Economics/Class Relations

Are we in the post-neoliberal era?

This week we’re returning to one of our favorite topics to discuss on KK&F: whether we’re still dealing with a neoliberal economic and political system, or whether we’ve gone beyond it. That’s the topic tackled by Rana Foroohar in her book Homecoming, which she’s joined us this week to discuss. We’ve got plenty to cover in this episode, from Fox News’ latest freakout about snowflakes and college-campus wokeness to whether the Biden admin is capable of taking us from an era of market fundamentalism to increased localism — and why that’s important. Watch below.

Is neoliberalism still alive and kicking? In her answer, Rana traces its political activity back to the Reagan-Thatcher era, asking us to think about how the present day is a reaction to that moment, when globalization was taking off, the government’s attacks on organized labor were undoing generations of progress for unions, and austerity was the order of the day. Rana’s assessment of where we’re at now is that it’s a pendulum swing in the opposite direction of the Reagan-Thatcher period. We’re seeing that the central theses underlying the neoliberal order — about exploiting cheap labor and cheap energy — aren’t accomplishing what that order’s architects promised that they would accomplish (though they did tell us to wait for three to five generations!).

Now the Democratic Party, as Rana tells it, faces an existential crisis. Those who were active in government during the start of neoliberal policymaking — and who perhaps even worked to implement it — are in the same party as new legislators who have seen the catastrophic effects of those policies on the working-class people they represent. Rana shares her view that Biden is prepared to lead through the tension in his party and the movement out of the neoliberal period is favorable. Agree or disagree, we think you’ll find this an engaging and thought-provoking discussion, and we’re grateful to Rana for joining us.

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