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April 04, 2013


Ian C

Spot-on. See also 'Capitalist Realism'.

Actually Existing Neoliberalism is a plutocratic oligopolistic corporatism that has to pretend to be maintaining the true faith of dynamic markets, start-ups, empowerment of SMEs, etc. The point about empty repetition is quite right. And for examples of empty rhetoric, a very British langue de bois as deadening as that in speeches from the Politburo circa 1975, see the quotations from David Cameron in David Selbourne's essay in the current NS on the contradictions of the Conservatives.

Matt Sundin

this is such an impressive analogy! Actually existing Capitalism is a murky affair indeed. I shared this with everyone


What exactly do words mean? Who "owns" them? See "Language and Poison" in After The Future by Franco Berardi.

Dick Pountain

Great analogy Will - those tower blocks are as bad as anything in Bucharest (though maybe that will repel the Romanian Hordes that Cameron is so worried about!) Looking at that disgusting Kapoor contraption tempts me to extend the analogy, by seeing the New Art crowd as our nomenklatura...

Will Davies

Thanks, all.

Josh, not sure what to make of that, but thanks anyway.


Outstanding article.

Epica Ferina

Just 2 quick thoughts: remembers me an abandoned attractions park, but also remembers me the Kubrik's ClockworkOrange views of England

Auto Service Renton

I like this article very much. In the Gorbachev era I visited a Russian family who lived in one of the 'Olympic' blocks in Moscow and they looked identical to the photo provided here. I live far from London and have not seen Westfield, but the same process on a smaller scale is happening in most cities.

Ian C

See also Joseph Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies. Tainter argues that in the historical record of large-scale civilisational collapses, a common factor is what he calls diminishing returns to complexity. Civilisations end up focusing on an ever-more complicated, costly and distracting element of their values and material system, and are eventually sent into economic and social collapse (simplification and localisation) by the attempt to keep an over-complex show on the road. The financial system of the West seems to fit the pattern ominously well.

Chris Groves

Great piece, Will. Am wondering: do we have our own version of the hollowing out of the State yet (as per Jonathan Schell's analysis of Eastern Bloc civil society in The Unconquerable World, for example)?

Assume there's a growing recognition that both public authorities and corporate power stand in the way of achieving the 'something else' needed to sustain a viable society that's worth living in, in the face of resource depletion, climate change etc. Are phenomena like Transition, local currency initiatives and other forms of locally-rooted collective social action the beginnings of an effective translation of this awareness into action, guided by the goal of constructing something like Vaclav Benda's 'parallel polis'?

Will Davies

Chris - Yes, interesting questions.

It would be more than a little ironic if the first time when 'enterprise' and 'entrepreneurship' had ever *truly* come to the rescue of Britain (seeing as Thatcherism was largely about unleashing rentier power) was in the creation of new, 'social' forms of business that were effectively seeking to overcome neoliberalism altogether. But I have to admit, that seems the most plausible basis for optimism right now.

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