TINA forever?

Herbert Spencer, who lived from 1820 to 1903, was a British intellectual who strongly defended classical liberalism. He believed in laissez-faire government and positivism – the ability of technological and social progress to solve society’s problems – and considered that Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” should apply to human interactions. To critics of capitalism, free markets and democracy, he frequently responded, “There is no alternative.”

Margaret Thatcher used the phrase in a similar way to Spencer when responding to critics of her market-oriented policies of deregulation, political centralization, spending cuts and a rollback of the welfare state. Alternatives to this approach abounded, from the policies advocated by Labour to those in place in the Soviet Union. …

(But) … after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama argued that this view had been permanently vindicated. With communism discredited, he wrote that no ideology could ever seriously compete with capitalism and democracy again: the “end of history” that Marx promised had arrived, albeit in a different form.”  Read James Chen’s investopedia article here

Indeed, it was astounding to see the “neo-liberal” liberals converting to the previously despised historical determinism of Leninist Marxism?

“TINA now meant : “Globalized capitalism, so called free-markets and free trade were the best ways to build wealth, distribute services and grow a society’s economy. Deregulation’s good, if not God”, writes Xiang Zhou and copying “Margaret “Tina” Thatcher, Angela Merkel has defended her controversial fiscal policies for Europe with the very same slogan. It is not surprising that politicians use such thought-terminating cliches to push through their agenda”  Read Michael Krämer’s Guardian article here

Angela Merkel

Across the Atlantic, in 1989 John Williamson had listed “… 10 economic policy prescriptions, which were considered a one size fits all solution. The reform package put forth by this “Washington Consensus” encompassed policies in such areas as macroeconomic stabilization, economic opening with respect to both trade and investment, and the expansion of market forces within the domestic economy. This orientation refers us to a market-based approach, some would describe it as market fundamentalism or neoliberalism.”  Read Xiang Zhou’s SDUL article here

When John Gray criticized the “dangerous utopia of the Washington Consensus proclaiming that there is “no alternative to worldwide free markets” in his 1998 “False Dawn” he was savagely “attacked from all parts of the political spectrum  … (and his) claim that global capitalism is deeply unstable … was represented as wildly pessimistic, not to say apocalyptic.” Following the bursting of the dot-com bubble less than a year later, Gray considered that he had “… been largely vindicated”

Maybe so. But no matter.

TINA remained in charge and soon proclaimed  “The Great Moderation”.

Not that everyone went along with the Consensus. Old mainstreamers like John Kay found it necessary to tell us  in 2004 “The Truth About Markets” and scathingly deconstruct the Washington Consensus as “The American Busines Model” .

Nowadays,  Xiang Zhou thinks that “2008’s financial crisis was the vindication of the critics of neo-liberalism” .

Maybe so. But no matter.

And Zhou continues “Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed.”

The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics. Ideological ambiguity has set in. There needs to be a conscious attempt to design a new system or reform the Washington consensus, tailored to the demands of the 21st century …”

Absolutely. And maybe now everyone but the incumbents of power would like an exit from the status quo. If nothing else the recent populisms show that TINA’s spell is breaking: If that’s the only option we rather wreck it than keep it. “Nothing is better than that” now meaning its opposite: “Anything, even nothing, is better than this”.

Hence Brexit and other impetuous exits from the status quo. But the vision of the new-alt “populists” looks like a nostalgic retrospective of lazy narcissistic failure: “Lets dump GPS, follow printed maps to a mythical past and play nevergreens to us-only audiences on cassettes?!”

It is more demanding to pay attention to the fragile truths of complex diversity.

If, as money reformer Christoph Pfluger once suggested, some exponential learning curve is humanity’s best hope, learning to hope might be the first lesson to which there truly is no alternative.


relevant articles etc – post capitalism

goodreads.com 2009 Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher

After 1989, capitalism has presented itself as the only realistic political-economic system. What effects has this “capitalist realism” had on work, culture, education and mental health? Is it possible to imagine an alternative to capitalism that is not some throwback to discredited models of state control?

theartsdesk.com/ 2016 Mark Fisher: Postcapitalist Desire – The Final Lectures review – imagining the alternative – An eye-opening exploration of the relationship between capitalism and desire by Daniel Baksi

Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures is a collection of transcripts, recording weekly group lectures delivered by Mark Fisher to his students at Goldsmiths, University of London during the 2016/17 academic year.

These lectures provide the substance of a module of the same name, taught within the university’s then-newly formed MA in Contemporary Art Theory. In his capacity as a lecturer, Fisher coaxes his students through the questions explored and raised by the concept of postcapitalist desire, described as the “shadow” to the ideas explored in-depth in Fisher’s earlier, unexpectedly successful work, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (2009).
Capitalist Realism drew attention to a burgeoning paradigm, in which (as per the brief summary Fisher here offers his students) “the idea that there’s no alternative to capitalism becomes the ambient political assumption”. Postcapitalist Desire is then, an extension, or mirror-image of that previous work. It examines the consequences of late capitalism, boring deeper into the antagonisms that seem to plague the contemporary human condition, or “the nefarious and entangled relationship between desire and capitalism, and the extent to which the former can both help and restrict us in our attempts to escape from the latter”. This “escape”, Fisher is keen to stress, must not, cannot, be figured as a return – to a romanticised fantasy of a society before capitalism. Rather, it is to be achieved by moving through capitalism, adopting practical and political transformations to prioritise “working less and determining your own needs”.


Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures  by Mark Fisher

Beginning with that most fundamental of questions — “Do we really want what we say we want?” — Fisher explores the relationship between desire and capitalism, and wonders what new forms of desire we might still excavate from the past, present, and future. From the emergence and failure of the counterculture in the 1970s to the continued development of his left-accelerationist line of thinking, this volume charts a tragically interrupted course for thinking about the raising of a new kind of consciousness, and the cultural and political implications of doing so. For Fisher, this process of consciousness raising was always, fundamentally, psychedelic — just not in the way that we might think…