I did my Master in Public Policy in the US at those time and was a grim and sad moment with almost no debate

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There was far more lively public debate on this and similar topics on Chinese national TV.

One, watched by millions, pitted an Oxford neocon economics professor against Justin Lin Yifu.

The Oxford guy led off by calling China's current system 'warmed-over Stalinism'. It was lively.

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On neoliberalism, the maxim is always valid: except in a revolution, the dominant ideology is always the ideology of the dominant class. That's because the ideology of the dominant class is always the idealized form of the mode of production in which they are dominant; their domination in its perfect form.

From 1945 to 1975, Keynesianism was the ideology of the dominant class because that's what perfectly idealized the objective material condition of the capitalist mode of production of that time. After the stagflation meltdown, Keynesianism was discarded like an used condom and neoliberalism - an ideology of three decades of age then - took its place.

After 2008, neoliberalism was discarded like Keynesianism before it. That capitalism itself started to collapse after 2008, in a way that there is a vacuum in the ideological field, only proves the materiality of ideology: a system in flux doesn't have a consensus ideology because there is no consensus in the dominant class itself.

When a system is hegemonic, ideology gains the appearance of science or nature. That's because human beings never exist outside the social: it transforms nature and, dialectically, transforms itself. The claim humans only existed in a natural state during hunter-gatherism (primitive communism) is, itself, an ideology.

The closer a class is to the dominant class (up to the singularity of the dominant class itself, who produces its own ideology), the more natural and consensual is the acceptance of the ideology of the dominant class, because its social status and its material well-being are higher. The more a human being benefits materially from any given social order, the higher its consensus; inversely, the lower the material benefit, the lower the consensus. The lower the consensus, the more brute force a social order has to apply in order to conserve itself. Force and consensus are inversely proportional (Gramsci). That's why nobody at the World Bank, IMF, Fed, etc. etc. thought they were being "guided" by neoliberalism: they were being handsomely rewarded for their consensus, since they were born; put simply, they were born and raised to manage the system.

In capitalism, force and consensus are particularly observable because the capitalist class -- the dominant class of capitalism -- is different from all the other dominant classes in History in the sense that its dominance comes not from direct control of brute force (military; warrior class), but from the ownership of the means of production. That means the capitalist class has to hire everything it needs in order to keep itself -- and that includes ideology. The class responsible for the production of the dominant class' ideology in capitalism is not the capitalist class, but the middle class, or, if we take Hayek seriously, a very specific faction of the middle class called the "intellectuals".

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Regarding Croatia, do you root for them in the World Cup, as long as they are not playing against Serbia?

I love Dubrovnik but I remember all of the right-wing political symbolism there 10-12 years ago…

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"(I started working very young)" According to Wikipedia you were 22.

And I have to say your earnest white liberalism is winning out over seriousness

But don't take it from me

---Black Lives Matter sentiment is essentially a militant expression of racial liberalism. Such expressions are not a threat but rather a bulwark to the neoliberal project that has obliterated the social wage, gutted public sector employment and worker pensions, undermined collective bargaining and union power, and rolled out an expansive carceral apparatus, all developments that have adversely affected black workers and communities. Sure, some activists are calling for defunding police departments and de-carceration, but as a popular slogan, Black Lives Matter is a cry for full recognition within the established terms of liberal democratic capitalism. And the ruling class agrees.---


Neoliberalism is still strong. and so is communist nostalgia.

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Brillant article, and very wise.

Would you authorize us to republish it in French (with due credit to your substack platform) in Contreligne (www.contreligne.eu).


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You give the misleading impression that Summers simply thought African lives were intrinsically worth less. His argument IIRC was that the other circumstances of Africa made the marginal loss from pollution lower. (If your basic needs are barely being met then you don’t care much about an increment of pollution.) I’m not sure the argument makes sense, but it deserves a fair rendering.

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"...Moreover, BLM movement, by bringing into the focus the entire colonial history and Black oppression, has directed our attention to the things which were thought long gone and “solved”..." This is identical to your other delusions, specifically about the flag in Dubrovnik. You are looking at BLM from Europe. This is more fantasy. Yes, you are certainly making a nice story, and to the extent it does force us to focus on those things you mention it would be good. Sure. All in all, you have developed an extremely charitable fantasy of a "movement" that I believe started as a creative twitter post. Well, if you can make a living as an economist --- I am so happy for YOU

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If anyone cares to look, there is a pure & perfect form of ideology brewing in Australia. It's called "Voice" (to Parliament) and is intended, through amendment to Constitution, to give the legal apparatus whereby Indigenous people can have their concerns directly heard by Government. In my mind it's nothing but smoke, its power throttled at two extremes right now, and further debilitated by limitations in its practice (if passed into law).

