Precarity: A Political Problem

Yves here. The basic premises of this post are sound: that precarity is the result of the shift in the last couple of generations of business revenues away from workers and towards profits, or capital, if you prefer. And that most people are far too complacent about that because they have deeply internalized prevailing market/neoliberal ideology.

Robert Heilbroner identified this tendency in his 1988 book, Behind the Veil of Economics. A major focus was contrasting the source of discipline under feudalism versus under capitalism. Heilbroner argues it was the bailiff and the lash, that lords would incarcerate and beat serfs who didn’t pull their weight. But the lord had obligations to his serfs too, so this relationship was not as one-sided as it might seem. By contrast, Heilbroner argues that the power structure under capitalism is far less obvious:

This negative form of power contrasts sharply with with that of the privileged elites in precapitalist social formations. In these imperial kingdoms or feudal holdings, disciplinary power is exercised by the direct use or display of coercive power. The social power of capital is of a different kind….The capitalist may deny others access to his resources, but he may not force them to work with him. Clearly, such power requires circumstances that make the withholding of access of critical consequence. These circumstances can only arise if the general populace is unable to secure a living unless it can gain access to privately owned resources or wealth…

The organization of production is generally regarded as a wholly “economic” activity, ignoring the political function served by the wage-labor relationships in lieu of bailiffs and senechals. In a like fashion, the discharge of political authority is regarded as essentially separable from the operation of the economic realm, ignoring the provision of the legal, military, and material contributions without which the private sphere could not function properly or even exist. In this way, the presence of the two realms, each responsible for part of the activities necessary for the maintenance of the social formation, not only gives capitalism a structure entirely different from that of any precapitalist society, but also establishes the basis for a problem that uniquely preoccupies capitalism, namely, the appropriate role of the state vis-a-vis the sphere of production and distribution.

Having said that, I wish this piece were a tad less cerebral, since being earthy and vivid, and making use of stories, images vivid turns of phrase, as well as telling data, is what will help break the hold of this cognitive capture.

By Vadim Kvachev, a sociologist at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. Originally published at openDemocracy

The bygone decade is marked by a radical change in relations between employers and employees. According to recent research by the Bank of England, the labour share of income in the last thirty to forty years significantly fell in the USA and in other advanced economies as well. The decline of influence of labour as well as new technologies adopted by big corporations have led to new forms of employment: mostly flexible, low-payed, unstable jobs that are underregulated by labour legislation.

The state of things in capital-labour relations with constant redistribution of wealth and power to capital owners is without exaggeration class warfare (an expression, with a good reason, constantly used by Bernie Sanders). Ideology is ready as a powerful weapon in this class war. Media, internet, books and experts strive to persuade workers that this state of insecurity is necessary, normal or even desirable. And the defenders of flexible and unstable jobs claim that this is objective logic of economy which has nothing to do with political decision-making.

French philosopher Jacques Rancière in his work “On the Shores of Politics” wrote that depoliticization is the oldest political art. Perhaps this notion of depoliticization is one of the most accurate descriptions of what is going on today in the social sciences. Economics imperialism – applying principles of economics to non-economics fields of knowledge – has become mainstream common sense. Economics pretends to be a universal method, the Social Science, which can solve problems in any other social field: law, culture, education, social care etc. Once the best method – a free market – is found, other issues are no longer considered to be a matter of politics, therefore they are no longer subject to democratic choice. The decisions made at this level are technocratic and seem to be not a matter of voluntary acts of power, but a ‘forced’ solution, based on the impersonal necessity of the global free market. This is what famous political theorist Wendy Brown called neoliberal rationality.

The problem is not that some kind of evil capitalists or neoliberals have usurped the platforms of public discussion to impose on us this kind of propaganda, but rather that the neoliberal way of thinking has become a fundamental intellectual software, ultimate common sense. Neoliberal logic has consumed our consciousness, reason and mind. We as humankind are ready to pursue profit and efficiency even when this pursuit is self-destructive (for example, for decades, Shell severely exploited people and nature in Niger Delta while dodging responsibility).

This way of thinking pushed us towards the state of what Belgian philosopher Michel Feher called the neoliberal condition: economization and marketization of our social and personal life. Precarity, legitimized by neoliberal logic, is one of the signs of this condition resulting in ubiquitous expansion of short-term relations leading to vulnerability and insecurity in working and personal life. We can define precarity as the state of having an insecure life with lack of protection from social risks, unstable income and employment. Precarity comes from insecurity and instability of work and it influences the social, political, psychological, cultural life of an individual.

