THE STRATEGY OF THE MODERNISATION OF THE IDEOLOGICAL AND STRUCTURAL MATRIX OF NEOLIBERALISM
The recent events related to the mortgage crisis in the USA, whose consequences have spread throughout the world, offer a clear picture of today’s reality of neoliberalism, its modernisation strategies, and the consequences of globalisation which not only condition our everyday living, but have largely set and determined our future. At least this is how the system and all its agents convince us of the potential consequences of the crisis already influencing the real economy. The system tries to persuade the viewer/consumer/voter that it is not possible to think an alternative: in short, that no system is possible outside the neoliberal valorisation pattern. Is this really the case or is it just a carefully planned model of inducing paranoid fear due to the potential collapse of capital which modernises the ideological and structural matrix of neoliberalism in reality?
The initiative to recover from the crisis by using taxpayers’ money, which has actually been realised to such an extent that Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Austria approved and earmarked over 1,300 billion euro to remedy the present crisis, testifies to the state of exception definitely and permanently introduced by neoliberalism throughout the world. The entire problem of the crisis is additionally related to the definition of property (public and private), on one hand, and to the definition and consideration of the public and private in the broader social context, on the other. When we talk about public and private property and try to draw a boundary line between them, we cannot ignore neither the changes which have come about in the last few decades in the West, nor those (initially) conditioned by a market ideology and the privatisation structure of neoliberalism in Slovenia, in the Balkans, and other countries of Eastern Europe.
In Socialism, public denoted something intended for the public benefit and exclusively publicly owned, while in capitalism public denotes something advertised as a public interest but actually privately owned (at least this is how we can read the recent events in the field of bank rehabilitation). Thus the meaning of the term public space in the East was completely different than in the West, for public space in Socialism was, by the definition of Socialist logic, something intended exclusively for the public benefit, while the prism of Capitalist logic, which includes the diction of private property in itself, sees the public space as that space intended for public use, but with a strictly defined objective; it mostly concerns private property intended for public use solely from the aspect of profit. Here it must be emphasised that this change has not occurred only in the case of public spaces and public property, but that privatisation has affected other sectors, too, such as education, health care, culture, etc. Thus, it is not surprising that some time ago, when the real estate market was still prospering, there was a television advertisement with three well-known Slovenian actors, two men and a pregnant woman, promoting the advantages of loans taken from the Slovenian state-owned bank NKBM. The utter absurdity of the matter is proven by the fact that the actress, answering a question regarding how she could afford a loan, proudly states: “It’s truly simple, I took the loan, as well as my dad and mum, and even my grandma.” We are dealing with a capitalist logic whose extraordinary offer is supposed to enable a young family, a single mother, etc., to buy an apartment although its price is so high that the mother will have to work for it for her entire life – and what is worse, not only herself but three generations. What is perverse in this whole story and what remains hidden is the fact that in the case of Slovenia the first two generations’ self-imposed contributions had renovated the publicly-owned infrastructure, which was privatised after independence and the introduction of neoliberalism.
The character of the mother-to-be is used through the mediated image on the television to induce a feeling of certainty in the uncertain social situation faced by a great majority of the population of the first capitalist world. This socially neglected group consists mostly of the lower class, which was unable to adapt to the market logic of capital or to the neoliberal transformation of the former Socialist state during the transition because it simply had not been offered this opportunity. From this aspect, the analysis of the strategy of financial crisis solution is even more interesting, for the turn experienced by all having undergone the neoliberalistic conversion during the transition – where the state property, therefore the people’s property, was privatised, which enabled the establishment of monopoly structures – caused in the last decade a wild privatisation in the Slovenian space and the redistribution of a large amount of public property into the hands of just a few individuals. The understanding of this turn is of key importance, for it clarifies the reasons for a planned appropriation of the Socialist logic of operation by capitalism after the same capitalism importantly contributed to its destruction. What we are witness to in the present solution of the financial crisis by means of taxpayers’ money in the countries of the first capitalist world was long ago realised and tested by capitalism with the help of neoliberalism in the countries of the former Eastern bloc, including Slovenia and the Balkans.
