by Prof. Claudia von Werlhof
Global Research, February 1, 2008
Are there alternatives to plundering the earth, making war and destroying the planet
This text is based on a panel presentation together with Ferdinand Lacina, former Austrian Minister of Finance and Ewald Nowotny, President of the BAWAG-Bank during the “Dallinger Conference”, AK Wien, November 21, 2005.
Original German Title: “Alternativen zur neoliberalen Globalisierung, oder: Die Globalisierung des Neoliberalismus und seine Folgen, Wien, Picus 2007.
Claudia von-Werlhof is prominent writer and academic, Professor of Women’s Studies and Political Science at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
(Translation: from the German by Gabriel Kuhn)
Is there an alternative to plundering the earth?
Is there an alternative to making war?
Is there an alternative to destroying the planet?
No one asks these questions because they seem absurd. Yet, no one can escape them either. They have to be asked. Ultimate absurdity has taken hold of our lives. We are not only headed towards the world’s annihilation – we are headed towards it with ever increasing speed. The reason is the “globalization” of so-called “neoliberalism”. Its motto is TINA: “There Is No Alternative!” It is the deal of deals, the big feast, the final battle – Armageddon.
Let us first clarify what globalization and neoliberalism are, where they come from, who they are directed by, what they claim, what they do, why their effects are so fatal, why they will fail, and why people nonetheless cling to them. Then, let us look at the responses of those who are not – or will not – be able to live with the consequences they cause.
1. What Is “Neoliberal Globalization”?
1.1 TINA – Supposedly without Alternative
Before talking about the topic of this panel – alternatives to neoliberal globalization, or: the globalization of neoliberalism – one has to acknowledge that there is indeed a problem here. And not only that. One also has to define what the problem is exactly.
This is where the difficulties begin. For a good twenty years now we have been told that there is no alternative to neoliberal globalization/the globalization of neoliberalism, and that, in fact, no such alternative is needed either. Over and over again, we have been confronted with the TINA-concept: “There Is No Alternative!” The “iron lady”, Margaret Thatcher, was one of those who reiterated this belief without end – it is an embarrassment to women when one of their own displays such a politics of callousness once she has gained power.
The TINA-concept prohibits all thought. It follows the rationale that there is no point in analyzing and discussing neoliberalism and so-called globalization because they are inevitable. Whether we condone what is happening or not does not matter, it is happening anyway. There is no point in trying to understand. Hence: Go with it! Kill or be killed!
Some go as far as suggesting that neoliberalism and its globalization – meaning, a specific economic system that developed within specific socio-historical circumstances – is nothing less but a law of nature. In turn, “human nature” is supposedly reflected by the character of the system’s economic subjects: egotistical, ruthless, greedy and cold. This, we are told, works towards everyone’s benefit.
The question remains, of course, why Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” (which supposedly guides the economic process towards the common good, even if this remains imperceptible to the individual, Binswanger 1998) has become a “visible fist”? While a tiny minority reaps enormous benefits of today’s economic liberalism (none of which will remain, of course), the vast majority of the earth’s population, yes the earth itself, suffer hardship to an extent that puts their very survival at risk. The damage done seems irreversible.
All over the world media outlets – especially television stations – avoid addressing the problem. A common excuse is that it cannot be explained (Mies/Werlhof 2003, p. 23ff, 36ff). The true reason is, of course, the media’s corporate control. Neoliberalism means corporate politics.
Unfortunately, this still evades the public. In most Western countries – as, for example, in Austria – “neoliberalism” is not even commonly accepted as a term, and even “globalization” struggles to find recognition (Salmutter 1998, Dimmel/Schmee 2005). In the Austrian example, a curious provincialism reigns that pretends the country was somehow excluded from everything happening around it. If one listened to former chancellor Schüssel, it sounded like Austria knew no problems at all. The logic seems that if there is no term, there is no problem either. Unnameable, unspeakable, unthinkable: non-existing. Felix Austria.
Although Austria’s decision to join the European Union in 1995 bore the same consequences that neoliberalism bears everywhere, the connections remain ignored. This despite the fact that the European Union is – next to, and partly even ahead of, the US – the main driving force behind neoliberalism and its globalization. But let us take one step at a time…
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© Copyright Claudia von Werlhof, Global Research, 2008
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