Precarity arose from the application of neoliberal logic to the understanding of human nature: in this perception, individuals are considered independent self-entrepreneurs, atomized from collectives of any kind and managing their own human capital. This human capital, consisting of knowledge, skills and abilities of an individual, could be managed just like any other form of capital: by investments, calculations of efficiency, rational choices and so on. This neoliberal logic turns humans into a kind of enterprise, which obeys the “natural” and “objective” laws of market. If this human enterprise succeeds, we should praise human capital theory – it leads an individual to increase its human capital; if a person fails into poverty, it is his or her own responsibility, because the market is severe but fair (just like nature).

In this view, any social support and protection is considered a burden to the free-will human enterprise. Thus, precarization mediated by neoliberalism becomes a preferable social policy for policy makers. Precarity has become a kind of trademark of late global capitalism that can be found everywhere: from labor contracts for a limited period for Western university professorsto the risky working conditions of Chinese workers at the Foxconn factories. Individuals find themselves confronted with the fact that a precarious position in the labor market becomes the only opportunity to secure their livelihood. This can be manifested in an agreement to work under the worst working conditions, under the condition of temporary labor contracts or unofficially, to work under difficult or harmful conditions without special compensation, etc. This also may mean “free-will” (but in fact involuntary as there are much better jobs in other countries) labor migration abroad in search of work.

Precarity occurs when the needs of production and capital accumulation enter into conflict with the established system of regulating social-labor relations at the level of the national state. Social-labor relations being a result of decades of workers’ struggles to restrict the exploitation of the labor force through certain frameworks (such as the 8-hour working day, labor protections, minimum wage), are challenged by corporations and states. Global capital seeks to expand exploitation beyond existing social-labor relations, eventually extending it to the entire time and life of workers. Precarity of the labor market provokes the “domino effect”, giving an unstable and unreliable character to all economic and social connections of individuals.

Of course, precarity is a constructed condition, consciously supported for certain social groups in accordance with the interests of modern global capital. Outside the Western world and even in the West, there is complete or partial non-recognition of precarity as a political problem. From a legal point of view, this means maintaining formally rigid labor and social legislation with a consistent factual reduction of measures of social support and regulation of the labor market through the gradual moderate changes in the regulation. Policy makers often claim that we should develop human capital, promote education, or give more inclusive opportunities to vulnerable social groups. Of course, these are all necessary elements of good social policy but this is not enough. Precarity is a political problem rather than some kind of temporary technical mistake of capitalism. Precarity is not an occasional effect but rather a constructed system of neoexploitation.

We should start again from very beginning. We should rethink precarity and establish a clear vision that it is a risk imposed on us by neoliberal policy and economics imperialism. And we should again strive to repoliticize those issues that were excluded from politics, and expose political, power-related character of precarity. This will help open new debates and discussions and help break the neoliberal political consensus.

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  1. Amfortas the hippie

    the link to Feher is depressing…because the task is overwhelming.
    “accepting” the new power relations(rather than Employer//employee, it’s investor//investee…stockholder vs stakeholder.)…and figuring out from there how to position ourselves to resist this invisible force that surrounds and penetrates us.
    that link also mentions Laval and Dardot’s “New Way of the World”…which is how i finally understood “Neoliberalism”, and how hard it would be to resist being swallowed whole.
    so if we’re required to accept the new ground condition, rather than try to undo it(seen as futile), what does resistance look like?
    disinvestment comes to mind…but how can one disinvest from…say…fossil fuels, when the entire infrastructure is predicated on private cars?
    or when our puny efforts are overwhelmed by gigantic positive investments from PE(or the FED)?
    boycott, too comes to mind…but when food supply is concentrated in a few hands, and distribution, too….well, my answer has been to strive for autarky, and treating our little place like a nation with a balance of trade problem.
    but this is, itself, precarious,lol…and unscalable to a level where it could make a real difference.
    its a hard conundrum…and especially since this neoliberal order remains invisible and “just common sense” to so many of us.
    (it is VERY difficult to talk about any of this in the Feed Store! it’s in our bones and the structure of our brains…no mean feat!)