Thus we may state that the present way of resolving financial crisis is a part of established practice in transition countries where enterprises in trouble were restored by taxpayers’ money to help the enterprise recover from crisis; however, after the recovery the profit was shared by a handful of individuals (managers) who, instead of returning the recovery money together with participating interest to the state revenue, used it to carry out privatisation (managerial purchases).
What is revealed by the above?
It is a multi-level process simultaneously determining the neoliberal present and creating conditions for its proliferation in the future. This process is implemented in different phases, which are defined below.
In the first phase we witness a raw manifestation of the capital power, which is not abstract, but fully manifested through the visible mechanisms of power. Therefore, it is not surprising that laws are changed and adapted to the needs and wishes of the capitalist class, that taxpayers’ money is used as a guarantee for private investments, and last but not least – as we can see in the example of the financial crisis – that the debt being recovered is unidentifiable in real terms, for states determine it on a daily basis regarding the fluctuations of world stock markets. The system justifies its actions by stating that it takes care of its self-regeneration, of people and their savings. In short, it advertises care for the everyman and his future. In view of this, we must, of course, ask ourselves what happened to all those individuals whose pledged mortgages have been foreclosed on, who lost their homes, etc., because they were simply unable to repay the loan, because they did not have any opportunities from the start, for their reality is conditioned by social status and class.
The fate of these people is insignificant to the system, for their role is measured on the basis of the production value based on the consumption and market economy; as long as an individual’s contribution benefits capital in accordance with market logic, the subject is a constituent element of society; otherwise they become an unimportant link immediately rejected and eliminated by the system. The bare hierarchical structure repeating itself as a pattern since the beginnings of civilisation values on the basis of classification. If we compare the above with Anibal Quijano’s analysis of how racial classification became the main criterion for placing people into ranks, places, and roles, it turns out that the pattern used through the centuries to define racial classification and the dominant position of the white race over the others applies to class classification as well. In the author's opinion “racial classification has been the most effective and long-lasting instrument of universal social domination since the sixteenth century, because the much older principle – gender or intersexual domination – was encroached upon by the inferior/superior racial classifications” (Quijano). It is exactly these two classifications between the inferior and the superior race that constitute the basis for the classification between the inferior and the superior class derived from class classification. However, an important difference is presented here: neoliberalism not only used the strategy of racial classification and integrated it as a repeating pattern in the strategy of class classification, but also incorporated racial classification as well as gender or intersexual domination in the implementation of class classification. Thus one classification contains different forms of classification covering different forms of discriminations, from racial to gender, etc.
One of the system’s strategies is the planned distinction between white and other races and the stressing of a privileged role of the white race over the others. This introduces racism within class classification, which is, among others, a topic of Whiteness Without Apartheid: The Limits of Racial Freedom, a text by Achille Mbembe, who defines that “in the United States today, the white poor are encouraged to support the dismantling of the welfare state and the cutting of specific policies that could improve their life chances. Although policies stigmatised as »affirmative action« have helped hundreds of thousands of white women enter colleges, secure employment, and gain promotions, white poor are persuaded that »the blacks get more«. For this reason, they are the most virulent opponents of »affirmative action« although they, too, suffer from economic hardship, social stigma and political disempowerment” (Mbembe). In this way the system continually maintains the hierarchical structure of the supremacy of the higher over the lower class, thus further weakening the class struggle by introducing racism, which establishes a field of separation within the class struggle itself and therefore reduces it to the minimum.
The second phase is the phase of the infinite reproduction of the system, whose consequences are also manifested through the current crisis, which is – as stated by Antonio Negri – itself a reflection of the over-exploitation of the lower and middle classes. In the show L’Infedele (Unfaithful) broadcast on the LA7 channel immediately after the onset of the crisis, Negri, as a participant in the discussion, said “that the reason for the present financial crisis must be sought in the debts of American families deprived of the welfare state, deprived of the right to express the pressure of the repression they live in and which was once revealed in the form of a wage, while now it has the form of pressure on the forms of life, on the incapability to reproduce one’s own life. Since they do not have enough money to cover their basic life needs, such as health care or schooling, they were forced into debt” (Negri). Thus we are faced with the reality of neoliberalism and the market economy, which, besides establishing elite structures, gradually destroys everything gained through struggle in the last 150 years (workers’ rights, social rights, rights to education, etc.) and returns the lower class to the position it had at the time of industrialisation.
