Depoliticization Is a Deadly Weapon of Neoliberal Fascism

Andrew Harnik / AP

Neoliberalism produces a notion of individualism and anti-intellectualism that harbors a violent disdain for community

Truthout - October 15, 2019

"People perceive the world around them, the world they encounter, as a combat zone to be viewed at best with indifference but more often with hostility — a world in which their own position was always precarious anyway — they see the vital, the foreign, the strange that confront them as a danger and a threat. Indeed, their own very real experience has led them to associate change above all with decadence and decline."

Increasingly, Americans live in an era in which every aspect of society displays symptoms of political, economic and ethical impoverishment. This condition extends from the workplace and education to the legal system and the larger culture. It is evident in the way our society has increasingly become dominated by the language of extreme nationalism, racism, nativism and grotesque levels of inequality. And it is evident in the depoliticizing conditions of our social order that strip individuals of critical thought, self-determination and reflective agency.

In the current era, politics is no longer about the language of public interest, but about how to survive in a world without social provisions, support, community and a faith in collective struggle. This is a language that operates in the service of violence, and marks, to quote author Bill Dixon, “a terrifying new horizon for human political experience.” This is a language that is horrifying for producing without apology what the end of politics, if not humanity itself, might look like. Under such circumstances, democracy is not merely under siege, but is close to being erased.

Examples of such violence abound in the United States under the presidency of Donald Trump, who has promised to cut in his budget over a trillion dollars in support of Medicare and Medicaid. He has also, relentlessly attacked the Affordable Care Act resulting in nearly 2,000,000 more people being uninsured and a proposed $4.5 billion cut from federal spending on food stamps over five years. Moreover, the Trump administration continues to endanger the planet by rolling back clean water protections created to regulate the use of polluting chemicals near bodies of water.

Other examples include the White House asking the Supreme Court to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, which provides immigration protections for over 700,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children. There is also a recent Supreme Court ruling allowing the United States to deny asylum to people who pass through another country on their way to the U.S. — a decision that turns away most Central American migrants who arrive at the southern border.

In this unapologetic authoritarian regime, the language of violence, cruelty and hatred has reached new levels. For instance the New York Times reported that Trump suggested shooting immigrants in the legs in order to prevent them from crossing the Southern border.

It gets worse. Trump also ordered the ending of the “medical deferred action” program which allows immigrants who are seriously ill to extend their stay in the U.S. by two years in order to receive much-needed medical treatment. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey captured the cruelty of such a policy in his statement that the Trump administration is now “literally deporting kids with cancer” and that this policy would “terrorize sick kids who are literally fighting for their lives.” The administration walked its position back after fierce criticism, but the underlying intent is unmistakable.

Trump and his allies appear to delight in asserting power through acts of cruelty that threaten, disrupt, and condemn entire populations to a politics of disposability and spheres of terminal exclusion. Among the many instances of this type of cruelty is Trump’s deportation of 200,000 Salvadorian immigrants as part of his policy of ending the humanitarian program known as the Temporary Protected Status policy.

Effects of the Predatory Culture of Neoliberalism

There is more at work here than a fascist politics of disappearance. There is also an attack on modes of critical agency and on the educational and cultural institutions that create the conditions where citizens can be informed in order to make democracy possible. Under these pressures, people become susceptible to modes of agency that embrace shared fears, the loss of autonomy and rancid hatreds rather than collective values and obligations.

Market fundamentalism has turned the principles of democracy against itself, twisting the language of autonomy, solidarity, freedom and justice that make economic and social equality a viable idea and political goal. Neoliberalism produces a notion of individualism and anti-intellectualism that harbors a violent disdain for community and, in doing so, reinforces the notion that all social bonds and their respective ethos of social responsibility are untrustworthy. Unchecked notions of self-interest and a regressive withdrawal from a substantive oppositional politics now replace notions of the common good and engaged citizenship, just as “existing political institutions have long since ceased to represent anyone but the wealthy.” Under the reign of a market fundamentalism, social atomization becomes comparable to the death of an inclusive and just democracy. ...
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