Capitalism versus democracy

Q. Slobodian traces the genealogy of neoliberalism, first scientific, then economic, and finally political. It is at least as much the intellectual work of jurists as it materializes in the shock therapies of international financial institutions.

No competitive order is possible without public intervention. Otherwise, let it happen means soon let die. Karl Polanyi understood it in the 1940s: the postulate of a self-regulated market on which classical liberalism was based is not only intellectual ineptitude, but a macroeconomic aberration which did nothing less than throw the world into the arms of fascism. Foudroy during Black Thursday in October 1929, this liberalism eve cole was reborn from its ashes, in an even more unbridled form, half a century later. Commonly, it is believed that the development of this noLiberalism was conditioned by the prior dismantling of public institutions. However, over the last forty years, we have seen more of a redeployment of the state than a simple withdrawal. The new mission entrusted to our institutional apparatuses was precisely to build, at the planetary level, a new economic order based on market fundamentalism: lordoglobalism. A neologism formed in reference to German ordoliberal thought, it designates the application of pro-market interventionism on a not only national, but global scale.

Published in its original version in 2018 by Harvard Press, this work chronicles the inevitable growth of this ideology, from its academic gestation at the end of the First World War, to its triumph materialized by the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the mid-1990s. In short, the imposition of the ultraliberal model is the fruit of an ideological victory, won patiently and hard by a whole group of academics, whose battles this book charts using a prosopographical approach. In the wake of the reflections of Michel Foucault, Serge Audier, Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, or even Jean Solchany whom he expressly cites, the Canadian researcher Quinn Slobodian thus makes a new, enlightening contribution to the history of neoliberalism.

the support of a very solid trilingual bibliography bringing together original reflections from so-called theoreticians globalists as critical works published in English, French or German, including those of Angus Burgin, Dieter Plehwe and Wolfgang Streeck, the historian endeavors to retrace the journey and rise of this growing community of economists, intellectuals and other jurists, who theorized the foundations of neoliberalism , justified its precepts and defended its establishment throughout the XXe century. Despite their internal contradictions, these ordoglobalists shared a common cardinal objective: protecting the economic system from electoral contingencies and political hazards.

A strategy ofsheathing undemocratic

Redoubt by Polanyi, the dismantling of the economy in relation to the political and social sphere is an enlightening concept, but which masks an even more insidious reality. For Q. Slobodian, the dogma of the free market has never been so important gain; that is to say, framed on a legal level, in such a way as to protect the new global order of which it constitutes the substrate, against any social or political attack likely to destabilize it. Because, it must be remembered, predatory for man and nature, the ultraliberal model inevitably raises social tensions, fuels the legitimate anger of those it excludes or dispossesses, and demands political responses to the socio-economic inequalities that it exacerbates. Knowing their decried or even reviled paradigm, the globalists' mythical genius is to have ensuredinoculate capitalism against the threat of democracy (pg. 12); this is, in short, the central thesis of the work.

To human rights, the neoliberals oppose the rights of capital, to be invested without fear, protected from the fiscal avarice of governments and guaranteed against any desire for taxation or nationalization. the image of the Bretton Woods institutions and in particular the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATTanchor of theWTO), a whole institutional and legal apparatus whose latest contemporary avatars are embodied by international arbitration tribunals frames and protects this planetary competitive order that a nolibral global economic imaginary a forg (p. 281). The unhindered circulation of capital requires financial regulation measures, supplemented by social or environmental regulatory measures. At the same time, legal protections are granted in order to guarantee private property or preserve business secrecy, when opaque financial arrangements to reap maximum dividends, or to evade tax legally, are not facilitated.

In short, to get rich in a globalized world, without having to be accountable to anyone, you must have the right for yourself and with yourself. Launched more than a century ago, the fierce fight of the neoliberals to make international investment law a new lex mercatoria began in the heart of old Europe, first in Vienna, then in Switzerland.

From the Austrian school to the Geneva school

It is not insignificant that Vienna between the wars (known as the Red one) was the cradle of neoliberal theories. like Ludvig von Mises (1881-1973), today considered one of the mentors of the libertarians (whose new Argentine president, Javier Milei, claims to be an iconoclast), most economists linked to the Austrian school grew up with nostalgia for an authoritarian Austro-Hungarian empire. politically and supposedly integrated economically. If they have largely fantasized about its (short-lived) customs unity, the empire constitutes a source of inspiration in their eyes in the sense that national identities are diluted, the bureaucracy is hardly invasive and the market unites the territories. In addition, the army is known to be strong.