My latter claim rests on the traditional nature of indigenous society. There are said to be between 150 and 250 distinct language groups, each separate from the others. If the model of democracy is applied to Voice (as it must be in order to have any weight before Parliament) then one may expect that each and every one of those clans (language groups) will have the proceedings of Voice (let alone the wording of the Referendum to establish Voice) presented in each language in ways that can be verified as to the faithfulness of the translations from English. Then, to satisfy the demands of democratic elections, some measure of suffrage will have to be seen to be applicable.

The immediate failures of the embryonic ideology are easily seen. Firstly, none of the prominent proponents of Voice, themselves highly educated (in English) and well paid in their positions, will suffer a single dollar loss from their assets should the Referendum fail to pass. Secondly, although it has been hinted that the social unrest & obvious distress and disadvantage of remote towns and communities will find redress in the actions of Voice, this thought is like the waving of a wand - the remedies for the violence and abuse are already in the hands of the affected people themselves.

It's a curious fact that some (all?) of the indigenous groups have a "Welcome to our land" ceremony that includes walking through smoke. Their hopes for Voice will prove as ephemeral as that smoke, and nowhere near as powerful as a well-thought ideology.

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These economists have blood on their hands. No need to treat them with kid gloves.

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I gave it a thought - I like simplicity. I may of course be wrong, but taking neoliberalism and it's acceptance outside the West - isn't it simply the case of decline in relative power of the West? I.e., everyone accepted this as ideology simply because it was pushed by the big boys from Washington, for whatever reason. Since the boys don't appear to be that big and bad anymore, or at least one can find another big bad boy, the need to adhere to whatever creed is pushed from the center has disappeared.

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I too began working early. My first paid job was at 17, and I immediately encountered - and recognized - the ideological soup I was immersed in.

The job was washing dishes in the cafeteria of a state university residence hall, during the summer session. But before starting work, I had to do a bunch of paper work at HR. Usual stuff - a W4 for tax withholding, provide a Soc. Sec. no. (newly obtained) so my earnings would be credited to my lifetime account, etc.

But then: - And sign this loyalty oath, stating that you are not now and never have been a member of the communist party. (The wording was longer and more convoluted, but this was what it was about.) I was a politically alert high schooler, and reacted against this oppressive demand. I asked the HR guy, "what if I don't sign?" Answer: "You don't get the job." I scowled, and signed. I needed the earnings.

I was aware that the university faculty had been subjected to this loyalty oath, dating from the McCarthy era. I hadn't been aware that the requirement applied to every university employee, however far down the scale.

The requirement was removed a few years later, in response to a lawsuit by the university faculty. But I never forgot the outrageousness of it. The ideological climate of the time was absolutely not all quiet, with nobody questioning anything.

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Thanks for this thought provoking piece. I'm afraid I too have experienced "living in own ideology" where our ideology "was light and invisible for many; we never felt its weight". And now I cringe at that thought!

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An interesting follow up post: how were critics of this system, who did exist at the time, treated? Coincident with uncritical belief for insiders was ridicule of critics on the outside. They were the tin foil hat brigade, the anti scientific conspiracy theorists, the luddite ant free trade maniacs. And they still are. Now, when enlightenment has spread its clarifying light we see those critics for what they were; right for the wrong reasons! Moral? Better to be wrong for the right reasons than gifted with seeing the nude emperor.

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Smart as usual IMO, ideology has a life of its own it's not a "superstructure". Yet you leave these "neoliberals" Avant la lettre of the hook, another case is Jeffrey Sacks now a secular saint. My take is that they were paid very well to think that way whether they were aware of it or not or whatever rationalization they had. A VP of the world bank, a childhood friend (we never agreed on politics) that there was a substantial "renewal of personnel around 1980. These class institutional explanations make a lot of sense to me, more than individualized evolutions in economic thinking.

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"A couple of times that Summer, I went, in the warm and sweet lavender-filled evenings, to watch plays performed at breathtaking spots in the fort overlooking the harbour."

I wish I were there. I almost see and feel it ...

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