From neoliberalism to the autophagic society

Image: Antonio A. Costa


The world's new unreason has penetrated the pores of society and the subjectivity of individuals

The new reason of the world

From North to South, disputes develop between the public and the private for spaces on the banks of rivers, lakes and the sea, as shown in the film Aquarius, by Kleber Mendonça, with a masterful performance by Sônia Braga. The disagreements are situated in the context of the “demonization of the social and the political”, after 1980, with the cementing of neoliberalism in international bodies (WTO, IMF, World Bank) and in the governance of England by Margaret Thatcher, the United States by Ronald Reagan, François Mitterrand's France in the second term and Collor de Mello's Brazil, which suffered a impeachment. erupted The new reason of the world (Boitempo), described by Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval. A milestone of neocivilization.

The concept of “society” was then treated as a meaningless abstraction (Hayek) and, in the famous phrase, declared non-existent: “there are only individuals and families” (Thatcher). This is the background of reactionary attacks on defenders of social justice and human rights, exterminators of freedom for waving a “tyrannical agenda” of social equality, which assigns obligations to the State to qualify the exercise of citizenship and control eugenic ostensive policing. Such attacks associate, to the banner of freedom, the conservative morality of patriarchy (sexism) and colonialism (racism), pillars of capitalism.

The archaic norms of the patriarchal family have always played a strategic role in replacing multiple duties assumed by the Welfare State. The privatization of social security, health and higher education brought with it responsibilities. Teenage pregnancy? Girls problem. Costs with the university or the children, special people and the elderly? Problem of nuclear families. Poverty? Problem of the poor. Homelessness? Homeless problem. Unemployment? Opportunity to become your own entrepreneur. Neoliberalism freed the State from policies to eradicate evils. Even the State organized itself as a company, with criteria of efficiency and performance. Citizens became customers of services. Society has divided into consumer units.

Public education became the target of heavy torpedoes. Mobilizations for home education, in charge of parents, gained audience. It culminated in the signature of the American School, in Rio de Janeiro, with a monthly fee of R$ 8. One hundred and thirty students were denialists or were coerced into opposing the antiviral vaccination certificate when returning to school. Libertarianism contested vertical coercion. With identical social extraction, at the time, businessmen applauded the head of “no country”, to allude to the dystopia of Ignácio de Loyola Brandão. They found the question about the usefulness of the “ph” in the acronym IPHAN (National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute) funny. It is difficult to draw the line between the ignorance and cynicism of the wealthy crowd, who salute foreigners and praise the incompetent and suspicious Lava Jato, as long as it does not mess with the hidden offshore.

Without the slightest idea of ​​what the preservation of heritage memory suggests, representatives of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expressed the hegemonic ideas of barbarism. In Rome, they would destroy the Coliseum; in Athens, the Parthenon; in Egypt, the Pyramids. In Brazil, the mimetic bourgeoisie is pleased with the devastation of the Amazon, the National Museum and the Cinematheque that held the collection of Glauber Rocha and hundreds of documents about native cinema. While revisionists considered changing the name of the Palmares Foundation to Princesa Isabel. The "mutt complex" continues to stoke an owner's desire to say I love you. The caricature Véio da Havan perfectly illustrates the Brazilian “elite”, composed of a vera ralé.


The demonization of politics

With regard to politics, demonization began in the realm of semantics with the designation of the act of governing as a “management” activity. The rulers were named “managers” to distinguish them from “populists”, who were more attentive to the demands of the majority. The task of the elected representatives boiled down to administering privileges and the insatiable interests of capital, including ambition over the usufruct of common territories (with glass and concrete spikes) and buildings in forest reserves. Changes aimed at the needs of the population (health, work, income) and the fragile natural environment (containing deforestation, invasion of indigenous lands, global warming) obey the rude dynamics of accumulation and immediate profit. Not surprisingly, the ongoing criminalization of politics – the stage of struggles in civil society – to persecute popular leaders.

“Only the politician safeguards the possibility of democracy. In it also resides distinctively the meaning of a people, generating individual and collective identity vis-à-vis From others. Democracy without the political is an oxymoron; the sharing of power that democracy implies is a political project that requires cultivation, renewal and institutional support”, points out Wendy Brown, in In the ruins of neoliberalism: the rise of anti-democratic politics in the West (Politeia). The neoliberal counterrevolution aims to limit the struggles of the politician, who behaves in a dangerously self-expanding manner, separating him from sovereignty and democratic inflections in order to drain his emancipatory energies. The domain of the political is saturated with sociocultural, economic, religious and media influences through the use of the lawfare.

O unique neo-liberal pensée encouraged exceptional measures to block the emergence and/or dismantle the Welfare State. the purpose of Société du Mont-Pèlerin (1947), condensed in the savage commandments of the Washington Consensus (1989) was to promote the deconstruction of the administrative state. Steve Bannon's goal for the Trump presidency. Bolsonaro accepted the disastrous suggestion: “the meaning of my government is not to build things for the people, but to deconstruct them”, he declared at the dinner with leaders of the right in the USA. The so-called post-ideological technocracy, allied to the economicization of managerial issues and governmental “privatism”, served as a dam for egalitarian “statism” and a brake on movements with democratizing agendas to cool down equal participation in public matters. There went four decades of hostilities against democracy.

