Neo is a Greek prefix meaning new. Fascism of the classic variety is associated with Germany, Italy and Japan. It ends at the conclusion of World War II. But in recent years there has been the development of a different variety which is neofascism. From Modi’s India to Erdogan’s Turkey neofascist autocratic regimes have taken hold. There is a direct connection from the failed economic policies of what is called neoliberalism to neofascism. Neoliberalism was given a huge boost in the 1980s by Reagan and Thatcher. Its characteristics are deregulation, cutting government spending, shredding the social safety net, privatization and tax cuts for the rich. The result: widespread immiseration and discontent. In its wake demagogues, exploiting the situation, have come to power by scapegoating, instigating violence against minorities, coupled with loud calls for "getting our country back." And lots of flag-waving.
Neoliberalism is an odd term when you think about it. It is hardly new and it is not particularly liberal. It has been a great economic success story-for the 1%. The detritus of neoliberalism litters the landscape from smashed unions to shredded safety nets, and deregulation of everything from airlines to banking to telecommunications. And how does one measure the human costs of shattered dreams and broken lives? The consequence? A backlash. Many working people are angry. Keep squeezing them and they will be prey for charlatans and demagogues who exploit their vulnerability and fear with scapegoating and false promises. As The Nation magazine observes, “Alongside growing economic inequality, we have suffered growing political inequality, with a Princeton study declaring that the influence of ordinary citizens on policy is ‘negligible.’ The United States,” The Nation says, is becoming “an oligarchy.”
After 40 years the economic doctrine of neoliberalism has reached a dead end. But not for everyone. The 500 richest people in the world, all of whom are billionaires, gained a combined $1.2 trillion in wealth in 2019. Advocates of neoliberalism preach a kind of economic fundamentalism, i.e., markets rule, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, privatization and austerity. As Ganesh Sitaraman in The Nation magazine reports, "Neoliberal policies created gaping inequality, unleashing the economically powerful to reshape politics, markets, and society to serve their own interests. Neoliberalism’s radical individualism sapped society of community and solidarity, leaving people lonely and isolated, ultimately pushing us to retreat into tribal identities. We can now see,” Sitaraman concludes, “that its results were disastrous.” What needs to happen? It's time for a new social contract.
Prabhat Patnaik is an internationally renowned economist. He is a professor emeritus at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He is the author of Monopoly Capital Then and Now and The October Revolution and the Survival of Capitalism and co-author with his wife, Utsa Patniak, of The Drain of Wealth and Capital and Imperialism: Theory, History, and the Present.
Noam Chomsky, by any measure, has led a most extraordinary life. In one index he is ranked as the eighth most cited person in history, right up there with Aristotle, Shakespeare, Marx, Plato and Freud. The MIT professor’s contributions to modern linguistics are legendary. In addition to his pioneering work in that field, he has been a leading voice for peace and social justice for many decades. Chris Hedges says he is “America’s greatest intellectual” who “makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.” He is Institute Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and Laureate Professor of Linguistics and Haury Chair in the Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona. At 92, he is still active; writing and giving interviews to the media all over the world. He is the author of scores of books, including Propaganda & the Public Mind, How the World Works, Power Systems and Global Discontents with David Barsamian.
Joseph Stiglitz, University Professor at Columbia, is the recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics. He was chair of the Council on Economic Advisors under Bill Clinton. He also served as senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank. His efforts to move the bank in a more progressive direction got him fired. He is the author of Globalization and Its Discontents, The Price of Inequality and People, Power, and Profits.