The State is Dead! Long live the State! At the turn of the century, many commentators from the right and left seemed united in their analysis that the state as an economic player was dead or at least no longer relevant. The combined pressures of globalisation, liberalisation and marketisation unleashed by the market-driven dogmas of Thatcherism and Reaganomics had massively expanded the private sector and concurrently downsized the public sector. Corporate power was in the ascendancy and many state-owned companies had become little more than second-rate government departments, and the underlying assumption was that, as the economy evolved, the government would close or sell them to private investors.
The convergence of corporate, financial, intellectual, political and ideological elites interconnected through board memberships of companies, banks, policy groups, think tanks, foundations, advisory groups and forums has led to what billionaire Warren Buffet referred to as a ‘class war” in which “my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” In the European Union, it is their choices that are largely reflected in the merciless austerity measures spreading poverty and unemployment as healthcare, education, social services, welfare and social housing are dismantled; as resources and assets are privatized, workers fired, pensions and social security are cut, workers have their rights and benefits dismantled, and the population is pushed into desperation. It is why the struggle for a different Europe must start first with tackling and undermining the power of those waging this war.
There is mounting evidence that neoliberal policies are losing legitimacy. The translation of such disaffection into positive commitment to an alternative, however, requires deeper disengagement from the dominant order and practical participation in creating alternatives. A social order built on escaping the pressures of democracy while at the same time depending on the capacities of many desiring democracy is unlikely to be stable. Thus the opaque and indirect forms of power typical of neoliberal rule are simultaneously sources of vulnerability and dependence, and breeding grounds for the power to subvert and transform.