Edited with an introduction by Jeffrey R. Di Leo and Uppinder Mehan

Capital at the Brink: Overcoming the Destructive Legacies of Neoliberalism

    Introduction: The Wrath of Capital

    Since the 1970s, the US has seen a dramatic transformation of its economic and cultural landscape: the wage inequality gap between the middle class and the upper class has dramatically widened; at least two attempts have been made to privatize public schooling, the voucher system in the 1980s, and the Charter School movement in the 2000s; manufacturing jobs have fled the country; service jobs have been outsourced; membership in labor unions has declined from 34% to 8%; women’s rights and the ERA are increasingly under attack; and labor by illegal immigrants has steadily risen while attempts to naturalize them have faltered. During the same period, corporations and private business interests have made substantial gains both monetarily and politically. Over the last thirty years the cultural and economic gains solidified by the middle class in the 1950s and 60s, largely through the development of the New Deal consensus reached in the 1930s, have slowly dissipated.

    None of this happened by accident or came to be as the working out of a natural process. Legislators moved by the demands, pressure, and financial gain offered by business enacted a series of decisions designed not only to make it easier for corporations to move capital and labor around the world as needed, but also for financial companies to socialize risk and privatize profit as well as offer the commons for sale. Ronald Reagan may have cut the top income tax rate from 70% to 28%, and broke the Air Traffic Controllers strike and the union; Bill Clinton may have signed NAFTA into law, ended welfare as we know it, and repealed the Glass-Steagall Act also known as the Banking Act of 1933 that restricted banks from engaging in securities activities, but all politicians have felt the pressure of the Powell memo of 1971.

    While the Washington Consensus and its blatantly neoliberal economic policies did not appear until the late 1980s, it was in the early 1970s that neoliberal capital’s social and cultural work got under way. Two months before his nomination to the US Supreme court by Nixon, Lewis F. Powell drafted a memo for the Director of the US Chamber of Commerce in which he famously stated that the business community needed to engage in “careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.” [1] The American economic system was under attack and Powell wanted to urge the usually mild-mannered businessman to fight back. For too long, Powell argued, the forces of socialism and statism had been gaining ground in the US and the Chamber of Commerce had to act before it was too late. In addition to the usual Communist groups and sympathizers who were behind these forces, Powell identified “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and politicians.” [2]

    The many enemies of the American economic system, as Powell understands it, have been working for a number of decades in molding public opinion and business should do likewise. While Powell’s prescriptions for taking on the media have been commented upon quite frequently, few have remarked on how he also provided a blueprint for much conservative action with regard to higher education. Social science faculties across the country hold inimical attitudes to business according to Powell, and he singles out Herbert Marcuse as a “Marxist faculty member [then] at the University of California at San Diego” as an example of the powerful writers and magnetic personalities that turn the best and brightest young minds against free enterprise. He sees such faculty members as having an influence that far exceeds their numbers and urges the Chamber to pursue measures designed to restore the qualities of “openness” “fairness” and “balance” to academic freedom (quotation marks in the original suggest that Powell would not be surprised by the ironic use of those same words by Fox News). The Chamber of Commerce can get started by having a staff of senior business executives to “articulate the product of the scholars.” The scholars would produce not only speeches and policy papers but also evaluate social science textbooks in terms of restoring the “balance” that the civil rights movement and labor unions have biased. The Chamber should insist on equal time on campus with the “avowed Communists” and “leftists and ultra liberals” who regularly speak at various events. Boards of trustees and alumni should be made to understand that the left-leaning faculties at American campuses need to be balanced, and perhaps most obviously graduate schools of business should be encouraged to train executives correctly. [3]

    Increasingly so over the last decade, left-leaning commentators, politicians, and academics have looked for reasons behind the success conservatives have enjoyed in pushing their agenda. They have been surprised over and again by the willingness of voters to endorse policies that are clearly against their best economic and social interests. Many politicians and commentators such as Kevin Drum, who often writes for the “leftist” magazine Mother Jones, point to the concerted efforts of rightwing and conservative think tanks as outlined by Powell to promote a pro-business agenda as the norm. [4] Scholars such the cognitive linguist George Lakoff, turn to the use of metaphorical language used by the two major US political parties. The Republicans, and conservatives in general, use language that reflects the image of the strict father; whereas, the Democrats, and liberals in general, use imagery associated with the nurturant father. [5]