    1. flora

      And we should again strive to repoliticize those issues that were excluded from politics, and expose political, power-related character of precarity.

      The success in hiding the power relations, hiding the political and man made power relations, is what keeps the neoliberal game going, imo.

      Example of erasure: Power relations? What power relations? There are no human power relations in “the market”. All outcomes are the result of the great, impersonal, impartial working of “the market’s natural expression”.
      Once the man made power relations are erased from people’s thinking the neoliberals are home free. If there’s no power relation then there’s nothing to be done. There is no one ‘doing’ anything to anyone else.
      But not everyone is convinced “the market” is a substitute for politics or democracy. Or convinced “the market” is the impersonal and untouchable entity the neoliberals claim it is. (“Pay no attention to that little man behind the curtain.”)
      See the push for higher minimum wages and increasing numbers of strikes for better pay and working conditions. These are political acts as well as economic acts; they show the man made power forces and political choices at work. my 2 cents.

      1. ambrit

        The problem with strikes, etc. today is the abandonment of the concept of extremes in the putative ‘left’s’ arsenal of tools for use. In this respect, the ‘Black Blocs’ are correct. Strikes must threaten the very existence of the tools needed by the neo-liberal order to survive, eg. the means of production. In respect to the “means of production,” Marx and Engels were right.
        In an earlier age, before Consent became a part of the Manufacturing Index, some unions carried out bombing campaigns against the “bosses'” physical plant. Those campaigns were generally successful. Those campaigns were popular until “innocent” people were killed. Then the propaganda organs of the extant status quo could legitimately demonize the bombers, on humanitarian grounds! The underlying hypocricy of that stance was by and large, lost on the general public.
        Alas that we should come to this, but, by commodifying “human capital,” ie human workers, the Neo-liberal Lords have established a philosophical and political framework wherein people are now ‘disposable’ assets. This has weakened, if not outright removed, the “humanitarian” arguments of the earlier age against the destruction of human life. The ultimate examples of this are all the despots around the world’s campaigns of terror and murder. So far, no one seems to have made the connection. If human capital is ‘disposable,’ then so are all humans. This includes the managerial and stockholding classes.
        The Monsters are going to eat themselves.

    2. notabanktoadie

      …because the task is overwhelming. Amfortas the hippie

      Is it? Most people hate and despise the banks, the root of so many problems.

      Then why should it be that difficult to abolish their privileges and in so doing reform fiat creation so that it is for the general welfare ONLY?

      And how unpopular were Bush’s and Obama’s “Stimulus Checks”? Not at all, I recall. Would a Citizen’s Dividend whose expressed purpose was only to counter price deflation (and thereby share productivity gains justly) be any different?

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        yes. everyone hates the banks…but still uses them…because it’s hard not to have a bank.
        same with oil….especially in texas…and especially in rural texas.
        can’t do without a vehicle, which means you’re plugged in to finance, insurance, repair and inspection and on and on.

        and me not having a bank(i have a savings accout with no minimum balance, at a locally owned bank. current balance:around $2) or deciding on a burro…makes no dent at all in these institutions.
        we’ve got invisible fences all around us…and that’s not even contemplating the invisible fences in our minds that this article is pointing at.

        this is why Dual Power…or Parallel Institutions…are so important…but we hardly ever see them talked about, aside from Vladmir Lenin…and a few fringey Lefty Libertarians and Anarchists.

        I don’t know how, exactly, to go about setting up a “people’s credit union”…or if it’s even possible without becoming what you’re trying to fight against…due to the funneling action of the Rules, themselves.
        its even worse with transportation…what can one do about it, without grabbing hold of national power, somehow*

        what i can do….and it ain’t much!….is grow as much of our own food as possible, and deny Big Ag a commensurate amount of support.
        this is not scalable, in the current situation….ad indeed, i am more than fortunate to be in a position to do even that much.

        *this is why Bernie is both an inspiration, and a dread warning, given the forces arrayed against him…for these very reasons. the Machine has the electoral process sewn up. Hydraulic Despotism and universal Barriers to Entry.
        only way to play…if the current revolutionary attempt fails…is to play as little as possible, with as many others as you can manage. make not having a credit card cool.
        en masse.
        make not being in debt even cooler.
        en masse.

