Following the excellent conference in York earlier this month, 'Neoliberalism, Crisis and The World System', the organisers are editing an essay series at openDemocracy, in which speakers reproduce elements from their conference papers. My essay, 'Neoliberalism and the revenge of the "social"', appeared earlier this week, and has since received a very interesting reply from Jeremy Gilbert. See also essays by Mark Fisher, Jodi Dean and others.
Here is a chunk of my article:
What has changed fundamentally, since Hayek and Mises were attacking socialism, is that new techniques for the measurement and representation of the ‘social’ have emerged, which rebuff or accommodate a number of neoliberal critiques. Hayek and Mises argued that the social world was only knowable in the aggregate (that is, statistically) from the perspective of the social scientist or state. This, they argued, meant that the internal dynamism and dispersed individual preferences which occur within society are utterly ignored.
But social media, and a range of techniques for analyzing it (such as ‘sentiment analysis’ and various types of ‘social analytics’), make networks, relationships, communities and patterns visible, while working with the logic of individual expression. Moreover, these techniques can operate in real-time, revealing constant fluctuations in social activity, just as prices reveal constant fluctuations in economic activity. In these respects, this is a form of social-ism that overcomes the critique of socialism mounted by neoliberalism.