    While both Drum and Lakoff are correct, they miss the most powerful appeal used by the supporters and promoters of neoliberal ideology: individualism. Neoliberalism describes the conditions of labor in language deeply connected with the myth of the American individual who stands tall and fights alone against all manner of injustice. Positive words such as responsibility, efficiency, flexibility, autonomy, and responsibility are used to describe labor and the market. As an aside, the “market” itself has taken on almost reverential tones—it is a force beyond the limited understanding of those of us who do not operate in the world of high finance, and it can do no wrong. The notion of a “flexible” workforce, one where it is much easier to hire and fire someone, is conflated with the notion of a flexible person. Who, after all, would want to be seen as being rigid? At the same time, one cannot be too flexible for “responsibility” is a prized moral attribute. Responsibility also easily turns to blame with the individual bearing more and more of it. “Autonomy” is easily a code word for anti-collective and anti-union preferences, and “efficiency” is a measure of how more labor can be extracted from fewer workers. Individualism, though, is different from individualization, which means in neoliberal practice that “the individualized subject is held responsible for the unintended consequences of their chosen action…. Nobody else is to blame. There is no safe haven.” [6] The neoliberal appropriation of the rhetoric of the individual combines with preferences for privatization, free trade, unrestricted flow of capital, and austerity measures for middle and lower classes to produce an understanding of the self as an entrepreneur.

    From Serf to Entrepreneur

    The term neoliberalism is one of the stars that make up the constellation of terms central to contemporary discourse. Neoliberalism joins globalization, hegemony, cosmopolitanism and imperialism as a renewed focus of inquiry in post 9-11 debates about the shape of the world. As is the case with its partner terms, neoliberalism too has become a varied and variable term. It might prove beneficial to sort out two major senses of the word: ideological and economic. The economic sense of neo-liberalism is simple enough and refers to the “shift from fixed to floating exchange rates, the elimination of capital controls, and the liberalization of trade and investment rules.” [7] The ideological sense of neo-liberalism and its social and cultural work threatens to dissipate the term into everything and nothing.

    Neoliberalism has a varied history depending on its variant as well as its historian. For some, neoliberalism begins with the work of Adam Smith and the classical political economists such as David Ricardo and James Steuart. For others (Foucault and Stuart Hall for example), neoliberalism proper starts in the 1970s or 80s. [8] An important early link between the economic and the cultural is the nexus of free trade and peace. Nineteenth-century economists explicitly argued that the development of free trade could lead to the replacement of mercantilist relations that depended on war by capitalist relations of commerce that depended on peace. The same argument in favor of free trade has been consistently voiced with each episode of globalization and neoliberalism. [9]

    At the heart of capitalism is the Marxian “free seller of labor-power.” As Marx points out, since the laborer “could only dispose of his own person after he had ceased to be attached to the soil and ceased to be the slave, serf, or bondman of another” there is a kernel of truth to the neoliberal utopian fantasy of the individual free entrepreneur engaged in entering contractual relationships most beneficial to himself or herself. But Marx goes on to say that “these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production.” [10]

    Marx begins his definition of a commodity as an “object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another,” [11] and soon includes labor power as a commodity. The centrality of the commodification of labor to Marx’s analysis is underscored by his claim that “the capitalist epoch is … characterized by this, that labour-power takes in the eyes of the labourer himself the form of a commodity which is his property; his labour consequently becomes wage labour.” [12] It is but a short step from seeing one’s labor power as a commodity to seeing oneself as a commodity, which is how the entrepreneur may be understood who sells his or her intellectual power. Neoliberal thought would extend this even further and say that the individual entrepreneur sells not a particular skill but responds to the needs of the market and fashions himself or herself accordingly. Going back to homo economicus, the entrepreneur according to Foucault under neoliberalism is “for himself his own capital, being for himself his own producer, being for himself the source of [his or her] earnings.” [13]

    For the promoter of neoliberal ideals the entrepreneur—the new homo economicus—always has his or her own means of production: intellectual power and thus intellectual property. An entrepreneur can be defined as “someone who specializes in taking judgmental decisions about the coordination of scarce resources.” [14] The entrepreneur depends on privileged access to information in order to secure an advantage in a financial transaction. Few people are exempt from the seduction of seeing themselves as intelligent, savvy, individuals ready to become high-rolling wheelers and dealers if only government would get out of the way.