        They’ll never allow another Ross Perot(why Bernie nominally runs with Team D)…just like they’ll never allow an abby hoffman or John Lennon or MLK.
        they’d rather get caught in the open with assassination, i fear.
        a universal strike…Withrawal of Consent… is the only thing i can see having much of a chance at all of dislodging the Machine…but that takes a large percentage of the people…and the Machine has weaponised information and its dissemination, too,lol.
        and literally colonised our Minds.
        we’re already IN the Dystopia we’ve been reading about in scifi for an hundred years, we’re just reluctant to admit it….because we helped them build it.

        1. inode_buddha

          To this day I miss Ross Perot, I was pulling for him with everything I had back then. Somewhat OT but you would be amazed how much we have in common. I finally ended up using a little local credit union, they only have one branch, about an hour away.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            lol. this is a one branch, 120 year old local institution.
            i know everyone from the girl at the window to the president to the owner, and where they live.
            everyone does.
            anything larger, or more diffuse/abstract, is just asking for trouble.

        2. notabanktoadie

          We can have ethical finance AND low interest rates so there’s no legitimate excuse that I can see for not reforming the system.

          And, btw, that’s why we should detest the use of “gold standard this, gold standard that” since the use of needlessly expensive fiat would preclude genuine reform.

          As for needing a private bank (including credit unions) to not be limited to mere physical fiat, that is a fundamental ethical flaw that has cursed mankind for centuries and should be remedied with accounts for all (citizens, at least) at the Central Bank or Treasury itself.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            the issue is not whether it’s possible to have ethical finance, etc…but how we expect—ie:if it’s possible— to get there, from here.
            for all my great strides in the feedstore or the tailgate, i can’t touch foreign policy, lest i get my ass stomped as a traitor.
            i can barely get an acknowledgement and/or agreement that things are frelled (much easier as things get more frelled for more and more people, but still easier when my interlocutors are temporarily separated from the Herd)
            but I’m going head to head with faux newts, the farm bureau, righty am radio(still a thing out here) and the peer pressure stay-in-line mechanisms of the various siloed tribes.
            i obtain grains of hope from some redneck asking about my bernie sticker…or socialism, even…that was unthinkable even 10 years ago.
            but my vox clamatis deserto is no match for the incredible sophistication of the Mindf^ck, that…as this article, and the links within testify…we have internalised and unconsciously adopted as “common sense”>
            in spite of the remarkable gains made in the last 5-6 years, i fear it’s still gonna take a collapse to even begin to try to do better…and collapse just might be more amenable to the mechanics of disaster capitalism and the same psychoarchy that runs things, today.
            and if the usual “experts” and “leaders” fail in that endeavor, Machine has others waiting in the wings:
            I’m the only one I know who takes those people as a serious threat…moldbugian honey in the ear will be even harder to counter than the valueless human as enterprise TINA BS we’re already dealing with.(go and read him: Yarvin has honed the Gish Gallop to incredible keenness.)
            I sincerely hope, at the very Root of my Being, that i’m wrong.

        3. jrs

          Well millions of people’s dependence on oil could be changed just by seizing local power in big cities. But rural areas are harder.

          Withdrawal is often considered the weakest form of resistance. Working together is a strong form, but it assumes everyone around one hasn’t become a victim of extreme propaganda themselves (they who own everything also of course own the media), and yea it also assumes those one hopes to work together with are basically decent people, if in bulk they aren’t then there goes that.

    3. inode_buddha

      Here’s how I talk about it —

      Remember buying a Nicholson file, or a Crescent wrench that was made in USA? Yeah. Those companies are owned by Apex Tools group. They moved those companies to Mexico. All that “Made in USA is gone now, its made in Mexico. Those jobs are gone, tax base gone, etc.

      Notice how much the price of a file or a crescent wrench came down? What’s that you say, it didn’t?

      That’s precarity and power relations. They do it through economic means, using any excuse possible. Some rob you with a six-gun, some rob you with a fountain pen.

      Now who owns Apex group? Bain capital. And who decided to move all that to Mexico…

      If you take all the people out of a corporation, what do you have left?

  2. Sound of the Suburbs

    The USP of neoclassical economics – It concentrates wealth.
    Let’s use it for globalisation.

    Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48, observed what the capital accumulation of neoclassical economics did to the US economy in the 1920s.
    “a giant suction pump had by 1929 to 1930 drawn into a few hands an increasing proportion of currently produced wealth. This served then as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied themselves the kind of effective demand for their products which would justify reinvestment of the capital accumulation in new plants. In consequence as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When the credit ran out, the game stopped”

    The problem; wealth concentrates until the system collapses.