However, for Mises, who hails the bloody repression of the worker riots of 1927, the state is a security producer () which draws its legitimacy uniquely (emphasis added) of its action in defense of the sanctity of private property and the forces of competition (p. 45). With his student, Gottfried Haberler (1900-1995), he considered interwar Europe as a space literally hampered by customs barriers, sheltered from which governments played the sorcerers' apprentices of macroeconomics and, incidentally, with the nerves of international creditors . In order to tear down the walls of protectionism which allow monetary devaluations and offer unjustified support to national industries (and, worse still, to workers' unions), they aim to join the work of refoundation carried out by the diplomats of the League of Nations (SDN), but also and above all, to rally their causes among the business communities united within the International Chamber of Commerce (CCI), created Paris in 1920.

following the crash of 1929, the baptismal font of neoliberalism moved westward. After the Paris organization of the Lippman conference in August 1938, it was in Switzerland that economists and jurists acquired the free trade precepts of the Austrian school made their home. In 1947, the Mont Plerin Society was founded, with a certain Friedrich Hayek, a disciple of Mises, as president. Under his tutelage, the sentiche nolibral philosophy of the usefulness of ignorance (p. 97), by virtue of which it is vain to seek to understand market mechanisms since it functions according to the principles of spontaneous order, only responds to signals (price) and cannot be, under any circumstances, planned by any institutional entity. Any attempt to explain it will fail and, a fortiori to regulate it, is a matter of fatal presumption, according to the eponymous title of his last work (1988). The neoliberalism of the Geneva School thus resembles a negative theology (p. 101), in the sense that the laws of the market prove to be as impenetrable as the ways of the Lord, it is enough to follow the dogma. This new doxa consists paradoxically to design (so think) the right institutions to sheath the world economy without describing it (loc. quote). Nolibralism then passes from economic science to legal power.

The visible hand of the right

According to Adam Smith's famous formula, market mechanisms operate according to an invisible hand. Repeating envy of this outdated image, the neoliberals in no way admit that there can be a chief puppeteer, and even less that this one comes under public authority. However, to spin in a way that circumvents the Smithian metaphor, we would still have to admit the existence of threads making it possible to activate or give substance to this spontaneous universal mechanism. In this case, the artifices of this catallaxis (to use Haykian terminology) would be legal and even coercive. Preserving the invisible hand of the market requires Regalian power to hold the iron giant.

As Pierre Dardot and his colleagues have shown, the defense of neoliberalism is so proactive in nature that it would respond to a martial logic. Concretely, bilateral agreements, supranational treaties like those which gave its legal and institutional existence to the European Union constitute milestones among others in a form of constitutional protection grants to capital rights (p. 162), and more broadly, to capitalism as an economic system protecting against any desire for political regulation. It is therefore a question of ensuring that governments do not interfere in economic activities, but nevertheless ensure respect for the principle of free competition as well as the legal order necessary for the development of the market. In short, summarizes the author, the normative neoliberal world is not a market without borders and without states, but a dual model, protected by the guardians of the economic constitution from the demands of the masses in favor of social justice and redistributive equality (p. 27).

The genealogy of an ideology

Although it adds a long list of works on neoliberalism, this work is nonetheless very enlightening and, all in all, essential. If he does not adhere to this ideology, the author does not denounce its misdeeds and leaves his reader responsible for positioning himself on the question. On the other hand, it helps us understand its genealogy, by reminding us in particular of the importance that the Austrian school, and even more so the Geneva school, had in the structuring of this vast movement, scientific first, then economic, and finally political. However, we too easily tend to associate the home of neoliberalism with the economics department of the Chicago School. In doing so, we forget that this doxa cannot be reduced to the montarist theories of Milton Friedman and his disciples. the image of a Hayek who saw himself above all as a philosopher, neoliberalism is at least as much the intellectual work of jurists as it materializes in the macroeconomic recipes of Washington Consensus and the shock therapies of international financial institutions.