The Ideological Crisis

The end of the End

The global meltdown of Ideas

Focus text:  Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’.

It plagues every discussion, its on every channel, it is felt everywhere from small towns to industrial zones, and takes up half of any given newspaper. Spain, as one of the countries most deeply effected by the drying up of global capital is feeling its change of fortune in many ways. The housing mortgage crisis is evicting hundreds each week, close to a million properties are now vacant, five million find themselves unemployed and the fiscal solutions of cutting welfare, stagnating public sector incomes and the dissolving of state funded community infrastructure projects are being met with public disgust and mobilisation of the masses. Living in Spain for the last 4 months, not a day passes without ‘la crisis’ being mentioned or referred to, it has come to be the blame for anything, and everything appears related. This crisis may be economic, but its social impacts are being felt and are rendering shifts in the way the Spanish conduct daily life. The government, as elected by its people is being scrutinised and held accountable more than anything else in this crisis, which although this is a positive thing they represent the small fry in this complicated global meltdown. I am no economist, and similarly wont be offering any economic critique, suggestions or plans to this end. My focus is the ideology behind this global crisis, looking at the global economy from a distance, what it has come to symbolise and embody. It is ideology, with its capitalist model and global reach that needs to be reflected on for the problems at home to be better understood.

 

Brushing Spain to one side, this crisis in Europe is impacting on certain established norms and their supranational bodies that up until now people assumed to be concrete, unshakeable and as such many came to take for granted. The European Union, State Sovereignty, Economic interdependence, Free Trade, the open-border Schengen Agreement, People powered Democracy. Along with many other institutions, they had lead the way forward, the way of progress, on the premise that the economic future offered stability justified by its concrete unfaltering ideology. Economic stability proved to be the key infrastructure for the formation and success of most of these ideological upstarts. The beginning of this  ideological discourse of ‘neoliberalism’ for the running of the states economies became embodied in their figureheads of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the eighties, arming themselves with this ideological weaponry for use in the global conflict of the Cold War. After the end of the Cold War Period, the defeat of Soviets and the socialist ideology gave a commanding mandate to legitimise Neoliberalism and with it, its plans, its discourse, its goals. In academic circles, the circulation of Francis Fukuyama’s ‘The End of History’ consolidated the claim that the ideological war had been won, the alternatives defeated, the way forward determined. It may have been a very premature time to declare victory, but at the same time also it was also very premature a time to critique it. After all, the Cold War lead to many doomsday predicted scenarios for almost half a century, the threat of another possible chemical world war had been all very real. The declaration of the end of these ideological wars came as a comforting sentiment to many, and as such was left largely under-critiqued for many years.

Fast forward two decades and comfort has now been replaced with uncertainty. Predictions have been revised, gains have been written off, progress stalled and confidence slipping. Where forecasts predicted into ten year time frames, now it’s proving difficult to imagine three year scenarios. The winning ideology has suffered what many thought impossible, yet everyone is still holding onto the belief that the answers must lie in the ideology of the present system. But they aren’t there, and so now it seems that the West is experiencing an ideology shock, followed up by an ideology drought. The prolonging conditions of the crisis in Spain this year provoked the 15M or May 15, ‘Spanish Revolution’. Although the movement had the appearance of a revolution, it revolutionised nothing. The indignados or indignants, during their months of occupation of the Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, were demanding change to the economic system, frustrated with the futility of the current government that they labelled to be out of touch with the people. Months of protest and anger at the government, yet neither could address nor provide answers to the crisis dragging on in Spain. The movement captured the public, the media and political spheres, yet demanding national solutions to global ideological problems are going to always be fruitless.

Everyone’s hitting the panic button, and no one is searching for the backup files. The financial shock of 2008 was indeed, underestimated. Reserve Banks and Financial gurus suggested that the system could still maintain itself, turn around in a short three year period and be popping out once more, surpluses and profit. Two words that we all love. All that was needed was the simple injection of cash into the economy by governments and the system would be up and running again. Governments borrowed, injected, only to see the prediction of recovery go pear shaped, and now unable to pay those debts. In these cases what was recommended, a band-aid solution, contrasted to what was necessary, full surgery on a cancerous, tumorous and highly infectious wound. This was the short term suggestion by these economic wizards to what was perceived to be just a capitalist hiccup. Radical surgery, and its implications for this neoliberal economic ideology would have been to render the model imperfect, insufficient, and as such perceived as a backward step. A recent comment by the now Prime Minister of Denmark puts the problem squarely on the perpetual growth orientated market model.

