How Neoliberalism Destroyed the Left

Richard SeymourFor neoliberals, it’s not the volume of state activity that is the concern, it’s the character of state activity. As long as the state is getting involved to support markets and the spread and development of markets — financial markets and in other ways too — as long as the state is opening up the public sector to private profit while bearing the costs, and as long as the state is using its coercive power to punish non-market transactions, the state has a very strong central role.

These things have effects. One of the things you can see throughout the 1980s that Mrs Thatcher did — she tried to launch so called popular capitalism. That wasn’t very effective at the time. It didn’t win the majority of people over. It won a minority of people who were the base of the Thatcherite insurgency. But New Labor, because the political forces of the left had been defeated — because the labor movement had been defeated so drastically — New Labor basically internalized the ideas and the dominant policies of neoliberalism, and governed on that basis, and because their base was a working class one, and because it was a left-wing one, they learned to communicate these goals — policy goals and aspirations — that working class and radical people could at least accept — at least acquiesce in. And that had an effect. It was under New Labor that attitudes shifted so much on issues to do with nationalization, welfare, redistribution — a whole series of indices.

—Richard Seymour
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