Polarizing Development, Introducing Alternatives to Neoliberalism and the Crisis

Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin No. 1122, by Thomas Marois and Lucia Pradella, May 25, 2015.

Neoliberal economic policies, with their emphasis on market-led development and individual rationality, have been exposed as bankrupt not only by the global economic crisis but also by increasing social opposition and resistance … //

… Polarizing the Debate on Alternatives: … //
… Interpreting Neoliberalism: … //
… Washington Consensus: Ten Characteristic Policies: … //
… Resisting Neoliberalism: … //
… The Global Crisis and the Resilience of Neoliberalism: … //
… The Limits of New Developmental Alternatives: … //

… What Makes for Substantive Developmental Alternatives?

Contributors to this book share an understanding that many societies are in dire need of substantive alternatives to both neoliberal capitalism and its new developmentalist variants. But what does this mean? While we do not ascribe to a single, shared vision (nor need we), each contributor has tried to identify and signal various progressive tendencies that arise from the specific contexts, cases and struggles they have dealt with – be it from women’s struggles in Turkey, Cambodia or Venezuela, from revolutionary lessons in Latin America and the Middle East, or from the many labour resistances discussed. We accepted at the start of the project that alternatives cannot and do not simply arrive pre-formed from outside existing society. In other words, the struggle to break with neoliberal capitalism necessarily begins within the historical confines of neoliberalism. Consequently, alternatives must be sought in everyday and actually existing struggles.

To recognize the necessarily historical specificity of struggles to overcome neoliberal capitalism is not to abandon universal aspirations for social justice or common strategies of resistance. On the contrary, by analysing how capitalism works, contributors to this book have tried to provide an analytical framework within which a strategy of change can be shaped. To this end, we share a baseline understanding of what is needed to constitute an alternative. That is, any alternative must stand in sharp contrast to any form of exploitation and oppression, and it must be achieved through working and popular class agency. There is no evidence that capitalists and their advocates will relinquish their accumulated institutional and material power and control willingly. Progressive change must be achieved from below.

Given this shared baseline, it is worth highlighting some of the concrete strategies and principles that emerge throughout the book:

  • * Worker-led resistances and aspirations: What gains have been made by workers and popular classes are due to their collective mobilizations. Many argue that the sustainability of struggles for progressive alternatives depends on the capacity of labour and social movements to build local, national, regional and international movements oriented toward structural transformation. Many highlight the importance of establishing cooperative productive and economic capacity as a prerequisite for more solidarity-based and worker-led social economies, for example, the regional Zapatista movement in Mexico and national Landless Movement in Brazil, but question the extent to which these forms of peasant resistance are generalizable. Others identify the length of the working day as a key terrain of social transformation, and affirm the centrality of creating autonomous working-class political organizations with an internationalist and anti-imperialist perspective. If the global restructuring of production and international migration potentially strengthens the working-class internationally, we need to reflect on the strategies needed to unify workers across the North/South divide and beyond national and radicalized divisions. Similarly, effective anti-war movements have to be based on a new solidarity of working-class and oppressed peoples’ struggles.
  • * Equitable social reproduction: We highlight the crucial importance of women’s agency in challenging the gendered inequalities of neoliberal production and social reproduction, drawing on socialist feminist tenets. These contributions point to the need to fight for renewed public services to alleviate the unequal burdens women face day in and day out. Contributors also highlight the need to radically question allegedly natural gender roles in the domestic sphere. At the same time, the differential exploitation of women workers needs to be addressed, defending women’s rights as women and as workers. Various contributors highlight the enormous potential for these struggles, including the crucial role of women in the Arab uprisings and in the struggles sparked by the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh.
  • * Renewing and democratizing the public sector: There is no escaping the struggle to substantively democratize the public sector. To the extent that new developmentalists seek alternatives to neoliberalism, state-owned and public services are presented as alternatives simply because they are not privately owned. Contributors to this book share no such illusions: public services can be aggressively neoliberal in their operations. To recognize this is not to reject the public sector as a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for breaking with neoliberalism. Public ownership can provide a powerful stimulus toward more collective social ownership and the democratization of political and economic processes. Yet this is no straightforward process. In the many struggles aiming to protect public service provisioning globally we need to develop a clearer definition of ‘publicness’ and an alternative methodology by which we can critically evaluate and improve public services for the social good. This is essential given, for example, the massive capacity that still-existing state banks hold globally. Capturing and democratizing these public sources of credit, along with the dispossession of the accumulated wealth and power of financial capital, is a necessary feature of any sustainable alternative to neoliberalism. The knock-on benefits of exerting democratic control over society’s monetary resources are substantial: solidaristic funding for public services, public infrastructure and cooperatives, as well as for gendered and green social developmental initiatives.
  • * Social and environmental justice: Many contributors to this book accept that environmental struggles are intimately tied to workers’ and women’s aspirations: struggles against climate change is tied to social justice. There is a strategic role for industrial workers in realizing this transformation, potentially unifying the entire working-class and its social allies, including women’s and peasant-based struggles against dispossession and environmental destruction. Underlying this is the ideal that an alternative, socialist society must be characterized by the material equality of all its members as the basis for free and equal participation in processes of production and reproduction, respectful of the environment.