    From Community to the Individual Consumer

    The neoliberal notion of democracy prefers consumers over citizens, shopping malls over communities. [15] Capitalism, in general and neoliberalism in particular, prefers the public to be spectators rather than engaged citizens. In a 1996 essay “Consent without Consent,” Noam Chomsky concisely traces the history of the desire and attempts to keep the public disengaged in the US from the founding fathers to contemporary times. Over the centuries, two tools have been used to keep the public at bay: trade treaties that favor the already wealthy and corporations, and propaganda by the wealthy and corporations (by the mid 1990s over $1 trillion was being spent annually on marketing, one-sixth of the GDP). [16]

    David Harvey’s analysis reveals that a major component of the propaganda undertaken by the wealthy pits individuals against regressive and oppressive government.

    By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices. Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism.” [17]

    Harvey’s larger thesis is that a focus on the individual is counter-productive to effective social cohesion and mobilization; neoliberalism is at its best when it promotes an emphasis on individual freedom which comes at the price of class and group interests. New York City in the 1970s and 1980s is a good case in point. In an ideal neoliberal labor market,

    the individualized and relatively powerless worker … confronts a labour market in which only short-term contracts are offered on a customized basis. Security of tenure becomes a thing of the past … A ‘personal responsibility system’ … is substituted for social protections (pensions, health care, protections against injury) that were formerly an obligation of employers and the state. Individuals buy products in the markets that sell social protections instead. Individual security is therefore a matter of individual choice tied to the affordability of financial products embedded in risky financial markets. [18]

    The Market is All

    The contemporary deification of the market would have surprised the patron saint of neoliberalist thought, Adam Smith, whose warnings about the dire consequences of the completely unfettered market are conveniently ignored. The cultural effects of such an attitude is readily visible in the dictum that the government is the problem and privatization is the answer. No formerly public sphere is considered out of bounds for corporatization including healthcare and education. It is surely not coincidental that the rise of for-profit schools has come at the expense of reduced funding for community colleges and public universities. A recent social and political furor over the provision of insurer-paid contraception in the US serves to underscore the transformation of neoliberalism from its roots as primarily an economic philosophy to the major worldview that it has become today.

    In late February, 2012 conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh called a woman a “slut” for testifying on behalf of a new law that will provide insurer-paid contraception to women. Limbaugh has made any number of misogynistic comments before, but three factors make this incident especially noteworthy: one, he continued his personal attacks on Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University Law Center law student over the next few days; two, Limbaugh has increasingly come to be seen as an influential broker in the Republican party; and three, a leading Republican contender for the Republican nomination for the Presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, attacked contraception a few months earlier as a practice that leads to “unnatural” acts.

    Santorum had given an interview to CaffeinatedThoughts.com on October 19, 2010 during which he held forth on the dangers of contraception:

    One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about is, I think, the dangers of contraceptives in this country. The whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Contraception’s okay.” It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.

    And, a few days before his attack on Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh had endorsed Santorum’s position calling it exactly right.

    A brief timeline might help to contextualize the controversy that played itself out over social media and the news networks. On January 20, 2012 the Obama administration announced that under the Affordable Healthcare Act a new provision would come into effect in August of 2012 providing women free contraceptives. Religious-affiliated employers such as hospitals, schools, and charities would have an additional year to work out the logistics; churches and other houses of worship would be exempt from the requirement. Republican politicians, conservative commentators, and some Catholic religious leaders decried the measure as an attack on religious freedom. The Obama administration responded with a compromise on February 10, 2012:

    Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services—no matter where they work. So that core principle remains. But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company—not the hospital, not the charity—will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles. [19]

    A few days later, February 16, 2012, Representative Darell Issa (R-CA) organized a House Oversight panel on the new contraception rule that excluded women. The Democrat committee members who had fought for women to be included on the panel and were denied by Issa held another committee hearing the following week to which women were invited, including Sandra Fluke, the student whom Issa had prevented from speaking. It is with the testimony of Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke that Rush Limbaugh re-enters the fray.

