Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Caring Democracy

Just as I wrote a blog on the importance of "Care", I bump into a book on the library's new book shelves -
 by Joan Tronto, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota. I'm still early in the book but she seems to offer one of the clearer pictures of the assumptions of  'neoliberalism' as any I have seen.

"By neoliberalism, I refer to the economic system in which government expenditures are limited, the market is viewed as the preferred method for allocating all social resources, the protection of private property is taken to be the first principle of government, and social programs are limited to being a "safety net."...Neoliberalism has several tenets. The first is the assumption that the market is the institution that is most able to resolve disputes, allocate resources, and permit individuals "choice." Second, freedom comes to be defined solely as the capacity to exercise choice. From these two premises follows a third, that societies work best when they allow rational actors to make  choices in the market; anything that interferes with such choice reduces people's freedom and is harmful to them and society. Thus, under the banner of "choice", neoliberals seek to restrict all forms of government activity that might interfere with the "free market".

Tronto goes on, as you might suspect, to critique the assumptions at some length, but the first few sentences capture the heart of her argument I think.

We live in an age in which capitalism has not only taken a new form, neoliberalism, but in which this form of economic existence has come to function as an all-encompassing ideology. Neoliberal capital believes itself to be definitive of all forms of human relationships and of all ways of properly understanding human life Neoliberalism is not only a description of economic life, it is also an ethical system that posits only personal responsibility matters.

Tronto goes on in the following pages to note that neobliberalism requires the government "to be enlisted into its political-economic project of constructing and maintaining the "free market", often at deep costs to the people....But the logic of neoliberalism also directs the appropriate concerns of politics to be only[emphasis added] those that support economic activity."

I'm not entirely sure where Tronto is going with her arguments and possible remedies, but I do sense that she is aiming at a particularly important interface that is hidden from most of us. More as I wade through this and the growing pile of titles I'm consuming these days.

Take care of yourselves so you can care for others....