By criticizing neoliberalism and by reflecting on the forms alternatives have taken and are taking, this book tries to ‘polarize development’. This direction is meant not just to criticize existing social polarizations, but also to recognize the seeds of material interdependence and class power existing within the present society. In different ways, workers, women and social movements all over the world are trying to oppose the exploitative and oppressive social relations of capitalist rule. As the crisis continues to unfold and deepen, it is increasingly imperative that any realistic alternatives to neoliberalism moves beyond the pole of ‘reform and reproduce’ toward a radical break with capitalism itself. None of the strategies and principles presented in this book, on their own, is assumed to be sufficient to realize such a break. Nevertheless, in important and transformative ways, they each may contribute to advancing in this direction. We see our book, Polarizing Development, as a contribution to the struggles of workers and social movements, who are the real forces that can polarize development and subordinate it to real social needs.

(full long text).


Climate Stupidity and Human Survival, on Dissident Voice, by Denis Rancourt, May 26, 2015;

Profit over Common Good? on Dissident Voice, by James Hoover, May 26, 2015: Maybe best characterizing the extreme in unmitigated industrial fossil frenzy is Texas (TX). North Dakota (ND) is the newcomer, but Texas is much larger and has for years been a boisterous, sometimes toxic free-for-all …;

Daily chart, Pay up, pay down, on The Economist, May 26, 2015:

Crunch time for Athens, on The Economist, May 26, 2015: GREECE approaches a real deadline with creditors on June 5th, America’s economy shakes and China’s stock market wobbles;

DISCRIMINATION? … qu’il ne faut pas espérer cet appartement – dit l’agent immobilier à Sophie, mère seule avec deux enfants, dans RTL.be, le 26 mai 2015;

Enseignement de Barcelone – leur récession n’est pas notre décroissance, dans Mediapart.fr, le 25 mai 2015;

The Hidden History Of The Human Race, 51.20 min, uploaded by What They Don’t Want You To Know, Jan 19, 2015 … THIS human race did not start to evolve 10,000 years ago. They started to recover, not to evolve. The history you’ve learnt in school is just a story which deliberately underestimates the human race;

The fiction of memory – Elizabeth Loftus, 17.36 min, uploaded by TED, Sept 23, 2013: Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn’t happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. It’s more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics, and raises some important ethical questions we should all remember to consider …;

How Does Your Memory Work? uploaded by BastisWifey07, Sept 10, 2008: Part 1, 10.00 min; Part 2, 10.00 min; Part 3, 10.01 min; Part 4, 10.00 min; Part 5, 09.06 min.

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