With neoliberalism in crisis, it’s time to emphasise the importance to people of belonging and co-operation, argues this optimistic call to action
That which is dangerous can also be thrilling. Many liberal democracies are engaged in something dangerous, as questions of identity, community and nationhood are being asked with a fresh urgency, with some of the answers turning out to be deeply disturbing. But is there also something thrilling going on? The capacity for democracy to throw up surprises, such as Britain’s 2017 general election result, is mesmerising. Brexit may be a famous act of economic self-harm, but something new will be born one way or the other. Still the danger persists and may be growing.
That this is happening now, as opposed to 10 or 20 years ago, is a direct consequence of the disintegration of the economic policy framework that has held sway in Britain, the US, the European commission and many multilateral institutions for much of the previous 40 years. That framework is often referred to as “neoliberalism”, even if the term irritates a certain class of pundit, for whom it is some sort of swearword without any clear referent. Its disintegration is producing conflicting sympathies, as many on the left come to realise the xenophobia that can be unleashed in the absence of stable market-based rules.