The third phase is the manipulation of society taking place through the media and carried out on the basis of the affirmative policy of system solving with room only for pessimistic scenarios with regard to the incapability of civilisation to exist outside of neoliberal values. Thus, it is presumably absurd to seek alternatives; instead, the ideology of capital should be blindly followed. This is where we can talk about planned manipulation, for the strategy of passivisation misused by capital to produce collective passivity is used by the system to establish collective paranoia and induce fear of the collapse of neoliberalism. Instead of reactivating the social sense and social affiliation, the system pursues the further classification of society, deliberately introducing racism, discrimination, and xenophobia within it. What is more, the media, assisted by economic experts and analysts, introduced to the crisis story a dramatic scenario of the potential collapse of the system, which enabled the system to substantiate remedying the financial crisis by means of taxpayers’ money by saying that if the crisis is not remedied, if the state does not come to the rescue, if taxpayers’ money is not used for the bailout, the entire system will collapse. Of course, what the media forgot to mention in the process was that taxpayers’ money was used to save a system whose only goal is to maintain class classification.
Neoliberalism thus modernises its capitalist matrix adding to it the social moment, which is first completely voided and then placed at the service of capital. Therefore the ideology of neoliberalism not only replaced the ideology of Socialism but wrapped it like a degenerated concept in a new image now propagated as a neoliberalistic invention.
In the fourth phase we can trace the parallel nature of the events which brought about the crisis, the resulting speculations and profits, and the forecasts that a global recession will affect the real economy and significantly influence our lives. However, regardless of the crisis, we must not forget that the advance and the dictate of capital as well as the colonisation it performs are relentlessly continued and implemented. If we take Prishtina as an example and analyse the events that happened upon the declaration of the independence of Kosovo, we may legitimately ask ourselves what were and are the interests of capital in the recognition of Kosovo. At the moment, Kosovo demonstrates the form of colonisation typical of the neoliberal expansive logic of capital, the contemporary colonisation strategy whose parallels are implemented in different parts of the world (the second and third worlds) and to which different geopolitical plans and strategies (from biopolitics to necropolitics) are applied, thus conditioning all other segments of social dependency through capital dependency. This goes on simultaneously at three levels: Firstly, it is established through the mediation of Western capitalist values conveyed by the system through visual messages based on the use of white, Christian, and heterosexual Western values (Gržinić). Secondly, the system introduces the strategy of subjugation implemented through capital control, which means that capital investments, equities, and privatisation are the means of controlling the entire capital and consequentially the social structure in a given country or geographical area. The third and most important link in establishing capital and social dependency is the global design that serves as a matrix for the neoliberalist expansive logic. The means for the implementation of the global design is globalisation, which capital invented as a new civilisation design in order to rule the world (Mignolo).
At this moment we are on the brink of a transformation to the new era of neoliberalism, which upgrades the current market ideology policy with the Socialist logic of operation, which is, however, not socially but exclusively elite- and class-oriented. The times demand that we start a new class struggle which will not seek differences (racial, gender, religious, etc.) within itself, but one that will rather be able to localise the hegemonic structure of oppression by the capitalist class responsible for increasing class discrimination and social poverty.
Anibal Quijano, “America and the New Model of Global Power,” see http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:pnBnN65NYxYJ:socrates.berkeley.edu/ ~tochtli/AnibalQuijano.doc+Anibal+Quijano&hl=sl&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=si
Achille Mbembe, “Whiteness without Apartheid: The limits of racial freedom,” see http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy_power/africa_democracy/south_apartheid
Antonio Negri, see http://www.la7.it/approfondimento/dettaglio.asp?prop=infedele&video=17469
Walter D. Mignolo, “Globalization, Mundialization: Civilizing Processes and the Relocation of Languages and Knowledges”,
in Local Histories/Global Designs Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking Princeton University Press, New Jersey 2000, p. 279.
Sebastjan Leban is an artist and a theoretician. He is a postgraduate student at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana.
Translated from Slovenian by Polona Glavan.
A billboard's advertising by IPKO mediates western capitalist values; photo: Sebastjan Leban and Staš Kleindienst, Contemporary Structures of Colonization, Prishtina, Kosovo, 24.9.2008, work in progress (detail)