May 24, 2013
The ‘Suicidal State’ and the War on Youth
Posted on Apr 11, 2012
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout
This piece originally appeared at Truthout.
In spite of being discredited by the economic recession of 2008, market fundamentalism has once again assumed primacy as a dominant force for producing unprecedented inequalities in wealth and income, runaway environmental devastation, egregious amounts of human suffering and what Alex Honneth has called an “abyss of failed sociality.”(1) The Gilded Age is back with big profits for the ultra-rich and large financial institutions and increasing impoverishment and misery for the middle and working class. Political illiteracy and religious fundamentalism have cornered the market on populist rage providing support for a country in which, as Robert Reich points out, “the very richest people get all the economic gains [and] routinely bribe politicians” to cut their taxes and establish policies that eliminate public goods such as schools, social protections, health care and important infrastructures.(2)
It gets worse. Everywhere we look, the power of the rich and powerful operates to create a “suicidal state”(3) in which regulations meant to restrict their corrupting power are shredded; shamelessly and without apology, they use their unchecked power to lay off millions of workers while simultaneously cutting the benefits and rights of those on the job in order to dramatically increase corporate profits. As social protections are dismantled, public servants denigrated and public goods such as schools, bridges, health care services and public transportation deteriorate, the current neoliberal social order embraces the ruthless and punishing values of economic Darwinism and a survival-of-the-fittest ethic. In doing so, the major political parties now reward as its chief beneficiaries the mega banks, ultralarge financial industries, the defense establishment and big business.
Reinvigorated by the passing of tax cuts for the superrich, the right-wing dominated House of Representatives along with a number of right-wing state governorships have launched an ongoing war on women’s rights, the welfare state, workers, students, and anyone who has the temerity to speak out against such attacks. The corporate-controlled media, especially Fox News and Clear Channel Communications, emulate the former Soviet Union’s version of Pravda, its once laughable propaganda rag. At the same time, the liberal media is as spineless as it is complicit with existing relations of power - more willing to compromise with right-wing ideology than exercising civic courage in searching for the truth and exposing the lies of normalizing power.
Hiding behind the mantle of balance and objectivism, the liberal media is incapable of a discriminating judgment and moral position and, increasingly, resembles a game show nervously repeating bad jokes, promoting sensationalist stories, emulating celebrity culture and garnering elevated ratings in order to lure in big money from advertisers.
For over thirty years, the North American public has been reared on a neoliberal dystopian vision that legitimates itself through the largely unchallenged claim that there are no alternatives to a market-driven society, that economic growth should not be constrained by considerations of social costs or moral responsibility, that war is a permanent condition of society and that democracy and capitalism are virtually synonymous.
At the heart of this market-driven regime is materialist and instrumental rationality that sells off public goods and services to the highest bidders in the private sector, while simultaneously dismantling those public spheres, social protections and institutions serving the larger society. As economic power succeeds in detaching itself from government regulations, social costs and ethical considerations, a new global financial class reasserts the prerogatives of capital and systemically destroys those public spheres - including public and higher education - that traditionally advocated for social equality and an educated citizenry as the fundamental conditions for a viable democracy.
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