    “The other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing.” Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48
    Your wages aren’t high enough, have a Payday loan.
    You need a house, have a sub-prime mortgage.
    You need a car, have a sub-prime auto loan.
    You need a good education, have a student loan.
    Still not getting by?
    Load up on credit cards.
    “When the credit ran out, the game stopped” Mariner Eccles, FED chair 1934 – 48

    This is what it’s supposed to be like.
    We know because we have used this economics before.
    That is what is so ridiculous about it.
    They try and maintain consumption with debt, but it can never work over the long term.
    They’ve done it before, so they really should know better.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        and they ride the periodic Crashes to even greater size.
        crash the economy, get bailed out,. use bailout money to buy up everything in sight.
        old timey standard oil was big and complex enough,lol…now, who owns that thing/entity that is harming me? where does it “live”? can i reach it with the sticks that are available to me?
        it’s harder than ever before to determine the answer to those questions.

  3. Thuto

    Elevating economics to a science with pride of place next to real sciences at the Nobels was a master stroke by the capitalist elites, after that “economics imperialism” was fait accompli. The tl:dr version of this post can thus be summed up as: precarity is a feature, not a bug of late stage capitalism.

    Perhaps the reemergence of the term “political economy” in mainstream economic discourse will expose the intertwined nature of politics and economics to public scrutiny and render attempts to position them as distinct socio-cultural entities a sham. Fact is, policy formulations that further entrench the already established power relations between capital and labour are rubber stamped by the economics profession as a matter of course, with little to no pushback from the political class. When a political ideology is elevated to a science, politicians will cow and defer to economists on matters of economic policy, as a matter of course. It’s no surprise that lone voices of heterodox economists like Keen and Hudson are pushed to the fringes of the mainstream lest they interfere with the ongoing, well resourced cognitive capture project.

    1. Off The Street

      Economics in the orthodox version looks like the following:
      -We’re really super-duper smart and have these fancy equations.
      -You aren’t and we won’t bother explaining them to you.
      -If you really looked into those, you might find a few disturbing bits.
      -Chiefly among those, our multi-factor analysis isn’t. We discard what doesn’t fit our equations, so externalities and such get minimalized to extinction. We’ll rent you that assumed can opener, too.

      Stop asking, prole, let the adults continue.

      And they wonder why people doubt them, why people are being forced into being Kipling’s Saxons.

  4. tegnost

    This pretty much sums it up…

    Global capital seeks to expand exploitation beyond existing social-labor relations, eventually extending it to the entire time and life of workers

    everything is darkest just before it goes completely black?

    1. tegnost

      Adding, oh the irony…

      any social support and protection is considered a burden to the free-will human enterprise. Thus, precarization mediated by neoliberalism becomes a preferable social policy for policy makers.

      Global capital had no problem getting social support in 2008-9 and the ensuing years following them…chocolate milk is for bankers.

    2. norm de plume

      Global capital seeks to expand exploitation beyond existing social-labor relations, eventually extending it to the entire time and life of workers

      This chimes rather uncomfortably with a comment Yuval Noah Harari made in a talk with Steven Pinker that was linked to here the other day. On the topic of surveillance capitalism generally and mentioning China’s social credit system in particular as a harbinger, Harari made the point that from here on, everyone’s entire life is one long job interview. Children born about now can expect to have most of their waking (and sleeping) moments archived, nearly every human transaction logged, each gaucherie and misdemeanour and embarrassing web browsing session and ill-advised blog post and extra-marital affair.. all contributing to a rating or score; a judgement which those who can pay for it will be able to access.

      That’s progress. Out of the feudal frying pan, into the wage slave fire, on to our modern inferno of privacy and freedom. What comes next?

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        thank Dog for right wing christian nutjobs.
        without them, we’d all be chipped, by now.

        1. JBird4049

          What comes next is civilizational collapse as some amount of privacy, acceptable and forgettable “bad,” and freedom of both thought and action to change and push boundaries. Whenever a society of any kind fossilizes itself or becomes obsessed over control especially for “safety” is when it dies. Or at least has serious problems. The benefit of a democracy, a broadly based oligarchy, or even just multiple roughly equal powers or factions is the prevention of the concentration of resources and power, or the ability of a person or small group to stop change.

