. Blowing up the world’s financial system has less legal consequence than doing 80 in a 65 mph zone. Even if they just did civil asset forfeiture on executives based on them having likely committed a crime while in their house and using their money would go along ways to cleaning things up.
The whittling away of white collar crime by need to demonstrate intent beyond reasonable doubt means the executives can just plead incompetence or inattention (while collecting their $20 million after acquittal). Meanwhile, a poor person with a baggie of marijuana in the trunk of their car goes to jail for “possession” where intent does not need to be shown, mere presence of the substance. If they used the same standard of the mere presence of a fraud to be sufficient to jail white collar criminals, there wouldn’t be room in the prisons for poor people picked up for little baggies of weed.
Actually, if you research the history, the court DID NOT decide that corporations are people. The decision was made by the secretary to the court, who included the ruling in the headnote to Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 1886. The concept was not considered in the case itself nor in the ruling the judges made. However, it was so convenient for making money that judges and even at least one justice on the supreme court publicized the ruling as if it were an actual legal precedent and have followed it ever since. I am not a lawyer, but I think that ruling could be changed by a statute, whereas Citizens United is going to require an amendment to the constitution. On the other hand, who knows? Maybe the five old, rich, Republican, Catholic Men will rule that it is embedded in the constitution after all. I think it would be worth a try.
Santa Clara Count v Southern Pacific RR 1886 – SCOTUS Court Reporter Bancroft Davis, a former RR executive, claimed in his headnote summary of the case that the Court had ruled that corporations are entitled to 14th Amendment protections (thus preventing their regulation by an individual state) thus establishing the legal precedent that corporations are “persons” with speech rights. In fact, the Court never made that determination. The result is a legal precedent established by a bit of legal trickery. Buckley v Valeo 1976: giving money to a political campaign=speech. Citizens 2010: no limit on “speech” (money). The 14 amendment was established to protect former slaves and was used by the court instead to protect corporations (property).
“Neo-liberalism is like Marxism and a bunch of other isms, where the principles look fine on paper until you apply them to real-world people and societies.”
Marx analysed 19th Century capitalism; he wrote very little on what type of system should succeed capitalism. This is in distinct contrast to neo-liberalism which had a well plotted path to follow (Mirowski covers this very well). Marxism did not turn into Stalinism; Tsarism turned into Leninism which turned into Stalinism. Marx had an awful lot less to do with it than Tsar Nicholas II.
+1000. I think it was Tsar Nicholas II who said, L’etat, c’est moi”./s; Lenin just appropriated this concept to implement his idea of “the dictatorship of the proletariat.”
IIRC Lenin did warn about Stalin.
Louis 4 of France is the state, and the state was him.
Lenin is better known, IIRC for identifying capitalists as useful idiots.
“Neo-liberalism is like Marxism and a bunch of other isms, where the principles look fine on paper until you apply them to real-world people and societies.”
I’m sorry, but this is fundamentally intellectually lazy. Marxism isn’t so much a way to structure the world, like Neoliberalism is, but a method of understanding Capitalism and class relations to capitalism.
Edit: I wrote this before I saw New Wafer Army’s post since I hadnt refreshed the page since I opened it. They said pretty much what I wanted to say, so kudos to them.
yep, Marx would never have called himself a Marxist :-)
“Marxism” is just a set of analytic tools to describe the capitalist society and power relations
those who consciously call themselves “Marxist” do it clarify their adherence to those tools not to express an ideological position
These critiques of neoliberalism are always welcome, but they inevitably leave me with irritated and dissatisfied with their failure or unwillingness to mention the political philosophy of republicanism as an alternative, or even a contrast.
The key is found in Brown’s statement ” It also needed to be insulated from instrumentalism by concentrated economic interests, from aspiring plutocrats to the masses. The solution, for him [von Hayek], was de-democratizing the state itself. He was, more generally, opposed to robust democracy and indeed to a democratic state.”
Contrast this to Federalist Paper No. 10, Madison’s famous discourse on factions. Madison writes that 1) factions always arise from economic interests [“But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.”], and 2) therefore the most important function of government is to REGULATE the clash of these factions [“The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.”
In a very real sense, neoliberalism is an assault on the founding principles of the American republic.
Which should not really surprise anyone, since von Hayek was trained as a functionary of the Austro-Hungarian empire. And who was the first secretary of the Mont Pelerin Society that von Hayen founded to promote neoliberalist doctrine and propaganda? Non other than Max Thurn, of the reactionary Bavarian Thurn und Taxis royal family.
Thank you for illuminating a deeper viewpoint.
Madison’s Federalist 10 is much like Aristotle’s Politics and the better Roman historians in correctly tracing back the fundamental tensions in any political community to questions of property and class.
And, much like Aristotle’s “mixed regime,” Madison proposes that the best way of overcoming these tensions is to institutionalize organs of government broadly representative of the two basic contesting political classes–democratic and oligarchic–and let them hash things out in a way that both are forced to deal with the other. This is a simplification but not a terribly inaccurate one.