    Were we to leave the contraception “debate” at this point it would serve as another instance of the resurgent culture wars that the incidents of 9-11 were supposed to have moved us beyond, yet one more episode of the increasingly polarized discourse of US politics. Limbaugh, however, extended his attack and connected morality to economic ideas that have come to be seen as key components of neoliberal thought.

    Rush Limbaugh went on to make a proposition to Sandra Fluke. He told her that since she was receiving taxpayer money in the form of subsidized contraception that allows her to engage in sexual activity without the risk of pregnancy, then she should offer the customer, the taxpayer, something in return: she should record her sexual activity and make it publicly available by posting it online. Limbaugh displayed his economic logic on a radio broadcast on March 1, 2012: “So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” [20]

    However, recasting an issue central to women’s health as a question of entrepreneurial activity, a key idea in neoliberal thought, inadvertently reveals a fault line in the cultural work of neoliberalism. Aside from making his sympathetic listeners into voyeuristic purchasers of a prostitute’s services (the taxpayer pays Fluke to have sex and receives in turn from Fluke the video), Limbaugh also forces them to shift from offering moral condemnation to being complicit in the triangle of sexual activity. Neoliberal thought has the capacity to reduce all cultural activity to a matter of financial relations.

    Critical Economics

    The tide of neoliberal thought seems to have swept away all in its way or, to change metaphors in the case of the US, neoliberalism has defined the agenda of American politics. The center has moved substantially to the right, so much so that the Democrats find themselves more in line with the policy positions of Republicans from two decades earlier. A case in point is the Affordable Healthcare Act; the measure is so vilified by the Republicans that they have tried to repeal it over thirty times in the past year. Ironically, the central idea and many of the provisions of the act was first proposed by a Republican think-tank and was supported by major Republican politicians. It is telling that under the AHA patients are still cast in the role of consumers who will freely choose an insurance provider from among others in an exchange.

    Not all is bleak though. The austerity measures that have been enacted by neoliberals in several European countries recently, and promoted in the US, have shown to be a failure. Riots in Greece and Italy, continuing high unemployment in Portugal and Spain, and lackluster economic growth in Ireland and England have raised serious doubts about the neoliberal narrative of less social spending, fewer government regulations, and greater labor and financial flexibility as the royal road to economic prosperity. It may be the case that neoliberal policies are driving us toward the narrowing of opportunity and concentration of power that Acemoglu and Robinson offer in their analysis Why Nations Fail (2012). Nations that fail tend to make it easier for elites to extract wealth from a country; nations that are inclusive in their political institutions, and that open economic and governing opportunities to as many as possible succeed. According to them:

    Countries such as Great Britain and the United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society where political rights were much more broadly distributed, where the government was accountable and responsive to citizens, and where the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities. [21]

    It may be that Acemoglu and Robinson overstate the importance of political institutions over economic policies but there are emergent signs, however, of new ways of thinking about economics and government.

    A number of groups have recently started producing work centered around the concept of New Economics. The New Economics Institute, On the Commons, the US solidarity Economy Network, and the Capital Institute, among others, have begun to research and promote policies that “create a fair economy, a clean environment and a strong democracy.” [22] A number of grassroots organizations are looking to start discussions that bring together climate, sustainability, and labor issues. Some groups have recommended that measures other than the GDP or the health of the stock market be used in pursuit of policy planning, i.e., metrics other than those that measure the flow of capital.

    Alternative measurements have long been used by the UN, which includes gross national income per capita as only one of four indicators in its Human Development Index (life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, and expected years of schooling are the other three). A group centered around the work of economist and philosopher Amartya Sen (also one of the developers of the Human Development Index) has focused on a conception of the standard of living as the freedom to achieve well-being in terms of people’s capabilities. According to the capability approach, not only are opportunities important but so are the conditions that make the opportunities realizable. Although Sen himself has shied away from providing a list of capabilities, preferring to leave it to particular communities at particular times, others have elaborated capability based on participation, freedom from domination, and justice.

