Across the globe, the forces of casino capitalism are on the march. With the return of the Gilded Age and its dream worlds of consumption, privatization and deregulation, not only are democratic values and social protections at risk, but the civic and formative cultures that make such values and protections crucial to democratic life are in danger of disappearing altogether. As public spheres, once enlivened by broad engagements with common concerns, are being transformed into \”spectacular spaces of consumption,\” the flight from mutual obligations and social responsibilities intensifies and has resulted in what Tony Judt identifies as a \”loss of faith in the culture of open democracy.\”4 This loss of faith in the power of public dialogue and dissent is not unrelated to the diminished belief in higher education as central to producing critical citizens and a crucial democratic public sphere in its own right. At stake here is not only the meaning and purpose of higher education, but also civil society, politics and the fate of democracy itself. Thomas Frank is on target when he argues that \”Over the course of the past few decades, the power of concentrated money has subverted professions, destroyed small investors, wrecked the regulatory state, corrupted legislators en masse and repeatedly put the economy through the wringer. Now it has come for our democracy itself.\”5 And, yet, the only questions being asked about knowledge production, the purpose of education, the nature of politics, and our understanding of the future are determined largely by market forces.
The mantras of neoliberalism are now well known: Government is the problem; Society is a fiction; Sovereignty is market-driven; Deregulation and commodification are vehicles for freedom; and Higher education should serve corporate interests rather than the public good. In addition, the yardstick of profit has become the only viable measure of the good life, while civic engagement and public spheres devoted to the common good are viewed by many politicians and their publics as either a hindrance to the goals of a market-driven society or alibis for government inefficiency and waste.
- Conflict, Revolt and Democracy in the Neoliberal World (2013) (foucaultnews.com)
- Quoted in Henry Giroux’s latest excellent essay (adambessie.com)
- Goodman, “Religious Pluralism and Values in the Public Sphere” (clrforum.org)
- Konczal, Douthat and Neoliberalism (firedoglake.com)