The problem though so far as I can tell is that it almost always happens that the arrangement is set up in a way that structurally privileges existing property rights (oligarchy) over social freedoms (democracy) such that the oligarchic class quickly comes to dominate even those governmental organs designed to be “democratic”. In other words, I have never seen a theorized republic that upon closer inspection was not an oligarchy in practice.
The Progressive Approach in a nutshell:
1) Support welfare for the banks (e.g. deposit guarantees) and the rich (e.g. non-negative yields and interest on the inherently risk-free debt of monetary sovereigns).
2) Seek to regulate the thievery inherent in 1).
3) Bemoan the inevitable rat-race to the bottom when 2) inevitably fails because of unenforceable laws, such as bans on insider trading, red-lining, etc.
Shorter: Progressives ENABLE the injustice they profess, no doubt sincerely at least in some cases, to oppose.
Rather stupid from an engineering perspective, I’d say. Or more kindly, blind.
Don’t know about you, but I like being protected from losing all my money if the bank goes under…
Yeah, me too!
I lived in Tucson for a while. Met the love of my life there.
Show some loyalty, gal!
Accounts at the Central Bank are inherently risk-free.
So why may only depository institutions have those?
Hmmm? Violation of equal protection under the law much?
Or would the TRS-80 at the Fed be overloaded otherwise?
I’m fine with the federal government providing basic banking services (which would inherently protect depositors) but your initial post didn’t say anything about that. If we continue with a private banking system I want deposit guarantees even if they somehow privilege the banks…better than nothing…
My apologies for not detailing everything in every comment. :)
Welcome aboard or rather hello brother!
> your initial post
No biggie, but this is not a board. It’s a blog. Here, you are referring to a comment, not the original post authored by Lynn Parramore.
I have read that originally conservatives (including many bankers) opposed deposit insurance because it would lead people to be less careful when they evaluated the banking institution they would entrust with their money. They did not seem to notice that however much diligence depositors used, they ended up losing their life’s savings over and over. Just as they do not seem to notice that despite having employer-provided insurance tens of thousands of people every year go bankrupt because of medical bills. Funny how that works.
I don’t understand how this is linked to progressives when most of what you describe is the neoliberal approach to banks. Could you explain?
See Warren Mosler’s Proposals for the Banking System, Treasury, Fed, and FDIC (draft)
Also, government insurance of private liabilities, including privately created liabilities, was instituted under FDR in 1932, iirc.
And I’ve had innumerable debates with MMT advocates who have stubbornly defended deposit guarantees and other privileges for the banks.
Adding that rather than deposit guarantees, the US government could have expanded the Postal Savings Service to provide the population with what private banks had so miserably failed to provide – the safe storage of their fiat.
The banking system was failing in 1932, as was the financial system in 2008, not necessarily because of any lack of solvency of an individual business although some were, but because of the lack of faith in the whole system; bank panics meant that every depositor was trying to get their money out at the same time. People lost everything. It is only the faith in the system that enables the use of bits of paper and plastic to work. So having a guarantee in big, bold letters of people’s savings is a good idea.
Personally, I see little distance between the Neo Liberal treatment of Market and Naked Greed, coupled with a complete rejection of Rule of Law for the Common Good.
I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that
A. Wendy Brown focuses on big money in politics as the biggest threat to democracy without mentioning never-intended corporate constitutional rights.
B. Lynn Parramore does not call her on it.
What a huge missed opportunity. What a fatal blind spot.
” It means legitimating assertions of personal freedom against equality mandates (and when corporations are identified as persons, they too are empowered to assert such freedom).”
I’m not seeing the blind spot.
The blind spot is her focus on “money as speech” to the exclusion of the constitutional nightmares created by “corporations are people.”
To see why this is such an important (and common) error, please see the link I provided.
She didn’t write the article you wanted, but specifically addresses “corporations as people.” That doesn’t make her blind to your concern.
I share your concern, but don’t criticize m I my allies for having marginally different priorities.
But that’s just me.
“We need to understand why reaction to the neoliberal economic sinking of the middle and working class has taken such a profoundly anti-democratic form.” Really? Does anybody here believe that? This reads like another clumsy attempt to dismiss actual popular anger against neoliberalism in favour of pearl-clutching progressive angst, by associating this anger with the latest target for liberal hate, in this case blah blah patriarchy blah blah. The reality is that liberalism has always been about promoting the freedom of the rich and the strong to do whatever they feel like, whilst keeping the ordinary people divided and under control. That’s why Liberals have always hated socialists, who think of the good of the community rather than of the “freedom” of the rich, powerful and well connected.
The “democracy” that is being defended here is traditional elite liberal democracy, full of abstract “rights” that only the powerful can exert, dominated by elite political parties with little to choose between them, and indifferent or hostile to actual freedoms that ordinary people want in their daily lives. Neoliberalism is simply a label for its economic views (that haven’t changed much over the centuries) whereas social justice is the label for its social wing (ditto).
