If at the end you feel good for nothing, freedom is just another word.
By Elena Alban.
“It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”Fredric Jameson
This is a strong statement that, unfortunately, hides some truth.
Mark Fisher, a famous English cultural theorist, used this expression several times in analysing the crisis of 2008-2010. Specifically, in his book “Capitalism Realism”, he emphasises how, nowadays, there is so much surrounding the widespread sense that this form of exasperated and globalized capitalism seems to be, not only the unique viable political and economic system, but also that it seems impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.
The Frederic Jameson’s statement is, thus, used by Mark fisher to explain how people feel, when embedded in a system they are not able to manage: they fear losing their jobs, their pensions, … for them it is easier to imagine the end of their lives than the end of capitalism.
In particular, Fisher talks about a sort of capitalism linked to a current of thought that developed in the 80s until today: neoliberalism. Fisher claims that our societies, our liberal democracies have been overcome by the exasperation of that freedom on which capitalism and free trade are based. An exasperation that reduces freedom to the mere rational choice, without taking into consideration other factors affecting human decisions. In this context, the free market is untied by ethic and moral constraints, identifying itself with the romantic ideal of a perfect society, based on a perfect competition, where all people act as efficient and informed entrepreneurs, able to maximize their own interests.
But could this ideal society even remotely reflect the reality?
Of course, not. Neoliberalism is a limited concept, as it takes into consideration only one part of human personality in making decisions, making choices and living everyday life. Indeed, on the other hand, it neglects those aspects of the human being that cannot be foreseen by rationality, that cannot provide certainty, that can fall out of rules, norms, routines, without having necessarily a rational or comprehensive justification. Moreover, it takes for granted that self-interested ways of action are just positive, by realising own’s freedom and by letting it invade others’ spheres of freedom.
It is a concept that cannot be compatible with the democratic one.
In the article “Good For Nothing”, published in “The Occupied Times” in March 2014, there is evidence of it. According to Mark Fisher, powerless, depression, resentment are the outcomes of the neoliberal system. In particular, depression is the illness of our society and it lays on the contradictory idea of what Fisher calls “reflective impotence”: on one hand, the concept of “responsabilization” has been a successful tactic of the ruling class; on the other hand our society teaches us according to the line of thought called “magic voluntarism”. The responsabilization criterium encourages each member of the subordinate class into “feeling that their poverty, lack of opportunities or unemployment is their fault and their fault alone” (Article “Good For Nothing”). “Magic voluntarism” refers to the “dominant ideology and unofficial religion of our contemporary societies”, according to which “it is within every individual’s power to make themselves whatever they want” (Article “Good For Nothing”).
So you find yourself without the sufficient means and tools to change your life (and it is your fault), but you are taught you can do everything, you can choose what you want to be. You are in a jail, you do not have the keys to open the door, but you can open the door, if you want. Depression takes place, when you understand you are not the kind of people who can act to change the system, so let’s say… you feel good for nothing.
Depression is what people suffer when political institutions are not able to counterbalance the economic system.
By starting from the assumption that it’s not man who is made for economics, but it is economics made for man, the liberal economic system in itself is not bad. Anyway, the invisible hand of Adam Smith can work and provide for positive outcomes if all human facets are taking into account. So, where the economic rationality cannot solve the problem, there is the need of the State and politics in intervining and giving solutions to what at least concerns the most basic human rights issues.
We stand for liberal democracies: it means we stand for a free market system, respectful of human life and freedom, mutually limited and balanced by a political one, defending the fundamental rights of mankind, the democratic principles and the rule of law. Liberal democracies are based on the rule of law, not on the rule of money and there are some areas you cannot put a price on and that should be granted for all, such as health and education.
Not only workers, unemployed and retired people are affected by this decadence of the welfare state, but a special focus should also be reserved to young people, in particular students.
Today, a bachelor degree alone is not enough, so people feel obliged to do a master. It is better to be specialised in a particular subject. The more qualifications, experience and skills you have on your CV, the more chances you have in getting a job in your studied subject.
Neoliberalism is always on the run, it does not wait for anyone. You have to be prepared, to enter the system you have to be already taught.
In this way education stops to be a right, it becomes an economic investment, no more a social one.
So can a right be bought?
When our most basic rights are deprived of their human inherent nature and become just market goods, at that point it’s hardly surprising if we just feel good for nothing.
M. Fisher, “Capitalism Realism”, John Hunt Publishing, 2009
M. Fisher, “Good For Nothing”. The Occupied Times, 2014