Economics at Gunpoint

August 27, 2008

A decade too late, I have just come across a translation of Bourdieu’s essay on the essence of neoliberalism first published in Le Monde in which he emphasizes that the neoliberal project, which misleadingly presents itself as a hightened concern for personal freedom, is an attempt to make reality conform to the dictates of science. The free market, where precisely quanitifable factors interact in a predictable way, is a purely theoretical model far removed from any hitherto existing social reality. The hope is, though, that social reality can finally be made to conform to the theoretical construct, thereby validating the theory (although there was never any doubt about its validity) and giving social life the rationality it had always lacked.

Critics of Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” insisted that the terrible upheavals she lists were merely accidents of history miss the point that the neoliberal attempt to make reality fit the theory is inevitably violent. Communities will have to be torn apart; the old certainties will have to be discarded; people will have to learn to live without an older sense of security; and people will inevitably be shot as they try to cross international borders illegally in an effort to escape crippling poverty.

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