Blog post

Selections from The Notebook, May 29: José Saramago on disenchantment and neoliberalism

Morgan Buck20 May 2011

In celebration of the new paperback edition of José Saramago's The Notebook, Verso is pleased to present another of the acclaimed author's elegant and astute observations on contemporary culture and politics. The publication of excerpts selected from his blog began on April 20 in lead-up to the release of the new edition and to commemorate Saramago's passing on June 18, 2010.

On May 29, 2009, Saramago wrote about the various disappearances caused by neoliberalism: species, industries, ways of life all wiped out in the name of expansion and human enrichment. His post reveals a sense of disenchantment that speaks to years of observing the machine of capitalist development.

May 29: Disenchantment

Every day species of plants and animals are disappearing, along with languages and professions. The rich always get richer and the poor always get poorer. Each day there is a minority that knows more, and another that knows less. Ignorance is expanding in a truly terrifying manner. Nowadays we have an acute crisis in the distribution of wealth. Mineral exploitation has reached diabolical proportions. Multinationals dominate the world. I don't know whether shadows or images are screening reality from us. Perhaps we could discuss the subject indefinitely; what is already clear is that we have lost our critical capacity to analyze what is happening in the world. We seem to be locked inside Plato's cave. We have jettisoned our responsibility for thought and action. We have turned ourselves into inert beings incapable of the sense of outrage, the refusal to conform, the capacity to protest that were such strong features of our recent past. We are reaching the end of a civilization and I don't welcome its final trumpet. In my opinion, neoliberalism is a new form of totalitarianism disguised as democracy, of which it retains almost nothing but a semblance. The shopping mall is the symbol of our times. But there is still another miniature and fast-disappearing world, that of small industries and artisanry. While it is obvious that everything has to die in the end, there are many people who were still hoping to build their own happiness, and these are being squeezed out. They are losing the battle for survival, and they are not capable of surviving under the rules of the new system. They depart like the vanquished, but with their dignity intact, merely stating that they are withdrawing because they do not like this world we have made for them. 

Watch the Verso blog for more excerpts from The Notebook leading up to June 18.