In corvid-19, neoliberal capitalism has met a formidable foe. The pandemic has shown just how fragile and dysfunctional the market/state order — as a production apparatus, ideology, and culture — truly is. Countless market sectors are now more or less collapsing with a highly uncertain future ahead. With a few notable exceptions, government responses to the virus range from ineffectual to self-serving to clownish.
While politicians clearly hope that massive government bailouts will restore the economy, it’s important to recognize that this is not just a financial crisis; it’s a social and political crisis as well. Many legacy market systems – generously subsidized and propped up by state power – are not really trusted or loved by people. Do Americans really want to give $17 billion to scandal-ridden Boeing while letting the post office go bankrupt? It is too early to declare that the old forms will never return, and we do need to remember that the authoritarian option is dangerously close. But it is clear that the future will have a very different pattern.
To me, one thing is obvious: searching for the rudiments of a New Order should be our top priority once emergency needs are taken care of. We need to identify and cultivate new patterns of peer provisioning and place-based governance, especially at the local and regional levels. We need new types of infrastructures and new narratives that understand the practical need for open-source civic and economic engagement.
This is not only necessary to help us deal with climate change and inequality; it is a preemptive necessity for fortifying democracy itself. Reactionary forces are already poised to try to restore a pre-pandemic “normal.” “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting,” writes filmmaker Julio Vincent Gambuto in a wonderful essay on Medium.
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