“I’ve always treated neoliberalism as a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960s into the 1970s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labor.”
These are the words of the great anthropologist and geographer, David Harvey. They contain a lot of truth but also hint at an argument that I have heard many times on the left which is not true. This argument says that because neoliberalism is the ideology of the ruling class, it must be imposed upon the masses against our will. Of course sometimes neoliberalism is imposed. Greece is the most recent example of a country that has been pushed into adopting policies that are not popular with its public and that they did not vote for.
But the public frequently vote for neoliberalism. Think of the New Democrats, New Labour and more recently David Cameron’s Conservative Party and the German Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel. All these groups support a lower-tax, more socially and economically liberal form of politics than the old left.
So we must be wary of the notion that any move away from the old left is a betrayal of democracy. If the outcomes of the past three elections are anything to go by, our politicians are not striking out on their own, but moving with public opinion.