How do we explain the strange survival of the forces responsible for the 2008 economic crisis, the worst since 1929? How is it that the economic policies that created the Great Recession emerged stronger than ever? When the system broke, a number of the world’s most prominent economists hastened to announce that neoliberalism was over. But reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.
For Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, neoliberalism is no mere dogma. Supported by powerful oligarchies, it is a veritable politico-institutional system, one capable of perpetuating itself aggressively. Far from representing a break, crisis has become a formidably effective mode of government.
Never-Ending Nightmare demonstrates that this political straitjacket has succeeded in preventing any course correction by deteriorating democracies. To make matters worse, the so-called governmental Left has actively helped strengthen this oligarchic logic. The result is to raise the possibility of a definitive exit from democracy in favour of technocratic governance, free of any control by ordinary citizens.
However, nothing has been decided yet. The revival of democratic activity, which we see emerging in the political movements and experiments of recent years, is a sign that the political confrontation with the neoliberal system and the oligarchical bloc has already begun.
“Dardot and Laval present the post-2008 radicalization of neoliberalism as a nightmare and an opportunity. The nightmare is the stranglehold of a system of norms and treaties that benefit the oligarchy while immiserating the rest of us. The opportunity stems from the complete break between the elites and everybody else; neoliberalism has lost even the veneer of legitimacy. The challenge facing the Left is whether we can develop the political vision – and capacity – that will make this an opportunity for us.”
“Building on their previous historical analysis of neoliberal rationality, Dardot and Laval now paint a much starker, more terrifying portrait of neoliberalism, that is alert to its violence and unyielding political logic. Never-Ending Nightmare presents us with a bleak but compelling account of how neoliberal government has abandoned all pretence of democratic legitimacy.”
“For the most maximalist theorists of neoliberalism in thought and practice, look no further.”
“Dardot and Laval’s provocative study offers important insights with regard to the current state of radicalization of neoliberalism. Although the interpretation of the EU as a quintessential ordoliberal project will surely trigger objections, their emphasis on legal norms as social technology to advance neoliberal transformations is very well taken. Critical examination of forms of neoliberal oligarchy goes beyond staples of post-democracy. Aficionados of both national populism and traditional party organizations will dislike their message for those on the left who are keen to develop an alternative imaginary of the future.”