The ethics of neoliberalism

Image: Tabitha Mort


The ethics embedded in the social authoritarianism of command (who can) and obedience (who needs) relationships is the cancer of colonial formations

Neoliberalism relies on “social Darwinism” to legitimize the idea of ​​natural selection. The laws of nature justify the dismantling of institutional assistance and labor protection. State aid to the unsuccessful is seen as a mistake. “We, civilized men, do our utmost to stop the process of elimination. This must be harmful to humanity”, summarizes Charles Darwin, in a letter. If interference with evolutionism is bad, the lack of empathy is proof of perversity.

Down with partisan whims and populist extravagances, he preaches the free market. Disparate feelings may exist about football clubs or beer brands, not about the direction of the nation. The Mont Pèlerin Society founded by Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman emphasizes the constancy of individual and collective conduct, based on the conventions that protect private property, commerce and capitalism. Proposals for changes in the social structure are nothing more than demagoguery, in the cold naturalism where competitive struggles supplant mutual aid.

Arguments against hegemonic rationality are reduced to the category of doxa, digital networks. Knowledge would be a strict attribute of natural scientists, who do not question the causes of inequities. Never mind the unemployment, the long queue at the health centers. It is important to combat the protagonism of the State, the gateway to totalitarianism. It is worth retorting with a samba-canção by Noel Rosa: “Who are you that doesn’t know what you’re saying / My God, what an unfortunate guess”. The MST's support for those who suffer ecological catastrophes, moving towards the sinister, shows awareness. Egalitarian movements block the transposition of Darwinism to the human-social sphere.

The conservative appeal

The divorce between normative propositions and questions of fact, based on concretely tested experiences, establishes the distinction between truth and falsehood. Marketing and commercial measurement solves the sentimental equation. Criticisms with value judgments about the functioning of the system do not fit the parameters of domination. It's not generosity, it's selfishness that counts. If he looked back, like the angel of history in Walter Benjamin, the establishment I would see the wreckage left by progress. But he would not shed a tear for the defeated, abandoned.

A performance of profitability and dividends is introjected for evaluation, positive or negative, of the direction of the State, society or private life by transforming each person into a “self-entrepreneur”. Today there is so much market that we get sick from the merchandise and die from the commodification, of souls and bodies. Deaths from tuberculosis, like that of the young abolitionist poet who composed “O Navio Negreiro”, fell into disuse. There are other diseases of the moment.

Conservatism bases the repetition drive on habits inherited from several generations, which are not the result of theoretical projects external to empirical experiences (read socialism). The link between the past and the present is the competitiveness naturalized in people's subjectivation. Interindividual competition is the engine of development. To the people They take place in small groups – families and friends. As if, in the case of citizens growing their own flowers, the city would gain a public garden at the end of the race. Cornelius Castoriadis calls the privatization of existence “alienation”, for watering the plant of anti-associationism and apathy in sociability.

Organize the rebellion

Fatalist assertions about the inevitability of social and climate crises reframe the class network, into strong and weak. But they do not constitute general laws. The rise of the extreme right does not refer to homogeneous events, in the same way, in different geographies; unlike laboratory experiments in biology. The destruction of civilizational guidelines and living conditions on Earth occurs without the participation of the military or religious fundamentalists in Argentina. In Israel, it refers to Zionist sectarianism and endless bombings in the Gaza Strip.

In the United States, nationalism (America First) denies internationalist policies, defends unilateralism and instigates aversion to emigrants from Spanish-speaking countries. In Brazil, nationalists are King Momo's extras in the zombie block, with the samba-plot of patrimonial surrender to the private sector, the deregulation of control bodies and fiscal adjustments to the detriment of the population's rights. The flag bearer celebrates the neo-Pentecostal State and the passerby, with the flashy costume of a Saudi prince and sparkling jewels, evolves into a rogue against the country, who doesn't like the door. In the parade of tragicomic horrors, racism, femicide and homophobia stand out.

The ethics embedded in the social authoritarianism of command (those who can) and obedience (those who need) are the cancer of colonial formations. Amoral propositions about the virtues of accumulation and hierarchy manifest the worldview of those in power. It does not contain the ideals of freedom, equality and solidarity that give substance to the Contemporary Age. The desires of economic elites echo interests that do not include the universal rights of citizenship. The oppressed and exploited must organize rebellion and resilience for popular emancipation.

Lack of coherence

Used to describe episodes in different contexts, the diversity of conceptual notions (change, revolution, democracy, political power) leads Isaiah Berlin, in March of history, concluding that: “History as we know it is not a science, but an art, in the sense that portrait painting is the art through which a unique personality is transmitted and not just what it shares with other human beings in an X-ray.” They are the tyrants, and their circumstances.

Civilization is the survival of the fittest. The survival of the unfit is anti-civilization. Socialism is considered absurd as it proposes both the development of civilization and the unfit. For the anything-goes billionaire alphas, faithful subsidiaries of the Stock Exchanges, this is a contradiction. John D. Rockefeller makes the analogy of wealth with the beauty of the rose bush that, in order to bloom, plucks out the smaller buds to achieve perfection. The metaphor alleviates the guilt of greedy predators by undermining the fight to tax great fortunes. The current family transmission of property provides rentiers with the continuation of the vampire's rampage of finance.

“It is painful to follow the convolutions of those who commit themselves to a powerfully rhetorical theory, which elevates competition as a principle of society and accuses ethical or moral objections of sentimentality, to defend evident limitations to the competitive principle”, says Raymond Williams, in Culture and materialism. If there is hypocrisy in the ideological discourses that refer to the facade meritocracy of the privileged, there is a lack of coherence in defending the rules of the game.

Public happiness

In the country, the Central Bank's lunatic interest rates, disastrous for reindustrialization, illustrate the shamelessness of neoliberalism's ethics in accommodating destiny in a bunker, safe from democratic political will. Only democracy can give the economy a meaning to achieve bonheur public, public happiness. Despite the difficulties, with advances and setbacks, this is what the Lula 3 governance compass points to. Success will depend on the political capacity to mobilize the masses (trade unions, favelas, students) to reinvent our future. There is a rush.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was the state secretary of culture in Rio Grande do Sul during the Olívio Dutra government..

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