Since the 1980s, advocates of “free market” forces and unrestrained individualism have succeeded in making their views dominant worldwide. In this timely, startlingly honest, wide-ranging, and profound book Dennis Loo shows that free market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - make us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Loo points out that given this trend, the government must rely on ever increasing secrecy, deception, surveillance, fear and force in order to keep people in line, no matter which political party is in power. This is the underlying reason why the Democratic and Republican Parties are less and less distinguishable from each other, and why both parties have been moving politically to the Right.
Loo tells this story of two worlds in contention – those who uphold private interest vs. those who defend the public interest - by drawing from everyday life to illustrate and bring alive what might otherwise seem to be disconnected and disparate disturbing developments. Even after reading only one chapter, you will come away from Globalization and the Demolition of Society looking at the world differently.
Loo uncovers the fact that many of the most devastating world catastrophes are brought on unintentionally as a result of following neoliberal policies and logic. “The worst and most alarming news here,” he writes, “is not that 9/11 was… a grand conspiracy hatched within the highest US government echelons. It is instead that 9/11 and other disasters such as the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe are due to the normal and ordinary workings of capitalism, and specifically neoliberal policies. That is much more distressing than believing that 9/11 was an inside job.”
The book is sophisticated and subtle, ranging from exposing core flaws in neoliberalism’s founder Frederick Hayek’s works to unmasking the similarities of outlook of religious fundamentalists of the West, Middle East, and Asia, from eye-opening insights about social movements and media to revealing fundamental faults at the heart of democratic theory itself.
“How might authentic popular rule be achieved?” is one of the questions Loo sets out to answer. Unlike other books that offer “more democracy” as the answer, Loo shows that “making democracy work” as it is commonly meant is not the answer to the perils that neoliberalism present the planet.
If I offer you vanilla ice cream, he asks, and you eat it, does that mean that you wanted to eat vanilla ice cream in the first place? “Corporations, mass media, and public officials tell us that the fact that we get to choose what cell phone, what kind of sweetened cola, which pain reliever, what cut of denim jeans, what type of car, and which major party nominee for office we will vote for, means that we are in charge….” Choosing from among pre-selected givens is what the public is allowed. This is no more an exercise of the public will than a child is in charge of what she eats when she is told that she can choose to eat the peas or the carrots but she must eat one or the other.
The root of the world’s problems runs much deeper than whether or not people are all being allowed to vote and all the votes are being counted. Loo’s analysis of this and many other related and important questions, such as the malignant “logic” of the “war on terror,” the nature of state power, and the prospects for real change, is provocative, compelling and inspiring.
“The law no longer represents the standard that people must abide by in order to avoid having police actions and prosecutions imposed upon them. The new standard is that one can be subjected to governmental or private social control measures simply for being a perceived threat …The undermining of the rule of law … is being carried out across the full spectrum of … policy making from top to bottom …This means that attempts to restore the rule of law will not succeed as a strategy separated from a fundamental challenge to the entire logic of the system itself.”