Neoliberalism Interrupted: Thoughts on Disruptions
Neoliberalism Interrupted offers an interesting linguistic turn. We are not discussing a reversal, upheaval, demolition or strategic dismantling of Neoliberalism in the examples provided, but rather exploring interruptions. While reading both the Neoliberalism, Interrupted and “The Chicago Boys” article, I found myself thinking of three things: what it felt like to stand in a crowd chanting “Si Se Puede” while skipping class at an undergraduate institution, violence, and structure. This was a difficult reading—economics and Latin America are not familiar territory. The examples, names, regimes and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were foreign to me. Striving to place the theories and thoughts presented in the readings within a context I can most thoroughly explore I will begin from those spaces I know.
The major themes I found in my reading of Neoliberalism, Interrupted and the supplemental essay were continuations of previous conversations: violence, structure, production, and myth or genesis. There were brief and interesting conversations on art and the place of aesthetics (labeled “culture”) within the book, however I feel the context of that discussion is overwhelming. For me to appropriate the terms and boundaries of the situation presented in the reading and adopt them in my own research understanding festivals and southern music(s) would not be a fruitful as simply acknowledging this divergent area within the reading.
First, myth. The reference to Roland Barthes work Mythologies was a pleasant surprise in the context of neoliberalism. The mythical idea of revolution (presented in chapter 1) is interesting for a few reasons. For one, I immediately ask “what is at stake?” What is the harm of understanding revolution as a myth? Is that in fact how we (western, capitalist society) understand a revolution—as a mythic or yet to be fulfilled destiny—a dominant ideology for our time. Myth suggests distance, which makes the use of Barthes theory of violence as mythic production compelling. Barthes asserts that a violence takes place when a space or structure is created while truth commissions re/write violence into an origin myth. This makes sense. From land grabbing to border (creation and maintenance), violence produces spaces which support or give structure to neoliberalism. To create an alternative space, or occupy the already available places requires a reactionary violence.
This exploration of myth leads to the term which has sustained my interest throughout the readings: violence. According to chapter seven, violence shapes the way in which memory and history are subject to reinterpretation within neoliberalism. While Pierre Bourdieu is not mentioned (at least not at any great length) his work is echoed in this sentiment and in the assertion that the redefining of categories—and I would assert boundaries, languages, images and norms—are symbolic violence’s which sustain neoliberalism. It is this same violence which seems to offer an interruption, or shift.
Production and structure are found interwoven in both violence, resistance, myth and the creation of interruptions, however I find it most interesting that while production and structure are assumed possibilities if not necessities for countering neoliberalism or allowing for a postneoliberal formation, they are (as Audre Lorde would assert) “the master’s tools,” the master being capitalism.
Aside from the terms which caught my attention, a few divergent theoretical perspectives appear in this reading in a few forms. First, Foucaultian ideas concerning governmentality are introduced. Delueze and Barthes are brought into the discussion as culture becomes a “site of struggle.” The conversation, while staying firmly situated in Latin America crosses disciplines—as the editors word it, an archeological methodology is employed. Secondly, the idea of a civil society is introduced. I am perplexed by this idea—it seems far too akin to the notion of “worthy people” sought out by post-reconstruction mission’s movements in the Appalachian Mountains. Is seems too subjective, like a continuation of the systemic (symbolic) oppressions cited in chapter 8 as the redefining of categories. Like Habermas’ public, a civil society implies specifics which can (and do) enforce partiality and encourage separation. The idea of a “postneoliberal” society or economy is also new to me. I am curious as to what is “post” about the examples shown which are questioned as “postneoliberalism or the hybrid of neoliberal extraction and indigenous sustainability?” If social movements are responsive or reactions to neoliberal regimes and challenges are made against and/or in relation to the state (Chapter 2), what is the role of the state in postneoliberal frames?
I left the text wanting more—a deeper discussion of myth, a comparative definition of culture with neoliberal and anti-neoliberal implications, I want to question (and desperately want to refute) the term of postneoliberalism. The question the volume hoped to answer or provoke was “What are the meaningful challenges to neoliberalism now?” However, I am not certain that is the question that is answered, or the question the collection provokes. What is a challenge? I am left pondering the form of counter-violence and if such a contestation can avoid mimicking the form of the structure it is opposing? What is the difference between a disruption and a mutation? An evolution? A shift in structure, context or spatiality? Are the effects of temporality not ruptures in a process? Ways of measuring and in doing so noticing a shift? What IS a disruption? How is a violent rupture produced, justly?