Reflections on Neoliberalism, Democracy, and the Need for Change
January 10, 2024
Lately, I’ve received messages from friends urging me to watch Dutch TV programs featuring thinkers like Noreena Hertz and George Monbiot, both of whom I’ve been reading for over two decades. These friends resonate with my ideas in “Een Nieuw Sociaal Contract.” (Goede, 2024)
In many islands, intellectuals still equate a free market with democracy, oblivious that institutions regulate markets and that even authoritarian countries have functioning markets. There’s no growing realization that corporations have played a role in eroding democratic values, prompting discussions about the need to adjust the dominant neoliberal system.
Now, let George Monbiot and Ernst Hirsch Ballin articulate the events of the past decades and our current situation.
Monboit’s article explores the impact of neoliberalism on society and criticizes the left for failing to provide a viable alternative. Neoliberalism, rooted in the belief in free-market capitalism, is depicted as contributing to financial crises, environmental issues, and the rise of figures like Donald Trump. Monboit traces the origins of neoliberalism to thinkers in the 1930s, emphasizing its role in exacerbating inequality, eroding public services, and disenfranchising large segments of the population.
According to Monbiot, neoliberalism is characterized by the belief in competition as the defining feature of human relations, the redefinition of citizens as consumers, and the emphasis on the market as the best mechanism for delivering benefits. The article suggests that this ideology has led to a range of societal issues, including inequality, the erosion of public services, and a sense of disempowerment for many (Monbiot, 2016).
The article highlights neoliberalism’s promise of choice and freedom, arguing that it often benefits the wealthy at the expense of others. Monbiot calls for developing a new economic framework tailored to the 21st century to counter the persisting influence of neoliberalism.
In Hirsch Ballin’s interview, he expresses concerns about democracy’s current state, attributing its challenges to the dominance of neoliberal economic and political models. The interview covers various topics, including the impact of American neoliberalism on the European Union, the consequences of rapid EU expansion, and the erosion of social cohesion. Hirsch Ballin emphasizes the harmful effects of neoliberalism on democracy, the rise of populism, and the importance of reorienting political focus towards a shared future. (van Rossem & Pegtel, 2019)
Both pieces underscore the need for critical reflection on neoliberalism, its consequences, and the imperative to seek alternative approaches for a more inclusive and sustainable future.
The Dutch political discourse is about a new balance not only between individuals and society but also about a balance between men and the planet. It is not only about energy transition to cope with the climate change that has become a crisis but also about creating a regenerative society, meaning restoring nature and communities.
Goede, M. (2024, January 1). Een Nieuw Sociaal Contract; DRAFT 4.0. Retrieved from www.academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/112694368/Nieuw_Sociaal_Contract_DRAFT_4_0?fbclid=IwAR3w9VvqDUsRLsgrb6zaBUns1nzLgCSoXY7mc_RGW2u5KroxBE_vZv2diGk
Monbiot, G. (2016, April 15). Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems. Retrieved from www.theguardian.com: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot
van Rossem, M., & Pegtel, A. (2019). Ernst Hirsch Ballin: ‘Het neoliberalisme heeft ons in zijn greep’. Retrieved from www.maartenonline.nl: https://www.maartenonline.nl/ernst-hirsch-ballin-het-neoliberalisme-heeft-ons-in-zijn-greep/