“My argument is that nothing is untouched by the neoliberal feature of reason and valuation, and that neoliberalism's attack on democracy has, everywhere, inflected law, political culture and political subjectivity”, stresses Brown. The original contribution of the political scientist consisted in emphasizing the moral dimension of the project. It is the holistic thrust towards a civilization that does not intend to develop the ideals of modernity, in the couplet: equality, freedom and solidarity. It intends its non-creative destruction. Equality would encourage accommodation, inequality would be the engine of individual and collective development. Freedom for capitals. Solidarity / selfishness. Don't look up.

Neoliberalism is not just an alternative economic model. It is the irruption of a new rationality and a new subjectivity, a new way of entering the enigma-world: hyper-individualistic, averse to non-profit cooperation approaches in search of the common good. The alert was elaborated by Michel Foucault, in birth of biopolitics (Collège de France, 1979), when he concluded that market principles would pervade institutions and entities – places of work and study, clinics, the government and the state apparatus. No sphere of human existence would escape the neoliberal web in the conduct of life. The cleavage between neoliberalism and classical liberalism, restricted to economics, was deepened. The “reprogramming of liberal governability” unfolded. Foucault's perspicacity was astounding.


On the market and morals

It didn't take long and what was solid melted into air. Solidarity, hard-won in the public sphere, as a result of pressure from social movements and trade unions, came to depend on volunteerism and the sensitivity of companies. It was the “end of politics” and of the “collective subject” (be it the party or the masses), capable of transforming society – supported by a republican program, along the lines of what Machiavelli thought in the Renaissance. In Capitalism in debate (Boitempo), Nancy Fraser and Raehl Jaeggi reject the suggestion that there was any political finalism because of neoliberalism. They prefer to emphasize that “this is not an absence of politics, but a new guise of politics”. But there is no doubt that the denigration of politics and the devaluation of democratic procedures contributed to the rise of the far right's fragrant legions.

Formed by the piling of the market and by conservative morality, tradition presented itself as the guarantor of freedom, order and progress. A task that previously fell to the political power. The market is the triumph of free initiative, human capitalization, entrepreneurship, virtuosity that opposes statist vices, the greatest of all – in the Manchesterian employers' perspective – is to meddle in the free market. The dream nurtured by the propertied classes, since antiquity, materialized in the XNUMXst century. Unfortunately it turned into a nightmare. It irrigated the field for the flowers of evil of neo-fascism, which captured the disenchantment with the meritocratic marathon. After all, the winners were already known before the start. The fact is that hatred and anger resulted from social and political fractures caused by biopolitics with a neoliberal bias, whether or not the mentors' intentions. The “government is the problem, not the solution” shell fit the Reagan-Thatcher pair well.

The bridge between neoliberalism and neofascism is paved by the denial of political equality, therefore, of constitutional democracy. Democracy, which has historically been supported by egalitarian modalities, is not consistent with the authority of tradition (the conservative morality of patriarchy and colonialism), nor with the market guided by laissez-faire which repels the recognition of wage-earners' rights. With the prohibition of the State intervening in the market, reality allowed itself to be filtered by the metaphor popularized in the financial district of New York (Manhattan) against social and economic inequalities – Occupy Wall Street (OWS, 2011). When 99% of the inhabitants are excluded from the arrival tape and 1% concentrate the riches, something is not right in the gears. It's very wrong.

The modern State looks for legitimacy in democracy, even though the discourse given does not correspond to practice. As Marx pointed out in Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, “democracy is a type of association that aims at the good of all” and depends “on the contributions and loyalty of all”. Its achievement presupposes an active State: (a) to produce a democratic citizenship and; (b) to correct the unequal deformations caused by the market and competition. The obstacle is that the “excess power” in the State is appropriated by the minority that controls the finances and the commercial media, which makes it difficult to monitor that fake news do not victimize the regime with lies. In the basements of the Planalto Palace, even a stupid “hate office” was installed, endowed with an anti-political and anti-democratic irrationalism that dragged crowds into darkness. Habitat characteristic of fascists.

It is worth noting that, although the Globo Long live the worst crisis in the channel's trajectory, the National Journal has fifty million viewers every night. Without the institution of mechanisms for public control of the media, there are no limits to their performance in favor of elitist interests. Let the most persecuted popular leader in the history of the Republic say so, with accumulated hours and hours of slander and defamation on TV news. “Democracy requires explicit efforts to create a people who will engage in modest forms of self-government (self rule), efforts that address the ways in which social and economic inequalities compromise political equality,” notes Brown. Democratize the tights it is a civic commitment, yes, intelligible in all quarters.


The Guide to Conservatism

“God, family, nation and free enterprise” – such is the guideline of conservatism. “Far from harming each other, the two tendencies (religion and freedom) apparently so opposed are in agreement and seem to lend mutual support”, observed Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America (Edipro). Neoconservative authors, aware that the consumer society does not offer spiritual and moral comfort, given the levels of vulgarity, preach traditional values ​​to emphasize the importance of religious and patriotic formation. Already in government, they make the “beloved homeland” an auction to liquidate the heritage of generations.

