Bourdieu on neoliberalism

23 Jul, 2018 at 08:55 | Posted in Economics | 2 Comments

neoEconomists may not necessarily share the economic and social interests of the true believers and may have a variety of individual psychic states regarding the economic and social effects of the utopia which they cloak with mathematical reason. Nevertheless, they have enough specific interests in the field of economic science to contribute decisively to the production and reproduction of belief in the neoliberal utopia. Separated from the realities of the economic and social world by their existence and above all by their intellectual formation, which is most frequently purely abstract, bookish, and theoretical, they are particularly inclined to confuse the things of logic with the logic of things.

These economists trust models that they almost never have occasion to submit to the test of experimental verification and are led to look down upon the results of the other historical sciences, in which they do not recognise the purity and crystalline transparency of their mathematical games, whose true necessity and profound complexity they are often incapable of understanding. They participate and collaborate in a formidable economic and social change. Even if some of its consequences horrify them (they can join the socialist party and give learned counsel to its representatives in the power structure), it cannot displease them because, at the risk of a few failures, imputable to what they sometimes call “speculative bubbles”, it tends to give reality to the ultra-logical utopia (ultra-logical like certain forms of insanity) to which they consecrate their lives.

Pierre Bourdieu


  1. If we call those who promote neoliberalism ‘ultra-logical’, what should we call those who attempt to apply ‘proper’ logic to social affairs?

    My reading of Russell, Keynes, et al, is that there is no way we could ever know that an evolutionary process had reached an ultimate stability, and that the most plausible explanation for such an outcome would be that the evolutionary process was constrained by some-god like influence.

    The very minimum we would wish to avoid significant instabilities would be some best-effort at some god-like oversight, with the power to intervene if necessary. This oversight would need to be keenly aware of the impact of current ‘system’ on those affected by it, particularly those who are benefitting the least. A ‘proper’ democratic system, supported by ‘proper’ academics and media would seem to fit the bill. The best argument for neo-liberal policies is, I think, that our essential institutions are inevitably corrupt and we would do better to accept the occasional set-back than incompetent or corrupt governance.

    I hope they are wrong, but either way logic seems to have little to do with it, except to expose the issues and potential remedies. And here proper logic seems better than pseudo or ‘ultra’ logic.

  2. More Bourdieu and other most important sociology of neoliberalism (from my page on the subject)

    “The movement toward the neoliberal utopia of a pure and perfect market is made possible by the politics of financial deregulation. (..) .. the nation, whose space to manoeuvre continually decreases. In this way, a Darwinian world emerges – it is the struggle of all against all at all levels of the hierarchy, which finds support through everyone clinging to their job and organisation under conditions of insecurity, suffering, and stress.”
    — Pierre Bourdieu, The Essence of Neoliberalism, 1998, Le Monde Diplomatique

    “The state nobility, which preaches the withering away of the state and the undivided reign of the market and the consumer, the commercial substitute for the citizen, has kidnapped the state: it has made the public good a private good, has made the ‘public thing’, res publica, the Republic, its own thing. (..) The national states are undermined from outside by these financial forces, and they are undermined from inside by those who act as the accomplices of these financial forces, in other words, the financiers, bankers and finance ministry officials. I think that the dominated groups in society have an interest in defending the state, particularly in its social aspect.”
    — Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance, ‘Against the Destruction of a Civilization’, 1998: 25

    “One might say that in the headquarters of the corporations, whose collective interest is clearly reflected in American government policies, nostalgia has lingered on for the good old days of Hitler’s Third Reich, which was a paradise for German as well as American and other foreign firms: no left-wing parties, no unions, unlimited numbers of slave labourers, and an authoritarian state that provided the necessary discipline and arranged for an “armament boom” and eventually a war that brought “horizonless profits…”
    — Jacques Pauwels, Author Big Business and Hitler—neoliberalism

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