Thursday, 2 October 2014

The corrupting psychology of neoliberalism and the 'free market'-and how we should all counter it.

In the Guardian yesterday, writer Paul Verheaghe stated, correctly, that 'neoliberalism brings out the worst in people'. And he had a good point, as well.

As I graduated in psychology, I think we need to explore this fully so that not only can we see the problem, but also help everyone counter it. Almost always, evil has to be seen in order to be exposed and expunged.

The ideology of neoliberal capitalism has been rather successful at fooling people around the world, even though it has been exposed as a failure many times, for one reason: the neoliberal culture, and its appendages (particularly the media) has exploited flaws in human psychology and corrupted it.

UKIP, despite being even more pro-neoliberal and right-wing than the three major parties, has been able to cast itself as an 'alternative' party well to a significant proportion of the electorate (even though we Greens can see UKIP for what it really is, as can many other progressive voters and thinkers), for this reason: It has played on the fears of many old and less well-off voters; fear (of many things, not just immigration, stoked up by such media as the Daily Express and the Daily Mail to distract their readers from the real causes of Britain's problems) is what has driven many of UKIP's voters.

On the other hand, I and the rest of the Green Party offer a positive message and alternative-a message of hope, of courage, and compassion, that things can change if we vote for change and work for change.

Neoliberalism itself encourages, and is driven by, many negative psychological traits: greed, wanting to maintain power at any cost at others' expense, distorted cognitive perceptions (especially regarding people), harmful lowering of interpersonal proximity (the expansion of big business is a key contributor to that problem, as people are becoming more and more disconnected at work and in their daily lives generally), increasing overall levels of apathy and antipathy (which explains the poor turnout in elections not only in Britain but also in many other nations over the past two decades), and damage to existing relationships, even close ones (such as with family or with lovers). The pro-profit, pro-corporate, overly individualistic culture of neoliberalism has ruined so many lives because of that.

These same psychological influences have also explained why so many people are finding it difficult to break out of this model even today, despite works such as those by Thomas Piketty. However, positive psychology can be used to overturn the effects of neoliberalism that have occurred in our society and on our planet  (with enough time and effort, of course).

We need to all inspire hope, courage, solidarity, compassion, sympathy in order to help us all overthrow the neoliberal consensus (aka the Washington consensus), and in spite of all the bad news and bad vibes floating around this world of ours, it is possible (and I believe it is necessary) to encourage all those positive things. Wherever we are, and when we need to, I ask you all to ask people to reach as high as they can, to face up to their fears and find new ways forward, to help those who need help and to stand by our friends and colleagues, and to show kindness rather than scorn and/or pity to vulnerable people. And in that, we must also counter temptations of greed, hate, and sloth that free-market capitalism keeps trying to steer us further and further towards.

Alan.

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