I think of this every time I wall home through the local high street, where within thirty metres I pass two elderly eastern European men aggressively begging. (It varies in France, but this is slightly closer than the average for a city). I reflect that twenty years of neoliberal policies in France have given these people freedom of movement, and the freedom to sit there in the rain with no home, no job and no prospects. Oh, and now of course they are free to marry each other.
I agree with your analysis and assessment of Wendy Brown, as she is portrayed in her statements in this post. However I quibble your assertion: “Neoliberalism is simply a label for its economic views (that haven’t changed much over the centuries) whereas social justice is the label for its social wing (ditto).” The word “Neoliberalism” is indeed commonly used as a label as you assert but Neoliberalism as a philosophy is obscured in that common usage.
At its heart I believe Neoliberalism might best be characterized as an epistemology based on the Market operating as the all knowing arbiter of Truth. Hayek exercises notions of ‘freedom’ in his writing but I believe freedom is a secondary concern once it is defined in terms of its relation to the decisions of the Market. This notion of the Market as epistemology is completely absent from Wendy Brown’s discussion of her work in this post.
Her assertion that “neoliberalism’s aim [is] to displace democracy with markets, morals and liberal authoritarian statism legitimates a white masculinist backlash against equality and inclusion mandates” collapses once the Market is introduced as epistemology. Neoliberalism does not care one way or another about any of Wendy Brown’s concerns. Once the Market decides — Truth is known. As a political theorist I am surprised there is no analysis of Neoliberalism as a tool the Elite have used to work their will on society. I am surprised there is no analysis of how the Elites have allowed themselves to be controlled within and even displaced by the Corporate Entities they created and empowered using their tool. I am surprised there is no analysis of the way the Corporate Entities and their Elite have worked to use Neoliberalism to subordinate nation states under a hierarchy driven by the decisions of the World Market.
[I admit I lack the stomach to read Hayek — so I am basing my opinions on what I understand of Phillip Mirowski’s analysis of Neoliberalism.]
I don’t disagree with you: I suppose that having been involved in practical politics rather than being a political theorist (which I have no pretensions to being) I am more interested of the reality of some of these ideas than their theoretical underpinnings. I have managed to slog my way through Slobodian’s book, and I think your presentation of Hayek’s writing is quite fair: I simply wonder how far it is actually at the origin of the destruction we see around us. I would suggest in fact that, once you have a political philosophy based on the value-maximising individual, rather than traditional considerations of the good of society as a whole, you eventually wind up where we are now, once the constraints of religious belief, fear of popular uprisings , fear of Communism etc. have been progressively removed. It’s for that reason that I argue that neoliberalism isn’t really new: it represents the essential form of liberalism unconstrained by outside forces – almost a teleological phenomenon which, as its first critics feared, has wound up destroying community, family, industries, social bonds and even – as you suggest – entire nation states.
Your response to my comment, in particular your assertion “neoliberalism isn’t really new” coupled with your assertion apparently equating Neoliberalism with just another general purpose label for a “political philosophy based on the value-maximizing individual, rather than traditional …”, is troubling. When I put your assertions with Jerry B’s assertion at 6:58 pm:
“… many people over focus on a word or the use of a word and ascribe way to literal view of a word. I tend to view words more symbolically and contextually.”
I am left wondering what is left to debate or discuss. If Neoliberalism has no particular meaning then perhaps we should discuss the properties of political philosophies based on the value-maximizing-individual, and even that construct only has meaning symbolically and contextually, which is somehow different than the usual notion of meaning as a denotation coupled with a connotation which is shared by those using a term in their discussion — and there I become lost from the discussion. I suppose I am too pedantic to deviate from the common usages of words, especially technical words like Neoliberalism.
Yes, but what is “The Market” but yet another name for “God, Almighty”?
Plus ça change…
Considering how elites throughout history have used religion as a bulwark to guard their privileges, it should be of no surprise that they are building a new one, only this time they are building one that appeals to the religious and secular alike. Neoliberalism will be very difficult to dismantle.
But what ironies we create. Citizens United effectively gave political control to the big corporations. In a time when society has already evolved lots of legislation to limit the power and control of any group and especially in commercial/monopoly cases. So that what CU created was a new kind of “means of production” because what gets “produced” these days is at least 75% imported. The means of production is coming to indicate the means of political control. And that is fitting because ordinary people have become the commodity. Like livestock. So in that sense Marx’s view of power relationships is accurate although civilization has morphed. Politics is, more and more, the means of production. The means of finance. Just another reason why we would achieve nothing in this world trying to take over the factories. What society must have now is fiscal control. It will be the new means of production. I’m a dummy. I knew fiscal control was the most important thing, but I didn’t quite see the twists and turns that keep the fundamental idea right where it started.
