Neoliberalism and OWS

by John Holbo on October 22, 2011

This comment by Yglesias is on target: “the TNR staff editorial on the subject [of OWS] feels distinctly like an op-ed penned eleven years ago about anti-globalization protestors, put on ice, and then re-animated with a hasty rewrite that fails to consider the actual political and economic circumstances.”

The staff editorial itself is not so important. What’s important is that, once upon a time, there were debates about trade ‘liberalization’ – globalization – that used to divide neoliberals and liberals and progressives. Basically, the neoliberals were gung-ho for trade on the grounds that the alternative was protectionism that amounted to shooting your own foot, and didn’t do any good for the poor in the Third World. And the progressives saw jobs being outsourced, labor unions weakening. Liberals were those caught in the squishy middle, per usual. We’ve had some debates on Crooked Timber of late about what ‘neoliberalism’ means. I’ve not participated because, honestly, term’s more trouble than it’s worth, worrying what it means. (I have other terms that are more trouble than they’re worth to worry about that I worry about. As a philosopher, I need to limit the number of such that infest my mental life.) The thing is: in the current situation, there is not – and should not be – anything analogous to the neoliberal side of the trade debate. No one sane thinks that this whole 99/1 business might be like NAFTA, i.e. something we have to go for, in an end-justifies-the-means spirit. [click to continue…]