Monday, February 13, 2012

The Inefficiencies of Neoliberalism

An incident at my bank today made me wonder: are we, with respect to neoliberalism, in the period equivalent to 'the era of stagnation' in the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union? So much attention has been focused on the injustice of what the French Left sardonically calls la pensée unique that little emphasis has been laid on its inefficiency. It does not even, within its own terms, work. Information that should be far more efficiently available is often delayed or misplaced entirely; transaction that should be fungible must be done in a specific location; physical presence is often required when a virtual presence would be fine. Neoliberalism seems compatible with digital culture and virtual realities when it is simply a matter of cost-saving; when it comes to maximizing these channels to make the world more truly efficient and productive, it fails. It fails, one suspects, because neoliberalism, for all its rhetoric of empowerment is in fact deeply hierarchical and dedicated to disempowering people, and it is forced into an inefficiency that, as in the case of the Soviet Union, will end up dooming it because to open things up even slightly would give the excluded access to the tools of power that they do not currently have, and thus, for neoliberalism, finish the whole game. 

Neoliberalism also thinks that regarding every relationship economistically will not inflect the future of that relationship that a human being can come under purely economic regard by another human being, whether or not representing an institution, and have the previous relationship restored when the economic interest is no longer there. Instead, regarding people economistically shatters any anterior connections of social capital, decimates any previous emotional or attitudinal investments. It is like sowing a field with salt; there will be no new growth. And in this way, every time neoliberalism makes a human relationship purely economic, it is condemning that relationship to permanent inefficiency.