Is “Neo-Liberalism” a meaningful word?

Is “Neo-Liberalism” a meaningful word? A Guardian long read heads an article “Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world”. speaks of the “reigning ideology of our era – one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human.”

Stephen Metcalf, the author of the Guardian article points to the International Monetary Fund putting a question with the question “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” which could just turn out to be the understatement of the century/millennium/history. Starting as it does with an offhand reference to Milton Friedman in 1982 pointing to Chile as “an economic miracle”. The “Shock Doctrine” describes a range of events following the use of the term “shock and awe” in Chile to overthrow its president Allende, and later in Iraq to show the ideas were no where near being confined to an economic theory portrayed as benign and beneficial globally. In practice it continues to pull the world apart as the IMF itself is belatedly recognising.

Another Guardian article by George Monbiot puts “Neoliberalism” as the “root of all our problems”. Unlike “Capitalism” or “Socialism”, “Neoliberalism” signifies nothing except by its critics who have seen its true nature within “globalisation” and now “Brexit” seen here as in broader terms then characterised by the right apologists for globalisation.

“Neoliberalism” seems to encompassed a wide range of adherents. Its high priest, Milton Friedman, had widespread influence with Reagan and Thatcher heading the adulation, but followed by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair and adherents among Democrat and Labour supporters under New Labour. The Single Market of the EU has followed the tradition, and we find the Guardian and Liberal Democrats among the supporters of a rear guard movement do a second referendum to show that those who voted for Brexit had changed their minds or were misled by the likes of UKIP, Boris Johnson et al. The elite leaders of Europe like this idea to discredit the intelligence of those who supported Brexit because they understood the consequences of free markets and globalisation with its rising inequality under “austerity” (itself a version of “shock and awe” tactics.)

The leader of the Socialist Labour Party, Arthur Scargill, has been consistent in his condemnation of of the free market at the heart of the European Union. He, along with Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn campaigned for decades against it and dismayed to see large sections of the Labour movement give continuing support in the EU referendum.

Arthur Scargill speaking at the Shaheed Udham Singh Centre, Handsworth, Birmingham, prior to the 2017 General Election.

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