I’ve been reading through Wendy Brown’s new book on neoliberalism in the last couple of weeks, and I’d like to jot down some thoughts on it here (hopefully in prelude to a genuine review essay further along the road).
Brown’s book gets exactly right the nature of the transformation of both states and individuals in neoliberalism into self-standing entrepreneurial units forced to compete for investment funds with other such units. This is described as the eclipse of homo politicus by the all-encompassing neoliberal figure of homo economicus. Neoliberalism, Brown argues, literally swallows the space of the demos, the democratic space in which people gather to articulate common concerns around freedom, equality, and sovereignty. Our problem is not merely (!) the wasting away of public goods, public values and public participation. It is the evisceration of the very space in which it is possible to come together and form a public, the space that, for Brown, Aristotle (and Arendt) distinguish as different from ‘mere life’, and which Marx conceived as the ‘true realm of freedom’. Neoliberalism, Brown states, in a sentence that captures a dawning awareness of where things now stand, is ‘the rationality through which capitalism finally swallows humanity’ (p. 44). Continue reading