Let the Institutional Innovation Begin! (Part I)
In corvid-19, neoliberal capitalism has met a formidable foe. The pandemic has shown just how fragile and dysfunctional the market/state order -- as a production apparatus, ideology, and culture -- truly is. Countless market sectors are now more or less collapsing with a highly uncertain future ahead. With a few notable exceptions, government responses to the virus range from ineffectual to self-serving to clownish.
While politicians clearly hope that massive government bailouts will restore the economy, it’s important to recognize that this is not just a financial crisis; it’s a social and political crisis as well. Many legacy market systems – generously subsidized and propped up by state power – are not really trusted or loved by people. Do Americans really want to give $17 billion to scandal-ridden Boeing while letting the post office go bankrupt? It is too early to declare that the old forms will never return, and we do need to remember that the authoritarian option is dangerously close. But it is clear that the future will have a very different pattern.
To me, one thing is obvious: searching for the rudiments of a New Order should be our top priority once emergency needs are taken care of. We need to identify and cultivate new patterns of peer provisioning and place-based governance, especially at the local and regional levels. We need new types of infrastructures and new narratives that understand the practical need for open-source civic and economic engagement.
This is not only necessary to help us deal with climate change and inequality; it is a preemptive necessity for fortifying democracy itself. Reactionary forces are already poised to try to restore a pre-pandemic “normal." “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting,” writes filmmaker Julio Vincent Gambuto in a wonderful essay on Medium.
Gambuto astutely predicts that corporate America, the White House, and the rest of capitalist establishment will soon mount a massive marketing campaign to minimize the realities we’re now experiencing and rebrand the American Dream as back:
Get ready, my friends. What is about to be unleashed on American society will be the greatest campaign ever created to get you to feel normal again. It will come from brands, it will come from government, it will even come from each other, and it will come from the left and from the right. We will do anything, spend anything, believe anything, just so we can take away how horribly uncomfortable all this feels.
And on top of that, just to turn the screw that much more, will be the one effort that’s even greater: the all-out blitz to make you believe you never saw what you saw. The air wasn’t really cleaner; those images were fake. The hospitals weren’t really a war one; those stories were hyperbole. The numbers were not that high; the press is lying. You didn’t see people in masks standing in the rain risking their lives to vote. Not in America…. But you did. You are not crazy, my friends. And so we are about to be gaslit in a truly unprecedented way.