As a cabal of Trump loyalists stormed the DC Capitol on Wednesday, it was becoming clear that the current state of things is all but untenable. Neoliberalism promised a world where conflict ceases as liberal democracy fueled by the engine of capitalism would take hold, but it has only taken a mere few decades from the time that thesis was upheld to finally witness its abject failure.
To say that the last decade in neoliberal politics has been unsuccessful would be selling it short — regimes across the global northwest assumed the struggle was done once the Cold War was over, but it was all resting on tenuous geopolitical ground. Compounded with an economic crisis in the latter half of the 2000s, neoliberal powers kept shrinking and expanding as populaces grew tired of an endless flip-flop between short-lived prosperity and crushing austerity. While means-tested welfare and job guarantee programs thrived, those who struggled to make ends meet were left wandering with an ever-bottoming abyss of online literature that seeks to explain their dire straits — that’s the intellectual void from which the New Right has sprung into being, and appeasing its ludicrous demands has been our main preoccupation since.
Why politics haven’t been able to do much for the demographics it alienated is inherent to its design, but it also speaks to a tough balancing act that liberal democracies have to inevitably be faced with — “If the demos wishes us to do that which goes against their very interest, should we proceed forth, or is it our duty to nudge them towards a better path?” has been the central question that many governments asked, but very few knew how to quite answer. America would undoubtedly be much worse off if it kept its spoils to all but the palest among them, but communicating that to a populace that’s ever-enmeshed in an alternate reality fueled by an unyielding current of conspiracy theories online… well, it’s a difficult task to say the least.
Social media platforms share a good portion of the blame for this — it’s been oft-told to platform holders that the accommodation of violence-inciters (especially ones with as much influence as Donald Trump) isn’t their solemn duty, and yet you had Mark Zuckerberg opining about the virtues of free speech at Georgetown University even as he chose to take stricker action when the situation called for it. That inconsistency with which common sense checks on mammoth figures are implemented calls for much greater scrutiny after America’s more-immediate woes are over — the platforms that govern much of speech in the entire world have a responsibility to recognize the decisive nature of their involvement, as well they should wield their power accordingly.
What the confluence of all these factors created is a world in which the politics of the most-vocal are held above those of the least-heard — the New Right will affirm time and time again that they’re ignored, even as they pose peril to the democratic process. That assault on what keeps the troubled but careful balance of democracy working should be viewed with uttermost hostility, and it’s a travesty that advocates of quasi-authoritarian rules are seen as constituents to pacifize rather than agents of chaos the need of whose expulsion is immediate and urgent.
Whereas once before the struggle of our democracy was to enfranchise those discarded of its machinations for their race, gender, sexuality or religious beliefs, now is the time to disenfranchise those who wish to see its demise. Democracy is a tricky, if laudable affair, and for it to endure for our children and grandchildren to eventually reap the boons of, we have to go great lengths to preserve it — if this means doing something ostensibly anti-democratic, then so be it. Democracy is not authoritarians’ puppet to manipulate, and we have to make the case so clearly if yestercenturies’ geopolitical limbo is not to be the norm again.
The choice to kowtow to the right-wing’s every whim is only that however — a choice. Last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests showed us that another path is viable, and if the left’s ambition of a more equitable world — regardless of one’s political inclination — is to be realized, there’s the chance for Francis Fukuyama’s end-of-history thesis to finally bear its fruits. If it does so, it will have been with the work of a leftist coalition, with the people’s welfare and equity in mind firstmost, not the interests of the corporate class which has only brought ruin and destruction upon the world’s downtrodden.
This is the culmination of decades under neoliberal rule — people are alienated from politics, wealth is concentrated along the top, the destitute are left drowning in further material deprivation, and debts by the world’s former colonial powers to those it forever impoverished are yet-to-be-repaid. That’s the world we exist in — it’s one of deep inequity, and even deeper oblivion about what precipitated its current lamentable state.
One of modern capitalism’s greatest crimes is having robbed us the imagination of a better world, where utopian thinking is discouraged and the world’s woes are prescribed as inevitable rather than ones of our own making. That the world now is backsliding into fascism could’ve been prevented if only we’ve instilled the values of an equitable society in the minds of each and every citizen — instead, we tucked away the attainment of wholeness in a fortress only the most-privileged are allowed access to, then act surprised anti-democratic fervor is at a constant simmer.
It should be apparent at this point that neoliberalism is a failed project — it takes only a cursory look upon our own society to see that the supposed boons of capitalism have not trickled down to struggling masses, and democratic rule can only be as powerful as the weakest component of its argument, which has been the broken promise of a better livelihood for those robbed of it. In the wake of a devastating pandemic to economies worldwide, the rich have only gotten richer, the poor became poorer, and there’s barely a glimpse of relief in sight — all else in neoliberalism’s legacy will be but a footnote as its failures will far outlive its too few successes. It only remains to be seen whether we’ll emerge triumphant with a new system, or live long enough to see neoliberalism’s inevitable catastrophic downfall.