          The modern Middle Kingdom and the American Empire are both doing this right now. The Western Roman Empire did it indirectly by having a steadily smaller elite subsumed just about all the economic resources thereby first freezing and then starving the economy.

  5. David

    OK. Discipline in the sense used here was not a problem in societies where the economic and social order was taken for granted: either a living manifestation of heaven on earth, or a divinely ordered social and economic system, or just a system hallowed by tradition. In any of these, resistance is literally unthinkable, and doesn’t really require much discipline as such. Indeed, ordinary people internalise the economic order and will actually fight to defend it (the Vendée rising or the resistance to Napoleon’s invasion of Spain.
    The problem is that liberalism is inherently revolutionary, and so cannot claim any legitimacy from the past. It can only demand obedience through the state apparatus, and the familiar ordo-liberal panoply of laws and contracts designed to have a coercive effect. Such an apparatus has to be based on the legitimacy of reason and logic, such that there can be no dispute about economic policy. The idea that there is only one logical, rational answer to problems, and so debate is pointless, is deeply ingrained in classical liberalism, most famously in Rousseau’s concept of the General Will. But it also turns up, for example, in one of Simone Weil’s last essays, in which she advocated the suppression of political parties, because they only caused confusion: any group of educated and rational people, she argued, would always reach the right answer if they tried. There was no need for parties.
    The basis of the ordo-liberal system we have today is that politics in the ideological sense is unnecessary, because there is only one right, technical, answer to every question. Politics in the ideological sense only exists where there is at least the possibility of change, otherwise there’s nothing to politick about. In its absence, you get politics in the classic liberal sense as the contest for power between elites, which is pretty much what you have today.
    So as the author says (he seems to have something like Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus in mind) you need an ideology to persuade people that change is impossible and that the present system is the only one possible. Precarity is an important part of the ideology: not a bug but a feature. In ordo-liberalism, the state intervenes to make sure that nothing obstructs the smooth and automatic functioning of the market. If life is less precarious, people will start to think, and even organise, and that would undermine the purity of the organisation of the economy.

  6. Steve Ruis

    It is time, past time if I understand Yves writings at all, for an “Emperor’s New Clothes” episode. The economic theories propping up the rapacity of the monied class is bogus and needs to be stripped of its intellectual gloss. All the signs are there for such an intellectual revolution, even econ students are balking at the rubbish they are being fed.

  7. diptherio

    You say “precarity,” I say “flexible work schedule.” Come on, guys, let’s try to look on the bright side! /s

  8. shinola

    Social Darwinism has (supposedly) long been discredited. Seems now though, it has been resurrected with the new title of “Free-market neoliberalism” .

    1. notabanktoadie

      There’s nothing “free market” about government privileges for private credit creation.

      The problem is that “Progressives”, including the big names of MMT, are in favor of those privileges too.

      “Ya can’t cheat an honest man?”

      1. Grebo

        “Simply put, banks should be publicly owned and democratically controlled. Toussaint and others note that socialising the banking sector means: (i) expropriating the large shareholders without compensation; (ii) granting a monopoly of banking activities to the public sector, with one single exception – the existence of a small cooperative banking sector (subject to the same fundamental rules as the public sector); and (iii) creating a public service for savings, credit and investment.”

        —Bill Mitchell: Reclaiming the State

        1. notabanktoadie

          Public banking does not solve the problem of the use of the public’s credit but for private gain, i.e. of theft – it is a red herring wrt genuine banking reform.

          Instead, banks should be 100% private with 100% voluntary depositors with an equal Citizen’s Dividend and negative interest/yields and transaction fees on large holders/users of inherently risk-free sovereign debt (including bank reserves) to keep interest rates low.

          It’s sad that MMT theorists do not take the nature of inexpensive fiat to its logical conclusion but stop short and defend an obsolete, inherently corrupt Gold Standard relic banking model instead.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            i knew a lay philosopher once…old skinny hippy guy in austin trailer park, my weed guy. he wanted marijuana as a standard currency.
            need more $ in the economy? grow more weed.
            turns out that’s exactly what the big boys did. but they used to have to dig holes in the ground to do it.
            now, “more weed” is “quantitative easing” , or, to the hillbillies, “printing money”.
            this is what plays in the feedstore towards acceptance of MMT, etc.
            they’re aware of the tonal difference between open checkbooks for war and bankers, and no money for us’n’s.
            if only someone would talk to them about this….

