The failure of neo-liberalism and the UK riots

In “The London Riots and the Triumph of Neo-Liberalism,” the economist Branko Milanovic concludes,

The problem is that the neo-liberal revolution has failed to explain what to do with those who do not prosper in the new system and yet adopt its values. The young men and women robbing stores are not, as some believe, an example of the failure of liberal market reforms. On the contrary, they exemplify the reforms’ overwhelming success. But unfortunately, the protesters also reveal the reforms’ ultimate Achilles heel: people who — as the Spanish demonstrators put it — are without future, without the idea of a new and better world, and without fear.

The challenge, should we choose to accept it, is to figure out a way of engaging a generation that doesn’t seem to want to be engaged. Ideas welcome.

Earlier, he argues (1) that, under neo-liberalism, financial success = moral worth and (2) financial success is not attainable among the youth. (3) Hence, they hold onto neo-liberal values yet cannot secure their spoils. (4) Hence, the goal of rioters is to steal what they cannot otherwise possess.

So far, so good. But what to make of Milanovic’s final line about not wanting to be engaged? Not so, not so. The youth want to be engaged, long for higher things. This is why we must return to paideia, the education of the soul.

Further Reading

Dougald Hine, “Keep Calm, Clean Up–But Don’t Let Things Get ‘Back to Normal,'” New Public Thinking

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