Exactly. The writer seems determined to tie in neoliberalism with a broader conservative opposition to modern social justice movements, when in reality neoliberalism (the ‘neo’ part anyway) was more than happy to co-opt feminism, anti-racism, etc., into its narrative. The more the merrier, as ‘rights’ became associated entirely with social issues, and not economic rights.
This is the best comment of this thread so far.
The co-optation neoliberalism has exacted on rights movements has dovetailed nicely with postmodernism’s social-constructivism, an anti-materialist stance that posits discourse as shaping the world and one that therefore privileges subjectivity over material reality.
What this means in practice is that “identity” is now a marketplace too, in which individuals are naming their identities as a form of personal corporate branding. That’s why we have people labeling themselves like this: demisexual queer femme, on the spectrum, saying hell no to my tradcath roots, into light BDSM, pronouns they/them.
And to prove this identity, the person must purchase various consumer products to garb and decorate themselves accordingly.
So the idea of civil rights has now become utterly consumerist and about awarding those rights based on subjective feelings rather than anything to do with actual material exploitation.
The clue is in the way the words “oppression” and “privilege” are used. Under those words, exploitation, discrimination, disadvantage, and simple dislike are conflated, though they’re very different and involve very different remedies.
In this way, politics is drained of politics.
+100 Thank you.
The law in its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor from sleeping under bridges and stealing bread = classical Liberalism.
The bizarre thing is to meet younger neoliberal middle class people whom neoliberalism has priced out of major cities, who have hardly any real savings, and who still are on board with the project. The dream dies hard.
David – I enjoy reading your comments on NC as they are well reasoned and develop an argument or counter argument. The above comment reads more like a rant. I do not disagree with most of your comment. From my experience with Wendy Brown’s writing your statement below is not off base.:
This reads like another clumsy attempt to dismiss actual popular anger against neoliberalism in favour of pearl-clutching progressive angst, by associating this anger with the latest target for liberal hate, in this case blah blah patriarchy blah blah
However, in reading Wendy Brown’s comments I did not have the same emotional reaction that comes across in your comment. I have read the post twice to make sure I understand the points Wendy Brown is trying to make and IMO she is “not wrong” either. . I would advise you to not “throw out the baby with the bathwater”.
As KLG mentions below, WB is a very successful academic at Berkeley who worked with Sheldon Wolin as a graduate student IIRC (Sheldon Wolin wrote a terrific book entitled Democracy Incorporated), so she is not just some random journalist.
Much of WB’s writing has gender themes in it and there are times I think she goes over the top, BUT, IMO there is also some truth to what she is saying. Much of the political power and economic power in the US and the world is held by men so that may be where WB’s reference to patriarchy comes in.
How could there be patriarchy with men begging in the streets is a valid point. And that is where I divert with WB, in that the term patriarchy paints with too broad a brush. But speaking specifically to neo-liberalism and not liberalism as you refer to it, that is where WB’s reference to patriarchy may have some merit. Yes, there are many exceptions to the neoliberalism and patriarchy connection such as Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, etc., so again maybe painting with too broad a brush, but it would be wise not to give some value.
The sociologist Raewyn Connell has written about the connection between neoliberalism and version of a certain type of masculinity embedded with neoliberalism. Like Wendy Brown, Connell seems to gloss over the examples of Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and the class based elite bourgeois feminism as counterpoints to neoliberal patriarchy. There are exceptions to every rule.
Women have made enormous strides in politics and the boardroom. But in the halls of political and economic power the majority of the power is still held by men, and until women become close to 50% or more of the seats of power, to ignore the influence of patriarchy/oligarch version of masculinity(or whatever term a person is comfortable with) on neoliberalism would be foolish.
Neoliberalism is simply a label for its economic views (that haven’t changed much over the centuries) whereas social justice is the label for its social wing (ditto).
I disagree. IMO, neoliberalism is a different animal than the “traditional elite liberal democracy”, and neoliberalism is much darker and as WB mentions “Neoliberalism thus aims to de-regulate the social sphere in a way that parallels the de-regulation of markets”.
If you have not I would highly recommend reading Sheldon Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism It is an excellent book.
I haven’t read that book by Wolin, though his Politics and Vision is in the bookcase next to me. I’ll try to get hold of it. I didn’t know she was his student either.
I think the issues she raises about gender are a different question from neoliberalism itself, and that it’s not helpful to believe that you can fight neoliberalism by “legitimating assertions of personal freedom against equality mandates” whatever that means. Likewise, it’s misleading to suggest that “Privatization of the nation legitimates “nativist” exclusions”, since the actual result is the opposite, as you will realise when you see that London buses have the same logo as the ones in Paris, and electricity in the UK is often supplied by a French company, EDF. Indeed, to the extent that there is a connection with “nativism” it is that privatisation has enabled an international network of distant and unaccountable private companies to take away management of national resources and assets from the people. Likewise, neoliberalism is entirely happy to trample over traditional gender roles in the name of efficiency and increasing the number of workers chasing the same job.