‘I do not believe that the task for rich countries is to remain concentrated on growth, but to distribute the wealth that they already have’

No growth economies are not part of the ideology, we were promised a positive sum game, winners and gains all round. For some time indeed this is what achieved such rapid positive human growth and progress. So now Europe is looking for plan B, with so much sovereign debt, can the economic union survive? Looking to Europe’s recent post-enlightened past, problems were met head on, philosophers debated them, compromises made and it all equalled human progress. So as the Euro-zone drags into a dreary Christmas period, more polarised than ever, the hopes are that under the Christmas tree will lie a convenient solution to this mess. Highly unlikely there will be even a present.

The Asian economic crisis caused the populations of those countries effectively to save, for the day in which that unexpected time may occur all over again. The approach to this crisis has been the opposite, to borrow more, to keep building on top of the same building with rotten foundations. The building should have been dismantled and redesigned so that it will not rot and then the continual checking up on its foundations is then necessary to prevent decay. The economic crash of 2002 in Argentina is an example of how the ordinary effected people, locked out of the houses, with their bank accounts frozen, the factories where they were once employed shut, transformed their situation on their own terms. Trade Union groups and companies occupied these abandoned factories, starting them up under their own management, paying their workers fairly, with any excess goods or profits donated to public initiatives such as local schools and hospitals. The workers at the Vanon tile factory remain one of the most famous examples of this type of direct action, successful in holding off several eviction orders from the factory they occupied. A bottom up approach when the reverse had failed them. Although this phenomenon was an internal reaction to an internal economic crisis, the ideology behind it does offer potential ideas to the failing current system. The solution being, if there is no hierarchy, we can redesign the system to work for ourselves. The message from this was that the people can control their own affairs when economic institutions and governments fail them. Yet it seems in the West, in this global environment, we still hold close to those perceived unshakable institutions, we can’t admit to ourselves that they’ve failed us, those big businesses, such as the banks, as we allow them, we the masses on the international stage, to remain big and wield such power.

When the first economic shocks of 2008 occurred, I felt that this may have heralded the beginning of a positive shift for the global market to restructure the notion of value in the economy to cover the environment. The inconvenience to human life by way of drastic changes in our natural environment is one of the biggest and most extensive issues confronting human existence. The impacts of climate change, what may be causing it, what we could be doing to avoid it, permeated in the mainstream media and consciousness prior to the global crisis. The faltering global economy in 2008 started a gradual side lining of that important issue. Yet rather, I saw an opportunity to fuse the two major issues into one problem, to which both could be considered in a broader solution. Moreover, the lack of health in the natural environment draws parallels when considering both the unhealthy unstable state of the economic system and the costs of the current crisis. What was promised to be a positive sum game, has ended in an all over negative one. The restructuring of the economy needed to include the environment, but it was not to be the case. The greedy persistence of the current system still too lucrative, the wealth it bore still too fresh in our minds. We all wanted and believed there was more of it available. The environment, as such, could only be dealt with in times of economic certainty.

Greed has undone the system, itself an unsustainable concept. For every mountain there is a corresponding valley, and to every rise, creates the chance of a great fall. We live on a finite planet, with its finite resources. So as the next deeper wave of economic turmoil unleashes itself on the global economy, its time we do something about it and upgrade the system. The rules of the game cannot stay the same, these boom and bust scenarios hurt more when they crash then who they benefited at their peak. The old ideological base is now devoid of all new ideas or ways in which we can move forward. For countries in the west, their wealth has generated booms in the global south, maybe now it is the time that those nations will come up with ideas and change for the sick state of the global economic system.

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About mindinthematter

Artistic, Enjoy writing and discussion Instrumentalist: Saxophone, Clarinet. Music: Jazz, Gypsy, Folk and all the groovy soul-centred inspired music of this world Travel, Hitch-hiking, Dumpster Diving, Living in the shadows, to go out in search of light
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One Response to The Ideological Crisis

  1. My Homepage says:

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