Crisis – the neoliberal shield

Image: Harrison Haines
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By LUIZ MARQUES*

The permanent crisis in which we find ourselves is a way of governing

No Dictionary of XNUMXth century social thought, edited by William Outhwaite and Tom Bottomore, edited in Oxford and translated three years later into Portuguese (1996), there is an entry on “crisis”. It reads: “in every crisis, those involved are confronted with the Hamletian question, to be or not to be”. In Greek, the word krisis does not distinguish between crisis and criticism. The double meaning when describing an impasse remained in the field of politics. The junction of meanings refers the outbreak of the dilemma to the judgment of a critical situation. There is no crisis without a speech about crisis.

“The crisis diagnosis represents a strong explanatory position. It does not aim at a 'philosophy of history', but hypothetically constructs a history capable of functioning as a justification for political actions for those who experience the crisis”. In this sense, it exposes the agony of a historical totality that requires an option about what is desirable and what is not. There remains something very challenging in the choices, which is why they bring innovative configurations that have never been tried in real life.

The concept that expresses the crisis in capitalist society was formulated by Karl Marx, based on the construct of “contradiction” between social classes – bourgeoisie vs. proletariat – who cannot solve the equation in a closed system. The dialectical bipolarity crosses, simultaneously, the individualities with protagonism in the class struggle. The legend about Creon and Antigone translated the great conflicts of antiquity. He, by exercising freedom in concrete circumstances, within the limits of the law. She, by personalizing the absurd without measuring the consequences of the acts. On the sonar frequency of zombies, it is the claim of the terrorists of January 6 (1921) in Washington or January 8 (2023) in Brasilia. Add to this the contradictory relationship between society and nature. In a crescendo, the tensions lead to a tragic theater and to the paroxysm that puts human survival at risk.

The utopia of dystopia

Since the 1970s and 1980s, the world's population lives under the legitimizing explanation of a crisis; not the transient, but the enduring. More than forty years have gone by, practically two generations in which – before you mention Mom – babies learned from an early age to know and fear the big bad wolf, the crisis. The frightening designation has become synonymous with containment of social assets, erosion of infrastructure and deindustrialization.

The drop in production made the disposal of products useless. Just as external dependency made promoting universities and scientific and technological research unnecessary. Returning to the fate of a commercial warehouse for foreign powers, the export of commodities agriculture seemed sufficient to the mongrel “elites” and the salary squeeze on civil servants became the rule followed by the leaders of voluntary delay.

Public contributions to works were inhibited to leverage sustainable economic growth. With the mantra of fiscal balance, an ideological narrative was disguised as a “technical decision”, just to prevent the reproduction of the Social Welfare State model that flourished in post-war Europe. So, the State had the condition of demanding private industry and providing indirect wages, in order to maximize the consumption of the workers as a whole. Capital transferred gains in labor productivity to wages, in line with the old Fordism playbook, to stabilize the system. On the other hand, the unions accepted the framework of capitalism, with a view to incorporating new consumers into the commodity paradise.

To give you an idea, the New Deal (1933-1937) to reform the troubled North American economy and help the millions of castaways from the Great Depression, who wandered around immersed in the misery resulting from the financial cataclysm of 1929, would not come to light under the tenacious vigilance of the ten commandments of the paradigmatic Consensus of Washington (1989). The bible of contemporary neoliberal preaching embraced by the Central Bank (Bacen), among us, would not reach the rescue buoy. “The neoclassical (orthodox) economics has become a hermetic system, which prohibits the eye from revealing perspectives beyond a narrow horizon”, notes the professor at the Free University of Berlin, Elmar Altvater, in The end of capitalism as we know it.

Franklin Roosevelt considered that “two people invented the New Deal, the President of the United States and the President of Brazil, Getúlio Vargas”. The theoretical foundation came with the icon of macroeconomics, General theory of employment, interest and money (1936) by John Maynard Keynes. Fernando Henrique Cardoso wanted to throw the “accursed inheritance” in the trash, by opening the gate of the country's subaltern and unworthy insertion to the globalization of neoliberalism. It fell to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to resume and apply the proposal for a New Agreement in the first terms (2003-2010). At the moment, however, Administration 3.0 is running into retrograde resistance. Congress imposes obstacles to the Fiscal Framework to curb “public spending”, strictly speaking, State investments.

This is the secret under lock and key by the predatory hegemony of finance. It is a pity that the media does not claim freedom of expression to denounce rent seeking interests and the privatizations carried out in the last quadrennium. According to Eduardo Moreira, “the media does not cover privatizations, it does the propaganda”; even in indefensible and scabrous cases like Eletrobras. Paraphrasing the former banker, the film is repeated in the face of the cunning of the rentiers, in the version of “economic journalism”.

