Tariq Ali in conversation with David Harvey on the State of the World [Video]


I don’t agree with everything said here (The Wire cynical? I don’t think so), but it’s worth listening to. Both of these authors are worth reading as well. Harvey knows as much about Marx and neoliberalism as anyone alive. If you want to understand your world and your future, you have to understand neoliberalism – and it wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit of Marx either. Contrary to what most people think, Marx spent his entire life trying to understand capitalism.

As far as the state of the world goes, the evidence of almost total systemic corruption mounts by the day. Still, most americans insist on remaining passive and ignorant. It seems many people are not going to even consider changing anything until the next financial crisis, which will be much worse than the great depression. Capitalists have off-shored much of our manufacturing base, but they continue to excel at manufacturing crises for the domestic and international “markets.”

Are we capable of making the change we need? The ideological constraints Harvey and Ali speak of may be the biggest hurdle we face. If people remain under the ideological veil of neoliberalism and american consumer capitalism, or what we might simply call, americanism (which involves ideas like exceptionalism and rugged individualism), they will continue to blame themselves and fail to understand their problems are not individual, but systemic. In other words, if they remain brainwashed (or propagandized, if you will) and afraid, they will never sufficiently organize and begin to formulate concrete plans and actions to challenge the neoliberal, corrupt, corporate state we live under today.

If people remain under that veil, an uglier reaction to worsening conditions is much more likely. It will just take one more step to the right, and that reaction will look something like a fully fascist, technocratic, corporate, police/surveillance state. We’re much more than halfway there already and we don’t have the benefit of a strong organized left. Historically, the left has been a check on power and an engine of progressive change. At the moment, radical organizations are small and atomized, and though I never thought of the liberal class as on the left, the traditional role of liberal institutions in society has been wiped out and people who identify as liberals cling to the idea that reform is possible and a kinder, gentler capitalism will flourish if we can “just get money out of politics,” or reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The logic of capitalism demands ceaseless accumulation and greater profit every quarter. We are well past the possibility for what people once called reform. The only good option is to replace capitalism with alternative ways to organize society. This means radical change, if for no other reason than the impact of climate change on the very species currently exacerbating it, though there are a thousand other reasons as well. That happens to be the essential argument of Naomi Klein’s new book. To boil it down to a phrase: climate change demands radical change. Radical change simply means change at the root. Systemic change. That system is capitalism and its logic of exploitation is the definition of unsustainable.

We’re not so much at a crossroads as at an edge of a cliff which makes up one side of a massive canyon. Behind us are the corporate profiteers and their mercenary armies, privatizing everything and bringing the entire world under their command. We are going to have to figure out how to fight them while building a bridge to the other side at the same time. Or simply be forced off the cliff.

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