In other words, I was irritated (and sorry if I ranted a bit, I try not to) with what I saw as someone who already knows what the answer is, independent of what the question may be. I suspect her analysis of, say, Brexit, would be very similar. I think that kind of person is potentially dangerous.
==I think the issues she raises about gender are a different question from neoliberalism itself==
Again as I said in my comment I would agree in a theoretical sense that gender and neoliberalism are different issues but again I believe there is a thread of gender, i.e. oligarchic patriarchy, of the type of neoliberalism that WB talks about.
===not helpful to believe that you can fight neoliberalism by “legitimating assertions of personal freedom against equality mandates” whatever that means===
What I think that means is the more libertarian version of neoliberalism. That maybe where our differences lie, in that my sense is WB is talking about a specific form of neoliberalism and your view is broader.
===it’s misleading to suggest that “Privatization of the nation legitimates “nativist” exclusions”===
On this I see your disagreement with WB and understand your reference to “that privatisation has enabled an international network of distant and unaccountable private companies to take away management of national resources and assets from the people”.
Where I think WB is coming from is the more nationalistic, Anglosphere that the Trump administration is pushing with his border wall, etc. In this WB does expose her far left priors but again there is some value in her points. From her far left view my sense it Wendy Brown is reacting to the sense that Trump wants to turn the US into the US of the 1950’s and 60’s and on many fronts that ship has sailed.
===Indeed, to the extent that there is a connection with “nativism” it is that privatisation has enabled an international network of distant and unaccountable private companies to take away management of national resources and assets from the people. Likewise, neoliberalism is entirely happy to trample over traditional gender roles in the name of efficiency and increasing the number of workers chasing the same job.===
Excellent point and having read some of Wendy Brown’s books and paper is a point she would agree with while still seeing some patriarchial themes running through neoliberalism. To your point above I would recommend reading some of Cynthia Enloe’s work specifically Bananas, Beaches and Bases.
====I think that kind of person is potentially dangerous====
Wow. Dangerous??? Clearly the post has hit a nerve. Many people in our current society are dangerous but IMO Wendy Brown is not one of them. A bit hyperbolic in her focus on gender? Maybe but not wrong. A bit too far left (of the bleeding heart kind)? Maybe. But to call someone who worked for Sheldon Wolin dangerous. C’mon man.
I have gotten into disputes on NC as IMO many people over focus on a word or the use of a word and ascribe way to literal view of a word. I tend to view words more symbolically and contextually. I do not overreact to the use a word and instead try to step back and glean a message or the word in context of what is the person trying to say? So for instance when WB uses the phrase “Privatization of the nation” I am not going to react because my own interpretation is WB is reacting to Trump’s nationalism and not to the type of privatization that your example of London shows.
I am disappointed that most of the comments to this post seem to take a critical view of Wendy Brown’s comments. Is she a bit too far left and gender focused (identity political) for my tastes? Yes and that somewhat hurts her overall message and the arguments she is trying to discuss which are not unlike her mentor Sheldon Wolin.
Thanks for the reply David. My sense is we have what I call a “positional” debate (i.e. Tastes Great! Less Filling!). And positional debates tend to go nowhere.
When WB speaks of gender, note that she then mentions sex, followed by race. By “gender” she is NOT talking about the rights and power of female people under neoliberalism.
She is speaking of the rights of people to claim, that they are the opposite sex and therefore entitled to the rights, set-asides and affirmative discrimination permitted that sex — for instance, to compete athletically on that sex’s sports teams, to be imprisoned if convicted in that sex’s prisons, to be considered that sex in instances where sex matters in employment such as a job as a rape counselor or a health care position performing intimate exams where one is entitled to request a same-sex provider, and to apply for scholarships, awards, business loans etc. set aside for that sex.
WB, in addition to being a professor at Berkeley, is also the partner of Judith Butler, whose book “Gender Trouble” essentially launched the postmodern idea that subjective sense of one’s sex and how one enacts that is more meaningful than the lived reality people experience in biologically sexed bodies.
By this reasoning, a male weightlifter can become a woman, can declare that he’s in fact always been a woman — and so we arrive at the farce of a male weightlifter (who, granted, must under IOC policy reduce his testosterone for one year to a low-normal male range that is 5 standard deviations away from the female mean) winning a gold medal in women’s weightlifting in the Pan-Pacific games and likely to win gold again in the 2020 Olympics.
If that’s not privileging individual freedom over collective rights, I don’t know what is.
>That’s how it is possible to be simultaneously libertarian, ethnonationalist and patriarchal today: The right’s contemporary attack on “social justice warriors” is straight out of Hayek.
Anyone who could write such a statement understands neither libertarianism nor ethnonationalism. The last half-decade has seen a constant intellectual attack by ethnonationalists against libertarianism. An hour’s examination of the now-defunct Alt Right’s would confirm this.