The combination of religion and freedom intensifies the feeling of disgust regarding the progressive actions of political power, in favor of reducing inequalities. In the eyes of the retrogrades, the intervention is undue – diabolical and reprehensible: it questions the tradition of domination between classes, genders and races. There would be nothing to change in the garden of intolerances of the lineage of Narendra Modi, Viktor Orbán, Andrzej Duda, Bolsonaro, Trump.

The globalist processes that diminish the decision-making weight of the nation-state; digital networks that internationalize communities; the flows of immigrants that break borders; and the dissolution of urban and rural habits and customs that give stability to social roles of fan subordination – are dispositions interpreted with nostalgia. Departure from Englandbritish exit, Brexit) of the European Union is the angry and resentful response to the establishment. It has the colors of nihilism, shamelessly channeled by demagogues.

Nancy Fraser (on. cit.) conceives the capitalist system as broader than the economic category, namely, “an institutionalized social order”. In this theoretical formulation about capitalism (like neoliberalism) as a way of life, three elements are found for an incisive and combative response to the present situation: (1) Gender domination is inscribed between production and reproduction, as well as how it interferes in the axes of race, nationality and citizenship in the gaps between exploitation and expropriation, the center and the periphery, which updates the fight against sexism, racism and imperialism; (2) The domination over non-salaried and expropriated work in the circle of reproduction is illuminated by the resilience of invisible subjects (home delivery men, etc.) in everyday tasks in which they are not perceived with the noble status of “workers” ; (3) Domination also takes place where production and reproduction intersect, in nature, in social reproduction and in public power, which reveals the vast range of contradictions generated by capitalist / neoliberal development. These struggles go beyond the factories.

It is urgent to reinvent the “movement of movements”, in a brand new World Social Forum (WSF). Boaventura de Sousa Santos, in The future starts now: from pandemic to utopia (Boitempo), alludes to the question. The idea encourages social and political militancy. Overcoming the reprogramming of liberal governance requires international articulation in the set of confrontations that are foreshadowed. The labor counter-reform in Spain, from the left, encourages. Lula da Silva's firm willingness to face the price of gasoline, diesel, gas and the “spending ceiling” is a boon for Brazil and Latin America. I believe!


On neoliberal governance

Anselm Jappe, in The autophagic society: capitalism, excess and self-destruction (Elephant), uses a formidable finding, the Greek (ecological) myth of Erysichton, for an analogy about the gigantic abyss dug by neoliberal governability (in Foucault's, post-liberal reading). The myth, inexplicably forgotten and current, was recorded by the Hellenistic poet Callimachus and the Roman poet Ovid. Keepers of Western Memory.

Erysichthon, king of Thessaly, felled the huge tree that was in the center of a magnificent forest to transform it into the floor of his palace. With that he aroused the wrath of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, who tried to deter him from the undertaking. Erysichthon answered him with contempt. And, taking the ax from the hands of the hesitating servants, he finished the insane service, indifferent to their pleas. Demeter casts the curse of "hunger personified" on him. The matrix repeats itself in antiquity. The disproportionateness that comes from foolishness and impious pride ends up invoking deserved punishment, as experienced by Prometheus, Icarus, Sisyphus.

The foolish Erysichthon is seized by an insatiable hunger. The more he ate, the more hunger gripped his body. He devoured what provisions he had, herds and racehorses. But nothing satisfied the bowels of the cursed king, who languished. He lost what he had and what he didn't have to assuage the torturous hunger, to no avail. He's been begging for food in the streets. “When the violence of his illness exhausted all food / and his painful illness was given new pasture / he himself lacerated his own limbs and began tearing them off / biting the wretched person to nourish his own body, mutilating him ”. And Ovid closes the story.

For Jappe, Erysichton is the ancestor of prospectors, agro farmers and all the gravediggers of tomorrow. “His punishment is starvation. A hunger that increases when you eat and that nothing can satisfy”. The myth “not only tells us about the devastation of nature and social injustice, but also about the abstract and fetishistic character of commercial logic and its destructive and self-destructive effects”. Like money in the casino of finance, abstract and empty hunger for content does not fulfill a specific need. There is an obvious parallel with the well-known myth of King Midas who, tragically, dies of starvation because everything he touches turns into gold, even food. The dystopian pendulum is perverse.

As if the demonization of the social and political was not enough, capitalism in the neoliberal phase allows millions of people to die of hunger in the midst of abundance. If it were an oil painting, the national and international landscape we face today could be signed by Portinari.

The world's new unreason penetrated the pores of society and the subjectivity of individuals. Consequently, humanity plunged into Dante's nine medieval rings of Hell: from limbo where the virtuous pagans are to the circles of lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud and betrayal, where Judas Iscariot, Brutus and Cassius (principal agent in the conspiracy that assassinated Julius Caesar). Or rather, neoliberalism – said to be modernizing – condensed and aggravated the territories of pain and horror programmed by anti-civilizational impolitic criminals. – Go retro, satan!

* 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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