  9. William Hunter Duncan

    There is a reason elite, right and left, capitalist and communist, demonized and attempted to destroy political anarchism. Strong, empowered, dignified and astute individuals working together to put checks on the accumulation of capital and the consolidation of power is precisely the opposite of neoliberalism.

    In America, anarchism was turned into libertarianism, which is like Peter Theil and Palantir, arguing for his totalitarian freedom at the expense of everyone and everything else.

    Generally, if someone equates libertarianism with anarchism, I say an anarchist is a libertarian with empathy, a conscience and care and concern for the earth.

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Murray Bookchin always called Randians “Propertarians” because they were only concerned about property rights, not human liberty. Anarchists should continue to claim “libertarian” as their own, since that’s its meaning in the rest of the world. Only here, where Randians were looking for a good name from a marketing standpoint, is “libertarian” used for Ayn’s acolytes.

      1. William Hunter Duncan

        It was Chomsky, calling himself a libertarian socialist, who said of American right wing “libertarians”, if they ever seized power it would be the worst totalitarian dystopia the world has ever seen.

  10. Susan the other

    One word: oil. Feudalism was checked by the necessity for human labor. Neoliberalism is not. So why is that? It’s because oil has replaced that essential social element – human labor. And over the centuries of the industrial revolution everything spun out of control. We are now all speeding around the turns at 100 mph and we can all feel the car start to skid. In our race to the bottom of sanity. So I come back to the logic of Steve Keen and Ann Pettifor. We need to account for the aberration oil has created in our societies. Not to mention environmental devastation and overpopulation. They are all consequences of unrecognized costs. Whether we are headed for climate change or social change doesn’t matter – it’s all panic talk to get our attention. If our societies collapse were done for; if the environment collapses we are done for. And when it comes to the climate there is a lot of confusion – some say fire and some say ice. I say either way we need to get our shit together for the sake of our own survival. “Depoliticization” is just good old hypocrisy. I really don’t think anybody believes that the “consumer” can save us. What a laugh. We need to have a mental sea change whereby we make a good society and a clean environment the new gold standard of value. That will in turn make fiat a respectable medium of exchange. If we don’t do that it’s all up for grabs and nobody wins.

  11. Charger01

    The guys from Citations Needed podcast covered this in their “libertarian and choice” recent episode. They do a fine job of outlining how framing precariousness as “choice” is a falsehood to hoodwink the public.

  12. Jeremy Grimm

    Neoliberalism is a construct for dominion crafted by the loosely coordinated intellectual efforts of hundreds of well-funded think tanks and ‘thinkers’. Neoliberalism is sufficiently flexible it can mean whatever is most profitable to those with the most power — which of late is the same as those with the most money.

    The idea that Neoliberal thinking is ‘rational’ makes no sense. What is rational about a belief in Markets, and especially a belief in Markets as all knowing information processors? “Precarity, legitimized by neoliberal logic” a ‘logic’ arguing that “…individuals are considered independent self-entrepreneurs, atomized from collectives of any kind and managing their own human capital” is hogwash. It is the kind of ‘logic’ derived from endless repetitions of language, conclusion and warrants, a total immersion in this repetition of language, conclusion and warrants, and the expert certifications using the same language, of the conclusion and warrants by experts who really are commodities bought and paid for. This ‘logic’ flows from the nearly complete Neoliberal purchase and enthrallment — of the economics departments at what were our universities, purchase of the universities, of Science, of the mass media, purchase and control of cultural outlets from movie entertainments, to theater [such as we still have], to books. This was made possible by the purchase of ‘our’ Government, Law, ‘our’ Courts, and ‘our’ Police.

    Neoliberalism made widespread looting and fraud ‘logical’. What is logical about shredding the Social fabric while gutting Corporate productive capacity and crippling the infrastructure supporting these vestiges of the dying Empire. What is logical about such practices when viewed in the fuller context of global resource depletion and in particular depletion of the one resource driving the entire Imperial machinery? What is logical about driving the maximum possible use and waste of a vital resource as quickly as possible to maximize near-term profits while each use of that resource pushes the global climate thermostat further into the ‘red’ zone?

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