    The combination of failed austerity measures, an understanding of the importance of inclusive political and economic institutions, and the research and advocacy of alternate ways of understanding and measuring success may be of some aid at the brink.

    Overcoming the Wrath of Neoliberalism

    “Neo-liberal discourse is not like others,” warns the French sociologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu. “Like psychiatric discourse in the asylum, as described by Erving Goffman,” comments Bourdieu, “it is a ‘strong discourse’ which is so strong and so hard to fight because it has behind it all the powers of a world of power relations which it helps to make as it is, in particular by orienting the economic choices of those who dominate economic relations and so adding its own specifically symbolic-force to those power relations.” [23] The essays in the first section of this book, “Race, Violence, and Politics,” demonstrate Bourdieu’s point well but also reveal some of the ways in which neoliberalism intersects with racism, devastation of the environment, and police violence.

    In “Neoliberalism and Violent Appearances,” Paul A. Passavant argues that under neoliberalism “disciplinary power has become weaker, and that control technologies functioning through communication systems are displacing patterns of order premised on disciplinary power.” Under the conditions of what he terms “communicative capitalism,” “an experience of infinite communicative possibilities and the communicative equivalence of all opinion indicate the loss of modernity’s meta-narrative of gradual progress realizing norms of human dignity and democracy.” Within these conditions, the “First Amendment jurisprudence has become reshaped in a neoliberal form that allows a demonstration to be zoned to a location far from (or invisible to) what one seeks to protest.” Similarly, “repeated acts of police using excessive violence against demonstrators in news reports or captured on YouTube videos do not compel normative outrage or changes in police practices the way they did in the 1960s.” As such, communication of police violence within neoliberal society and culture does not inspire a strong sense of public outrage.

    “The Turn to Punishment: Racism, Domination, and the Neoliberal Era” by Noah De Lissovoy is an inquiry into the “meaning and logic of the turn to punishment within the context of neoliberalism, and the hardening that this turn marks in the cultures of law enforcement, education, and public discourse.” De Lissovoy maintains that the “prevailing political-economic and biopolitical accounts” of this conjuncture “should be enlarged to include a phenomenology of domination itself and its complex dialectics of subjection and resistance.” Drawing from the historical Black radical tradition, De Lissovoy argues that “in order to adequately make sense of the turn to punishment, and neoliberalism more broadly, we need to foreground the fact and logic of racism.” For him, the legacy of racism is “the secret determinant of the carceral turn in neoliberal culture.” Consequently, for De Lissovoy, neoliberal society’s carceral turn is “a specific and exceptional conjuncture within” the “broader history and logic of domination.”

    In “Neoliberalism, Environmentality and the Specter of Sajinda Khan,” Robert P. Marzec explores some of the connections between neoliberalism and environmentalism—two areas that have developed relatively autonomously over the past fifty years. According to Marzac, “although many environmentalists have made the connection between neoliberal economic policies and the destruction of specific environments,” neoliberals “have proceeded apace without concerning themselves too much with ecological concerns.” However, the advent of scientific evidence of global warming may mark “the coming of the end of neoliberalism, a decisively different change in its essential character.” For Marzec, this “change can be defined as a new idea of ecological necessity or eco-empiricism, one that has begun to draw attention away from economic production and development towards matters of national security.” This eco-empiricism, argues Marzec, should “be understood as a new type of ontological machine, one energized by state, military, and scientific authorities buttressing their activities on the futural event of environmental catastrophe.” In turn, this “environmentality” “is the force now confronting the neoliberal State, and it is beginning to transform this reigning state formation into a new, more complex political apparatus”—one Marzec terms “the Accidental State.”

    Jennifer Wingard’s “Rhetorical Assemblages: Scales of Neoliberal Ideology” reveals and aims to disrupt the “othering” power of neoliberal rhetoric through an examination of two specific sites of othering: post-Hurricane Ike Houston and the US national anti-immigration campaign of 2004. According to Wingard, both of these events use “othering” to “define a community during a time of perceived jeopardy.” In addition, both of these sites “produce said jeopardy,” argues Wingard, by “occlud[ing] the material conditions of neoliberal culture.” Her aim is to “create a counter narrative wherein the other can be seen not as a tool of neoliberal culture, but rather a symptom from which we can begin to analyze its material conditions and rhetorical deployments.”

