Top Leaderboard, Site wide
July 28, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Help us grow by sharing
and liking Truthdig:
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Newsletter

sign up to get updates


Boom-or-Doom Riddle for Nuclear Industry
Truthdigger of the Week: Yuval Diskin




The Sixth Extinction
War of the Whales


Truthdig Bazaar
PornoPower

Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman

By Mary Tillman with Narda Zacchino
Hardcover $17.13

more items

 
Report

Neoliberalism and the Machinery of Disposability

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Apr 10, 2014

Photo by Steve A Johnson (CC BY 2.0)

By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout

(Page 2)

Mechanisms of governance have been transformed into instruments of war. Violence has become the organizing force of a society driven by a toxic notion of privatization in which it becomes difficult for ideas to be lifted into the public realm. Under such circumstances, politics is eviscerated because it now supports a market-driven view of society that has turned its back on the idea that “Humanity is never acquired in solitude.” That is, society has come undone in terms of the social contract and in doing so has turned its back on most Americans whose lives and futures are no longer determined by social spaces that give them a voice and provide the conditions for autonomy, freedom and equality. This violence against the social mimics is not just the death of the radical imagination, but also a notion of banality made famous by Hannah Arendt, who argued that at the root of totalitarianism was a kind of thoughtlessness, an inability to think, and a type of outrageous stupidity in which, “There’s simply the reluctance ever to imagine what the other person is experiencing.”

The plight of disposable populations can be seen in the fact that millions of Americans are unemployed and are receiving no long-term benefits. Shockingly, the only source of assistance for one in 50 Americans “is nothing but a food stamp card.” Close to half of all Americans live on or beneath the poverty line while “more than a million public school students are homeless in the United States; 57 percent of all children are in homes considered to be either low-income or impoverished; and half of all American children will be on food stamps at least once before they turn 18 years old.” At the same time, the 400 richest Americans “have as much wealth as 154 million Americans combined, that’s 50 percent of the entire country [while] the top economic 1% of the US population now has a record 40 percent of all wealth and more wealth than 90 percent of the population combined.”

Within this system of power and disposability, the ethical grammars that draw our attention to the violence of such suffering disappear while dispossessed populations lose their dignity, bodies, and material goods and homes. The fear of losing everything, the horror of the engulfing precarity, the quest to merely survive, and the impending reality of social and civil death have become a way of life for the 99% in the United States.  Under the politics of disposability, the grammars of suffering, cruelty, and punishment have replaced the value of compassion, social responsibility and civic courage.

The severity of the consequences of this shift in modernity under neoliberalism among youth is evident in the fact that this is the first generation, as Zygmunt Bauman argues, in which the “plight of the outcast may stretch to embrace a whole generation.” He rightly argues that today’s youth have been “cast in a condition of liminal drift, with no way of knowing whether it is transitory or permanent.” Youth no longer occupy the hope of a privileged place that was offered to previous generations.  They now inhabit a neoliberal notion of temporality marked by a loss of faith in progress along with the emergence of apocalyptic narratives in which the future appears indeterminate, bleak and insecure. Heightened prospects and progressive visions pale and are smashed next to the normalization of market-driven government policies that wipe out pensions, eliminate quality health care, raise college tuition, and produce a harsh world of joblessness, while giving millions to banks and the military. Students, in particular, now find themselves in a world in which heightened expectations have been replaced by dashed hopes and a world of onerous debt. 

Advertisement

Square, Site wide
What has changed about an entire generation of young people includes not only neoliberal society’s disinvestment in youth and the permanent fate of downward mobility but also the fact that youth live in a commercially carpet-bombed and commodified environment that is unlike anything experienced by those of previous generations.  Nothing has prepared this generation for the inhospitable and savage new world of commodification, privatization, joblessness, frustrated hopes, surveillance and stillborn projects. The present generation has been born into a throwaway society of consumers in which both goods and young people are viewed increasingly as redundant and disposable or they are merely valued as consumers and commodities. In this discourse, young people are not seen as troubled but viewed as a source of trouble; rather than viewed as being “at risk,” they are the risk and subject to a range of punitive policies.

The structures of neoliberal modernity do more than disinvest in young people and commodify them, they also transform the protected space of childhood into a zone of disciplinary exclusion and cruelty, especially for those young people further marginalized by race and class who now inhabit a social landscape in which they are increasingly disparaged as flawed consumers. With no adequate role to play as consumers, many youth are forced to inhabit “zones of social abandonment,” extending from bad schools to bulging detention centers to prisons. Youth have become a marker for a mode of disposability in which their fate is defined largely through the registers of a society that throws away resources, people and goods.  These are zones where the needs of young people are not only ignored, but where many young people, especially poor minority youth, are subjected to conditions of impoverishment and punishment that underserve them and often criminalize their behavior.  For example, with the hollowing out of the social state and the rise of the punishing state, the circuits of state repression, surveillance and disposability increasingly “link the fate of blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, poor whites, and Asian Americans” to a crime youth complex, which now serves as the default solution to major social problems. Within these “zones of abandonment” and social death, poor minority and low-income youth are viewed as out of step, place, and time and defined largely as “pathologies feeding on the body politic,” exiled to spheres of “terminal exclusion.”

As the welfare state is hollowed out, a culture of compassion is replaced by a culture of violence, cruelty and atomization. Within the existing neoliberal historical conjuncture, there is a merging of violence and governance and the systemic disinvestment in, and breakdown of, institutions and public spheres that have provided the minimal conditions for democracy. A generalized fear now shapes American society - one that thrives on insecurity, precarity, dread of punishment, and a perception of constant lurking threats. Americans occupy a historical conjuncture in which everything that matters politically, ethically and culturally is being erased - either ignored, turned into a commodity or simply falsified.


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

 
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.