The term crisis has always concealed a political deliberation, behind the technocratic lexicon of pseudo authorities trained in the tradition of chicago boys. Watered by fear, the crisis imitates a ghost to direct the execution of exceptional measures. Measures that embody the State of exception, without any formal or material commitment to the 1988 Constitution. The relief of previous suffering is sublimated by later suffering, via legislation that accommodates the habitus of suffering. The utopia of dystopia is to legalize public unhappiness. The stratagem creates the false belief that republican institutions remain within the scope of normality, despite the bumps.

the scammer handle

“What is unprecedented, in the current historical context, is that the crisis is explicitly presented as continuous and does not hide positivity in relation to neoliberal interests. The new has already arrived, which does not mean that all remnants of the constitutional State have disappeared. The permanence of some institutes and practices leads to the illusion that softens those who believe that they are within the framework of the democratic State of law. What they call a 'crisis' is, in fact, a way of governing”, emphasizes the judge of the Rio de Janeiro Court of Justice, Rubens RR Casara, in post-democratic state. One understands the success of self-help literature in the context of poverty with general, broad and unrestricted helplessness that prays: help yourself, and expect nothing from the state apparatus.

Austerity policies, premeditated unemployment, job insecurity, approval of the outsourcing law, interruption of the housing project for low-income citizens, abandonment of public schools, secondary education reform and the lack of nods to a secure future are part of the ongoing financialization of managing people and things. This was the logic of impeachment, and it is now the logic of the highest interest rates on the planet, nourished by the Central Bank's prejudice against the homeland. Reversing to neocolonialism is not an accident on the way. Blackmail by Parliament over the Executive Branch would not occur if there were not a process of degeneration of democracy.

To this end, the attack on the principle of modern law, the presumption of innocence, contributed. Lava Jato restored medievalism by making suspicion, per se, deserving of punishment regardless of evidence – “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Added to the attacks on the pillar of modern democracy, electoral fairness. Scenarios that culminated in the summoning of foreign ambassadors to a session of accusations against the reliability of electronic ballot boxes, in the counting of votes. The former president encouraged the putsch, in the event of losing the case. “There were years of barrel barrels, of the almost uninterrupted insistence with which Jair Bolsonaro turned the coup handle, with words and gestures”, recalls Fernando de Barros e Silva (Piaui, May 2023). The disqualification of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) and political pluralism crowned the disgrace.

In the background of post-democracy are found the intricacies of the commodification of everything and everyone, the society of spectacle, the totalitarianism of merchandise, hyper-individualism, the fusion of political and economic power; short and thick, the civilizational setback of “post-modernity”. The government's concern boils down to the maintenance of social (dis)order, with armed monitoring of unwanted populations in the outskirts. Massacres make up socioracial eugenics.

The apparent functioning of institutions did not prevent the displacement of decisions to the arena of megacorporations. It is enough to pay attention to the vectors of ultra-right governance, in favor of neoliberal rationality. For Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, in The new reason of the world, in the footsteps of studies on the birth of biopolitics (1978-1979), by Michel Foucault – the criteria of performance and profitability invaded the subjectivity of the subjects, and Psi offices.

The unfulfilled promises of the liberal regime broke down the doors to the rise of neo-fascist demagoguery, which corrupted democracy from within its institutions. See the conduct of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Hungary) and Presidents Andrzej Duda (Poland), Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), Donald Trump (USA) and Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), not to lengthen the list.

Gramsci's warning

Post-democratic states developed policies to control life (biopower) and, equally, death (necropower). No wonder, at the opening of the essay on Necropolitical, Achille Mbembe states that “to be sovereign is to exercise control over mortality and to define life as the implantation and manifestation of power”. Brazilians had this experience in the coronavirus pandemic. Denialism manifested itself with official airs of pride, delayed the purchase of vaccines by months and printed a scandalous anti-immunization campaign, contrary to the health recommendations of Butantan, Fiocruz and the World Health Organization (WHO) – in a true genocide.

The anti-political sentiment accompanied by the wear and tear of European social democracy, subjected to the prescriptions of the unique thought whose matrix reeks of the Society of Mont-Pèlerin (Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman), dulled the sensibility of the masses. In the southern hemisphere, the criminalization of the left by the alliance between the judiciary and the media, condensed in the dissemination of lawfare, reflected with shades of gray the progressive policies. Fortunately, the PT resists and has 30% of the national electorate's preference. Or would not celebrate the victory in the dispute in which the sociopath spent R$ 300 billion from the Treasury, and lost. With the generous program of the new government, the people's hope in the possibility of emancipation from shackles is also reborn.

Lula da Silva leads a Frente Ampla (polyclassist) against neo-fascism. However, the victorious slate in the perception of the oppressed and exploited, who massively supported the alternation, has the bias of a Popular Front (uniclassist) against the power of the bourgeoisie associated with barbarism. The difference in the vote count leads to an exaggerated valuation of the adhesion of the political center which, in effect, resulted in a percentage below expectations.

The government walks a tightrope by prioritizing the most socially vulnerable sectors in public policies. In the reconstruction of the nation, it is necessary to change the correlation of forces to soften the tactical concessions, in a conjuncture without street mobilizations. Here, Antonio Gramsci's methodological precept applies: “Observing well means identifying with precision the fundamental and permanent elements of the process”. Come on!

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


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