    The final essay in this section, “Neoliberalism, Autoimmunity and Democracy: Derrida and the Neoliberal Ethos” by Zahi Zalloua argues that the neoliberal ethos both dominates the public sphere and structures our very mode of being. In addition, it has “thoroughly naturalized itself—appearing to its defenders and dissenters alike as the only game in town.” Some, like Žižek, blame postmodernism “for fostering an intellectual climate wholly compatible with neoliberalism.” Furthermore, Žižek implicates the philosophy of Derrida in the rise of neoliberal. Zalloua, however, challenges Žižek’s reading of Derrida by showing how he offers a powerful critique of the neoliberal ethos in his reflections on the autoimmunity of democracy.

    The next group of essays continues to examine the damage wrought by neoliberalism though focuses more on the changes it has brought regarding concepts of the self and agency. In addition, whereas the first group of essays dealt more broadly with society and the environment, the second group contends more specifically with the intersections of popular culture, literary studies, and publishing with neoliberalism.

    According to Jodi Dean, “neoliberalism reconfigures elements of multiple discourses” including “frontier myths of heroic individuals, new media celebrations of fast and fluid networks, fantasies of free markets, misplaced critiques of collective ownership and government regulation, as well as confusions between the economic concept of competition and competition understood as a rivalry or contest.” In her essay, “Complexity as Capture: Neoliberalism and the Loop of Drive,” however, two additional components of the neoliberal atmosphere—reflexivity and complexity—are examined through the psychoanalytic category of “drive.” Her aim is “to illuminate some of the specific ways neoliberalism captures its subjects and thus formats the terrain of contemporary class struggle.

    In “ Neoliberalism, Risk, and Uncertainty in the Video Game,” Andrew Baerg argues that “the contemporary video game naturalizes a neoliberal decision-making process that is increasingly characterized by an approach grounded in risk and risk management.” As such, Baerg’s essay reveals one of the ways in which the discourse of neoliberalism has become such a strong one. Video games are one of the most globally popular forms of entertainment, and to regard them as a means of disseminating and promoting a neoliberal approach to risk is particularly discouraging to opponents of neoliberalism.

    “Neoliberalism in Publishing: A Prolegomenon” by Jeffrey R. Di Leo argues that the ascent of neoliberalism in the publishing world is one of a gradual intensification of market considerations over aesthetic or scholarly ones—a story that holds to varying degrees both within the corporate publishing industry and now within the university and small press publishing world. However, it is not one that has been widely considered—though it needs to be. The aim of his chapter is to provide a broad overview of neoliberalism in publishing and to encourage others to consider the connections between the publishing world and the legacies of neoliberalism. “The hope,” writes Di Leo, “is that an understanding of the destructive powers of neoliberalism within the publishing world will empower and encourage authors and scholars to work to disrupt its further development and continued ascent through acts of resistance.”

    Christopher Breu’s “The Post-Political Turn: Theory in the Neoliberal Academy” examines the impact of neoliberalism on the academy over the past the last thirty years. For Breu, although this impact “has taken a number of different forms and provoked a number of different responses,” he focuses on one particular aspect: the expansion and contraction of politicized scholarship in the academy. In particular, he tracks theory for its politicization of culture and language in the 1990s to its current emerging depoliticization. However, rather than worrying about the current depoliticizing trend, Breu offers in its place a hopeful message of the emergence of a “counter-trend of newly materialist scholarship that takes up the political engagements of the long nineties, but in a more materialist direction that holds the potential to challenge the dematerializing ideology of neoliberalism itself, with its emphasis on financialization and what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri term “biopolitical” or so-called “immaterial” labor (i.e. affect, service, and intellectual labor).”