Similarly, the contemporary attack on SJW’s comes not out of Hayek, but from Gamergate. If you do not know what Gamergate is, you do not understand where the current rightwing and not-so-rightwing thrust of contemporary white identity politics is coming from. My guess is Brown has never heard of it.
Far from trying to uphold patriarchy, Contemporary neoliberalism seeks a total atomization of society into nothing but individual consumers of product. Thus what passes for liberalization of a society today consists in little more than staging sham elections, opening McDonalds, and holding a gay pride parade.
This is why ethnonationalism and even simple nationalism poses a mortal threat to neoliberalism, in a way that so-called progressives never will: both are a threat to globalization, while the rainbow left has shown itself to be little more than the useful idiots of capital.
Brown strikes me as someone who has a worldview and will distort the world to fit that view, no matter how this jibes with facts or logic. The point is simply to array her bugbears into a coalition, regardless of how ridiculous it seems to anyone who knows anything about it.
Actually, maybe not “Bingo,” if by that you mean Wendy Brown is a typical representative of “pearl clutching progressive angst.” Yes, WB is a very successful academic at Berkeley who worked with Sheldon Wolin as a graduate student IIRC (who was atypical in just about every important way), but this book along with its predecessor Undoing the Demos are much stronger than the normative “why are the natives so restless?” bullshit coming from my erstwhile tribe of “liberals,” most of whom are incapacitated by a not unrelated case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Hayek was eloquent. Too bad he didn’t establish some end goals. Think of all the misery that would have been avoided. I mean, how can you rationalize some economic ideology to “deregulate the social sphere” – that’s just the snake eating its tail. That’s what people do who don’t have boundaries. Right now it looks like there’s a strange bedfellowship, a threesome of neoliberal nazis, globalists, and old communists. Everybody and their dog wants the world to work – for everyone. But nobody knows how to do it. And we are experiencing multiple degrees of freedom to express our own personal version of Stockholm syndrome. Because identity politics. What a joke. Maybe we need to come together over something rational. Something fairly real. Instead of overturning Citizens United (which is absurd already), we should do Creatures United – rights for actual living things on this planet. And then we’d have a cause for the duration.
Well stated. The -isms seem like distractions, almost red herrings leading us down the primrose path to a ceaseless is/ought problem. Rather than discuss the way the world is, we argue how it ought to be.
Not to say theory, study, and introspection aren’t important. More that we appear paralyzed into inaction since everyone doesn’t agree on the One True Way yet.
Let us not get to simplistic here. It helps to understand the origins of political, economic, and even social ideals. The origin of modern capitalism, for there were different and more limited earlier forms, was in the Dutch Republic and was part of the efforts of removing and replacing feudalism; liberalism arose from the Enlightenment, which itself was partly the creation of the Wars of Religion, which devastated Europe. The Thirty Years War, which killed ½ of the male population of the Germanies, and is considered more devastating to the Germans than both world wars combined had much of its energy from religious disagreements.
The Age of Enlightenment, along with much of political thought in the Eighteenth Century, was a attempt to allow differences in belief, and the often violent passions that they can cause, to be fought by words instead of murder. The American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the whole political worldview, that most Americans unconsciously have, comes from from those those times.
Democracy, Liberalism, even Adam Smith’s work in the Wealth of Nations were attempts to escape the dictatorship of kings, feudalism, serfdom, violence. Unfortunately, they have all been usurped. Adam Smith’s life’s work has been perverted, liberalism has been used to weaken the social bonds by making work and money central to society. Their evil child Neoliberalism, a creation of people like Hayek, was supposed to reduce wars (most of the founders were survivors of the world wars) and was supposed to be be partly antidemocratic.
Modern Neoliberalism mutates and combines the partly inadvertent atomizing effects of the ideas of the Enlightenment, Liberalism, Dutch and British Capitalism, the Free Markets of Adam Smith, adds earlier mid twentieth century Neoliberalism as a fuel additive, and creates this twisted flaming Napalm of social atomizing; it also clears out any challenges to money is the worth of all things. Forget philosophy, religion, family, government, society. Money determines worth. Even speech is only worth the money spent on it and not any inherent worth. Or the vote.
“the twisted flaming napalm of social atomizing” – that’s a keeper.
Well, I do try!
“liberalism has been used to weaken the social bonds by making work and money central to society”
I think you may have swapped the cart and the horse.
Money evolved as a way of aiding and organizing useful interactions within groups larger than isolated villages of a hundred people.
It also enabled an overall increase in wealth through specialization.
Were it not for money, there would be a difficult mismatch between goods of vastly differing value. A farmer growing wheat and carrots has an almost completely divisible supply of goods with which to trade. Someone building a farm wagon a month, or making an iron plough every two weeks has a problem exchanging that for items orders of magnitude less valuable.
Specialization is a vital step in improving resources and capabilities within societies. I’ve hung out with enough friends who are blacksmiths to know that every farmer hammering out their own plough is a non-starter, for many reasons.
