Not familiar with the term? Neoliberalism is where the drive of capitalism, to enhance profits, is not just for private businesses to achieve. It is where politicians are motivated to help businesses enhance profits and also where people are motivated to view themselves as profit enhancers to private business.
With this worldview, making money and increasing profit become the driving motives of society.
To enhance profits in this way, social welfare and development must be removed. Regulations put in place to ensure everyone can access health, education and housing, enjoy security and a fair wage from employment, and engage in freedom of movement, must be removed. No private enterprise profits from them.
With capitalism, perhaps you have heard of ‘trickle down economics’. This belief is where large and successful companies are good for society as they employ more people, raising standards of living, and are the core benefit to society. Capitalism functions well where the market is level and is isolated from society. There is no inherent conflict between democracy, social welfare and capitalism.
Neoliberalism is where people no longer are citizens but consumers. With weak or absent regulations to protect people from exploitation, extracting money from people, from each other, becomes the standard for interpersonal relationships. Moneys generated by the state are moneys that can enhance profit of big business. A case in point was the failure of the banks which were given trillions in public money to survive.
This is ‘trickle up economics’.
In 1984 by George Orwell, the state is the driving force for people’s lives: there may be no dissent to the state and no rejection of the state. With neoliberalism, profiteering is the driving force for people’s lives: there may be no alternative such as socialism i.e. tax-funded access to health and education. Consumers pay for these despite also paying taxes, and rejecting the state is equated with rejecting higher standards of living.
Here in Australia, most people deny we even have a culture, let alone can identify that we are neoliberal in thought and action.
Where business and politics work in partnership to enact policy, that policy is naturally for profit creation and enhancement.
A truely evil component of neoliberalism is the activity of people who, under the guise of religion, benefit from the weakening of social welfare. The Liberal party removed half a billion dollars in funding from public education in 2022 and gave it to private religious schools. The Labo(u) r party did not reverse this. The religious people involved did not reject this nor reverse this. Religions feed off secular society to protect their own just as business does.
Here we have three agents in society working to enhance neoliberalism: politicians, private business, and religion. The fourth is media.
As in the book 1984, what people are told is what they base their decisions on. As global media networks have become consolidated, the big business of disseminating information determines what kind of information and how it is presented. We are subjected to confusing and frightening content.
Journalistic integrity is a liability for a political system which is funded by big business and driven to enhance profits. Supported by profiteering religious sects and promoted by big media, scrutiny of our society is not acceptable.
This indicates that the majority of people do not want to exploited, that we want our taxes to pay for accessible schools and hospitals, that we want to travel and work where we wish, and that there is critical need to scrutinise the four actors of neoliberalism.
One voice absent in the book 1984 was the context of that society: the environment.
This voice is not one that can be ignored although our politicians and big media have minimalised, doubted and deflected this voice consistently for decades.
As neoliberalism accelerates climate disasters, perhaps it will become self-aware in recognising that it is the cause of these disasters. As mining, transport of materials and goods, ability of consumers to earn money to buy goods, all become unprofitable and untenable, and there is insufficient taxation left to procure, perhaps then the four actors of neoliberalism will alter their agenda.
In any case, those who have access to resources will be the ones to survive longer, not those who have been exploited and only manage to have somewhere to live and keep a job.
Hope springs eternal yet hope is only wishful thinking, the flaw of the human species. Those four actors have identified society as a resource and are exploiting it without hinderance. Another word for exploitation is theft.
Unlike 1984 where there is an identifiable leader, neoliberalism transcends this responsibility. Profit and inability to get ahead have no identifiable leader or group. Each person and business, each politician and organisation and cult, are all blaming money as the cause of their problems. Neoliberalism deifies money.
No amount of money can fix increasing atmospheric CO2. No amount of money can heal the wounded. No amount of money can structure a society. Only people can. Only we can.
Only when the last fish is hooked, only when the last tree is felled, will you realise that money cannot be eaten.