As one of my New Year resolutions that I actually hope to keep, I am aiming to increase the frequency and regularity of my blogging!
In the 1940s, the Bretton Woods system developed as countries attempted to regulate international finance after the problems the Great Depression and laissez-faire economics had caused the international system. However, since the 1970s after the Nixon Shock, there was the growth of high risk finance and deregulated markets that coincided with the rise of neoliberal ideology that has the strategic aim of furthering the capitalist project.
Free-flowing capital gained dominance as capital controls were reduced and removed, deregulation accelerated, and profit for the rich increased as social welfare and safety nets were removed, debt – especially private debt (including financial debt and household debt) – and credit cards grew so that capitalism and the markets could expand more and more. The system has grown increasingly more unsustainable as the bailouts of the financial sector rose in the 1980s onwards, especially, alongside getting bigger and bigger with the recent crisis resulting in a £1.5 trillion bank bailout in the UK alone!
This expansion of capitalism relates to the growth of an individualism logic that emphasises consumption, consumerism and false needs where people are told they ‘need’ things for their identity to be complete. They ‘need’ to consume things to feel ‘whole’. This is especially key for the rise of private debt to be enough to sustain the high leveraged finance sector. What develops is a culture of disposability, where part-time flexible, low-paid, long hour jobs increase – with the promotion of a ‘dog eat dog’ world where everyone is out for themselves and anyone on benefits is deemed a ‘scrounger’. This climate of fear is responsible for approximately 1.8 million not applying for benefits when they are entitled to.
The growth of individualism relates to the increasing primacy of individual ‘freedom’ over equality, something I discussed in my dissertation with reference to the work of John Rawls:
In trying to construct a morally just social order Rawls advocates a ‘justice of fairness’, where operating behind a ‘veil of ignorance’, representatives of citizens take part in an ‘original position’ (thought experiment) to construct a social contract where fairness/equality prevails as the representatives are unaware of the specific characteristics of those they represent. Two essential principles guide Rawls’s theory; firstly, the principle that everyone should have maximum liberty without impeding upon others; and secondly, social and economic goods are easily accessed and to the advantage of everyone. However, Rawls puts the first before the second.
For me, these sociopolitical and related ideational changes relate to the development of post modernist and relativist views that argue everyone is right and wrong, just with different starting points. This argument relates to this conception of letting everyone do what they want because everyone’s argument is right and wrong and so respect for absolutes are diluted. I faced this argument a lot recently in regards to my support and commitment to veganism, where absolute truths of respect for life, fairness, compassion and morality are diluted and people use the argument “live and let live” to ironically justify the murder of approximately 58 billion animals a year through meat, egg and dairy production. Jay Baker will be challenging some of these issues soon in a vlog, and Jay and I will be tackling them again in a vegan focused podcast for the Break-In Project.
For me, there are some things that are just wrong. Torturing, murdering and eating dead animals and their produce, for me, is wrong. Creating a culture of stigma where people don’t want to claim for benefits because they feel that they are a ‘scrounger’, is wrong. Promoting individual freedom over respect for equality, for me is, wrong. The finance market expanding more and more, as the system grows through indebtedness whilst people lose their jobs, have their wages cut and can’t afford to meet basic needs whilst the 1% get richer, is wrong. There is no relativist get out of jail card here. It’s wrong.
The relativist argument is a capitalist dream. There is nothing wrong with other people having different opinions, I have argued in favour of providing groups and parties such as the BNP a platform to show the real ignorance underlying their political views. But, using the relativist argument of ‘everyone is entitled to do what they want’ without defending your position is an easy way out of saying I am not prepared to let my views and values be challenged by any new information. That’s why the vegan argument gets so many people’s back up. It is a question of lifestyle, people often don’t want to think about this too much and cast any evidence to the contra as ‘biased’ or ‘unscientific’.
Whatever your opinion on veganism is, the point is relativism has no place in progressive politics that strives for real change. It’s a nice academic tool, but not one based in a political project that has fundamental truths about what is right and wrong and what needs to change.