And I’ve followed enough history to know that iron ploughs mean a lot more food, which allows someone to specialize in making ploughs rather than growing food for personal consumption.
The obvious need is for a way of dividing the value of the plough into many smaller amounts that can be used to obtain grain, cloth, pottery, and so on.
While the exact form of money is not rigidly fixed, at lower technological levels one really needs something that is portable, doesn’t spontaneously self destruct, and has a clearly definable value…. and exists in different concentrations of worth, to allow flexibility in transport and use.
Various societies have come up with various tokens of value, from agricultural products to bank drafts, each with different advantages and disadvantages, but for most of history, precious metals, base metals, and coinage have been the most practical representation of exchangeable value.
Money is almost certainly an inevitable and necessary consequence of the invention of agriculture, and the corresponding increase in population density.
Agreed, but as I’ve suggested elsewhere liberalism always had the capacity within it to destroy social bonds, societies and even nations, it’s just that, at the time, this was hidden behind the belief that a just God would not allow it to happen. I see liberalism less as mutating or being usurped than finally being freed of controls. Paradoxically, of course, this “freedom” requires servitude for others, so that no outside forces (trades unions for example) can pollute the purity of the market. It’s the same thing with social justice: freedom for identity group comes through legal controls over the behaviour of others, which is why the contemporary definition of a civil rights activist is someone who wants to introduce lots of new laws to prevent people from doing things.
Trade, markets, and money are all essential to any modern economy even a communist one; trade itself has been happening since (maybe) just before Homo erectus became Homo sapiens.
Maybe, a limited form of capitalism, and fixed term or strictly defined corporations as they used to be would be also be acceptable.
The problem is not the individual parts of our economic system especially as it was described by Adam Smith in his day at the local level. The problem is that the social and economic philosophers of the times, the Marxs, Hayeks, and Rawls of the Enlightenment collectively looked at the previous two or three hundred years of the Inquisition, the witch-hunts, the Wars of Religion, and all the despotic rulers who exploited their subjects, and said “how in God’s name do we not have that again?”
Liberalism as in freedom of conscience, business, and the rule of law was part of the solution. No state religion, the ability to do want for a living, and a system to protect the weak from the strong, and society from the mob. So far so good. Goodbye inquisition, serfdom, and living in a mafia state or under a warlord.
However, Liberalism, with its free market capitalism, destroyed such institutions like the church with its orphanages, hospitals, and concerns about the poor, and usury; the Enclosures, the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the excesses of the Industrial Revolution were just some of the results. You can easily argue that free market capitalism was the driver of European colonialism.
So destroying increasing large chunks of evermore societies in getting evermore profits. Still there were limits and the various reform movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were also tamping down the worst. Maybe one could say that by destroying everything else that gives meaning, wisdom, community by replacing it with the getting of profits created the emptiness of soul that allows such nihilistic evil as social Darwinism, then eugenics, and finally the Holocaust; much of the suicidal insanity like climate change or the centuries long stain of racism are the results of the supercharged greed enabled by uncontrolled free market capitalism.
In a horrible rhyming of history, survivors of the first thirty or forty years after the start of the Great War decided that a modified, supercharged, and improved version of Liberalism that we now call Neoliberalism would prevent a recurrence of the last thirty years that they had just survived. In some, just barely. The creators of Neoliberalism knew that it was undemocratic and likely to create greater income disparity, but thought avoiding another eighty million plus dead might be worth it. Understandable. I think that they did not realize just how poisonous their prescription was and is.
Neoliberalism is just a new label for an old (and, supposedly, discredited) social theory. It used to be called Social Darwinism.
frankly, I don’t believe the “monsters” neoliberalism has helped create are an unwanted side effect of their approach, on the contrary, neoliberalism needs those “monsters”, like the authoritarian state, to impose itself on society (ask the mutilated gilets jaunes). Repression, inequality, poverty, abuse, dispossession, disfranchisement, enviromental degradation are certainly “monstrous” to those who have to endure them, but not to those who profit the most from the system and sit on the most powerful positions. Of course, the degree of exposure to those monstrosities is dependent on the relative position in the pyramid shaped neoliberal society, the bottom has to endure the most. On the other side, the middle classes tend to support the neoliberal model as long as it ensures them a power position relative to the under classes, and the moment those middle classes feel ttheir position relative to the under classes threatened, the switch to open fascism is not far, we can see this in Bolivia.
Thanks for this comment.
“neoliberalism needs those “monsters”, like the authoritarian state, to impose itself on society”
If I understood Quinn Slobodian’s “Globalists” correctly it was precisely this — that the neoliberal project while professing that markets were somehow “natural” spent an inordinate amount of time working to ensure that legal structures be created to insulate them from the dirty demos.
Their actions in this respect don’t square with a serious belief that markets are natural at all — if they were, they wouldn’t need so damned much hothousing, right?