    The final essay in this collection, “Neoliberalism, Post-Scarcity, and the Entrepreneurial Self” by Uppinder Mehan, problematizes the self-constructed by neoliberalism by reflecting on the gap between the neoliberal ideal of the autonomous entrepreneur and the realities of the creatures who live under neoliberalism. Drawing on science fiction, Mehan speculates as to qualitative differences of life after “singularity,” that is, in the words of Ray Kurzweil, “a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed.” [24] For Mehan, the post-singularity world, which is also a time where we will have all but certainly finally “moved into a post-scarcity world,” is one where we may finally be able to fully “realize the self promised by neoliberal rhetoric: an autonomous, entrepreneurial self, free to make rational choices about every aspect of life.”

    Together, the ten essays in this collection reveal the pervasiveness, destructiveness, and dominance of neoliberalism within American society and culture. They also suggest points of resistance to an ideology wherein, to borrow Henry Giroux’s comment from our epigraph, “everything either is for sale or is plundered for profit.” The first step in fighting neoliberalism is to make it visible. By discussing various inroads that it has made into political, popular, and literary culture, we are taking this first step and joining a global resistance that works against neoliberalism by revealing the variety of ways in which it dominates and destroys various dimensions of our social and cultural life.

    Works Cited

    • Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. New York: Crown Publishing, 2012.
    • Bourdieu, Pierre. Acts of Resistance: Against the New Myths of Our Time. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000.
    • Casson, Mark. The Entrepreneur: An Economic Theory. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc., 1982.
    • Cavanaugh, John and Robin Broad. “It’s the New Economy, Stupid.” The Nation. November 28, 2012. http://www.thenation.com/article/171502/its-new-economy-stupid#axzz2cQW24zrB
    • Chomsky, Noam. Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order. New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999.
    • Drum, Kevin. “Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class.” Mother Jones. March/April 2011. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-labor-union-decline
    • Foucault, Michel. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978-79. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
    • Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005.
    • Kiely, Ray. The New Political Economy of Development. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
    • Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity is Near. New York: Viking, 2005.
    • Lakoff, George. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
    • Marx, Karl. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. New York: Random House, 1906.
    • McChesney, Robert W. “Introduction.” In Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order by Noam Chomsky. New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999.
    • McGuigan, Jim. “Creative Labour, Cultural Work and Individualization.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 16.3 (August 2010).
    • Powell, Lewis F. “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System.” August 23, 1971. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/powell_memo_lewis.html


    1. Lewis F. Powell, “Confidential Memorandum: Attack of American Free Enterprise System.” August 23, 1971. http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/powell_memo_lewis.html return to text
    2. Ibid.return to text
    3. Ibid.return to text
    4. Kevin Drum, “Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class.” Mother Jones. March/April 2011. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-labor-union-decline return to text
    5. See George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002).return to text
    6. Jim McGuigan, “Creative labour, cultural work and individualization,” International Journal of Cultural Policy 16.3 (August 2010): 333. return to text
    7. Ray Kiely, The New Political Economy of Development (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 9.return to text
    8. See Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France, 1978-79 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). return to text
    9. Ray Kiely, The New Political Economy of Development, p. 33.return to text
    10. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (New York: Random House, 1906), p. 786.return to text
    11. Ibid, p. 41.return to text
    12. Ibid, p. 189n.return to text
    13. Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 226.return to text
    14. Mark Casson, The Entrepreneur: An Economic Theory (Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc., 1982), p. 20. return to text
    15. Robert W. McChesney, “Introduction.” Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order by Noam Chomsky. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999), p. 11. return to text
    16. Noam Chomsky, Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1999), p. 58.return to text
    17. David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 42. return to text
    18. Ibid., p. 168.return to text
    19. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, February 10, 2012, Remarks by the President on Preventive Care. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/10/remarks-president-preventive-care return to text
    20. http://mediamatters.org/blog/201203010012#wednesdayreturn to text
    21. Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (New York: Crown Publishing, 2012), p. 15.return to text
    22. John Cavanaugh and Robin Broad, “It’s the New Economy, Stupid,” The Nation. November 28, 2012. http://www.thenation.com/article/171502/its-new-economy-stupid#axzz2cQW24zrB return to text
    23. Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance: Against the New Myths of Our Time, Trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), p. 95.return to text
    24. Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near (New York: Viking, 2005), p. 7.return to text