Category: Articles


-Mind that the SDGs are indeed permissive of neoliberalism. (G. McNaughton)
-However attractive the ideas of neoliberalism are at first sight, they hide a dangerous liberal logic that threatens human rights and cannot thus make for a better world. (Francine Mestrum)

Neoliberalism: do we all share what it really is? To some, neoliberalism is the ideology at the root of all our planetary problems
1. Neoliberalism has become hegemonic as a discourse. It has reached pervasive effects on our ways of thought to the point where it has become incorporated into the common-sense-way many of us interpret, live-in, and understand the world. (David Harvey)

2. Neoliberalism manifests itself through behaviors that spring from the values (or anti-values) that define how we see and respond to the world around us. The notion of human rights (HR) is no exception: It springs from how a given culture adopts behaviors and such values and anti-values that define how the world is perceived. In neoliberalism, individualism, competitiveness and having the power to control dominate. Its morality is utilitarian: Everything is a ‘resource’ or a ‘commodity’ measured in monetary terms. But this is exploitative, excluding and extinguishing… We hear: “S/he who cannot pay should not consume”; this is the essence of the discourse. For such an ethics, feeding oneself, educate oneself, clothe oneself, take care of one’s health and having a decent home, are consumptions that need to be paid. In neoliberalism, the concept of HR and solidarity is totally absent. When someone or something is not considered ‘useful’, because it does not produce rent, s/he or it is excluded, abandoned. This invariably leads to violence in all its manifestations, wars, arms race, global warming and the loss of biodiversity. (Julio Monsalvo)

3. The neoliberal ideology emphasizes personal responsibility, private property and markets above all else. The core human rights ideals thus differ from those of neoliberalism that promotes only individual freedoms and a skewed brand of dignity, but not equality and solidarity. The HR paradigm recognizes that individuals living in families, in communities, and in societies are bound by a global order. Crucially, this people-centered framework puts people’s wellbeing before all else. It discards a trickle-down approach as eventually leading to the enjoyment of HR. Interestingly, civil and political rights have not clashed substantially with neoliberalism; this explains a lot… (G. McNaughton)

Consider the following differences:

The ideology of Neoliberalism promotes
• Dignity
• Individual freedoms,
• Is gender neutral and
• Market-centered

The ideology of International HR principles and standards promotes
• Dignity
• Individual and collective freedoms
• Equality
• Solidarity,
• Is gender sensitive and
• People-centered

In Neoliberalism, the role of the state is to
• Protect property rights
• Ensure free markets
• Ensure unhindered free trade

In the HR framework the role of the state is to
• Respect, protect and fulfill people’s (indivisible) rights
• Ensure property rights and free trade do not infringe/impinge-on human rights
• Ensure human rights principles and standards are realized/enforced
• Implement wealth redistribution measures

The policy framework of Neoliberalism
• Promotes competition
• Privatizes
• Deregulates essential services
• Dismantles labor protection measures
• Promotes flexible labor markets
• Reduces welfare
• Reduces taxes
• Attracts foreign investment
• Balances budgets
• Uses maximum available resources to enhance personal/corporate wealth.

The policy framework pertaining HR
• Promotes solidarity
• Opposes privatization
• Ensures claim holders participation
• Regulates essential services and corporations
• Protects and promotes unionization
• Secures fair wages
• Ensures universal free daycare,

education, health care
• Increases social protection measures
• Implements progressive tax regimes and protects people’s rights in foreign investment schemes
• Uses maximum available resources to enhance well-being of people.

(By G. McNaughton as amended by me).

Social justice vs. ‘market justice’ (Claudia Gonzalez)

Market fundamentalism relates to the belief (conviction?) that all areas of policy, politics, society, culture and knowledge, and not just economics, should be ordered by the market logic. (Mary Nolan)

4. Adam Smith, one of the fathers of capitalism, did place great weight on morality: He believed that economic activity takes place in a society and can not be justified except as it advances the interests of that society. But too many economists (i) have come to believe that the interests of society can be measured by a number: that if a policy change raises GDP it is justified -- whatever its impact on people. (J. Legge)

(i): Conservative ideologues and economists so often are one and the same. Homo economicus --the fictional abstract individual who actively maximizes his personal ‘utility function’ through rational calculation-- continues to hold sway as the idealized model of human action in the contemporary entity we call ‘the economy’. The real tragedy of the market is to be found in the ‘rational’ individualism at its base.

Rosa Luxemburg used to say that if the people would really know, capitalism would last three days

-The rich are becoming richer and the richest are getting richer faster.
-The veritable economic anarchy of the capitalist society, as it exists today is, in my opinion, the true source of our evils. (Albert Einstein)
5. Capitalism excels at certain innovations, granted. But it is/has miserably failing(ed) at maintenance; and, for most lives, it is maintenance that matters more. (Lee Vinsel)

6. Take, for example ‘Green Growth’ as it is being variedly proposed. It has not resulted in solving our looming ecological crises but, in reinterpreting them, is actually creating new opportunities that business is taking advantage -of while diffusing responsibility for the causes of the same crises. Green Growth is full of contradictions and resistance to its orthodoxy is inevitable. (Larry Lohman)

7. Actually, in Globalization --the current flagship of capitalism-- “Might is Right” has come back with a vengeance. And in a defeatist stance, we have so far accepted this fact and have bowed to the forces we think we cannot effectively oppose.

8. Globalization is, therefore, not a neutral term. You know that. It is a straight jacket as strong as those of previous incarnations of capitalism as a hegemonic ideology. Globalization also presents the market as the only basis for society, with the elimination of any national barrier for the free flow of capitals and trade --but not people. Globalization shuns, as obsolete, the values of social justice and social institutions (like welfare). Its ‘new’ values are individual success over community values. The state is seen as an impediment, a problem, not as a solution. But the problem is that the State has left the market unregulated, devoid of any redistribution mechanisms blindly trusting trickle down will do it ‘in due time’. The engine of Globalization’s growth thus is greed. You know that too. The great powers de-facto control trade --one of the two engines of Globalization; the other engine, finance, was taken away by Washington. The UN has been left only to deal with the broken dishes, i.e., with the resulting rising social issues --and doing so in an increasingly irrelevant and underfinanced role.(ii) (Roberto Savio)

(ii): Today, the United Nations has no funds for action, and has become a dignified International Red Cross, left with education, health, food, children, mothers and any other humanitarian sector which is totally extraneous to the arena in which the politics of money and power is played out. The MDGs, adopted with great fanfare by the world's Heads of States in 2000, would have cost less than 5% of the world's military expenses. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are responsible for the international trade of 82% of weapons, and the Council's legitimacy to approve military intervention is a blanket conveniently used according to circumstances. (R. Savio)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
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