I think the argument was that markets were “natural”, but vulnerable to interference, and so had to be protected by these legal structures. There’s a metaphor there, but it’s too late here for me to find it.
===spent an inordinate amount of time working to ensure that legal structures be created to insulate them from the dirty demos===
I enjoyed Slobodian’s book as well. Interestingly, there is a new book out called The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality by Katharina Pistor that discusses those “legal structures”.
If you check out Katharina Pistor on Twitter, you can also find good commentaries and even videos of talks discussing the book and the matter – it is very edifying to open your eyes to the fundamental role of law in creating such natural phenomena as markets and, among other things, billionaires.
Thanks deplorado. I do not frequent Pistor’s twitter page as much as I would like.
In reading Pistor’s book and some of the interviews with Pistor and some of her papers discussing the themes in the book, I had the same reaction as when I read some of Susan Strange’s books such as The Retreat of the State: complete removal of any strand of naïveté I may have had as to how the world works. And how hard it will be to undo the destruction.
As you mention the “dirty demos” above, one of Wendy Brown’s recent books was Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution.
Never having read any of Susan Strange’s writings, I decided to find a book review of The Retreat of the State. I found this one and found it very interesting, enough so that I’ll go to abebooks.com and get a copy to read.
Thank You for the recommendation.
Thank you for this recommendation. Anything that comes as an audiobook is a massive plus for me.
This illuminating discussion has now generated a list of 5 more books to add to my reading list. Fortunately, our public library serves the greater good and insures these works are available – if one knows to look for them. Thanks for the recommendations!
Academics promoting neoliberalim: so many false assumptions (or self-exculpating excuses), so little time.
Hmm. Definitely Monsters from the Id at work here. I am going with the theory that the wealthier class pushed this whole project all along. In the US, Roosevelt had cracked down and imposed regulations that stopped, for example, the stock market from being turned into a casino using ordinary people’s saving. He also pushed taxes on them that exceeded 90% which tended to help keep them defanged.
So lo and behold, after casting about, a bunch of isolated rat-bag economic radicals was found that support getting rid of regulations, reducing taxes on the wealthy and anything else that they wanted to do. So money was pumped into this project, think tanks were taken over or built up, universities were taken over to teach this new theories, lawyers and future judges were ‘educated’ to support their fight and that is what we have today.
If WW2 had not discredited fascism, the wealthy would have use this instead as both Mussolini and Hitler were very friendly to the wealthy industrialists. But they were so instead they turned to neoliberalism instead. Yes, definitely Monsters from the Id.
Minor quibble: The top tax rate was raised to 63% in 1932. I think that was done by Congress before FDR had really gotten control, but I’m not sure. Remember that one of FDR’s campaign promises was to balance the budget. Rates were raised after the war started, but the top rate didn’t reach 92% until 1944. They weren’t reduced again until JFK, and I still think his 70% top rate was the optimum. It’s been downhill since, but the bigger problem has been the Republicans gutting the enforcement branch.
William White (BIS, OECD) talks about how economics really changed over one hundred years ago as classical economics was replaced by neoclassical economics.
He thinks we have been on the wrong path for one hundred years.
This is why we think small state, unregulated capitalism is something it never was when it existed before.
We don’t understand the monetary system or how banks work because:
Our knowledge of privately created money has been going backwards since 1856.
Credit creation theory -> fractional reserve theory -> financial intermediation theory
“A lost century in economics: Three theories of banking and the conclusive evidence” Richard A. Werner
This is why we come up with crazy ideas like “financial liberalisation”.
If corporations are to be people, then they, like the extremely wealthy, need to be reined in politically. One step we could take is to only allow money donations to political campaigns to take place when the person is subject or going to be subject to the politicians decisions. I live in Illinois, I should be able to donate money to the campaigns of those running for the U.S> Senate from Illinois, but Utah? If I donate money to a Utah candidate for the Senate, I am practicing influence peddling because that Senator does not represent me.
If corporations are to be people, they need a primary residence. The location of their corporate headquarters should suffice to “place” them, and donations to candidates outside of their set of districts would be forbidden.
Of course, we do have free speech, so people are completely free to speak over the Internet, TV, hire halls in the district involved and go speak in person. They just couldn’t pay to have someone else do that for them.
To allow unfettered political donations violates the one ma, one vote principle and also encourages influence peddling. In fact, it seems as if our Congress and Executive operates only through influence peddling.
Wendy Brown’s book Undoing the Demos illuminates the peril democracy faces from the overwhelming presence of neoliberalism in all spheres of one’s democratic existence.
It is a timeless reference in understanding neoliberalism. It is a wonderful entry point for those looking at justice-based answers. It’s dense in thought and ideas, but tightly structured. It was a joy to read.
Neoliberals brings short-term results with long-term damages, monopolies controlling the markets and social life, and public-private partners in control.
Thanks Yves all at NC. Best independent curators of ideas.