Cartoons are not for kids

a critical essay written by nublaccsoul | new-black-soul (2021)

Neoliberalism is a threat to the possibility of a Socialist utopia. That is, a reinvention of politico-economic ideas and a growing revolution of global resistance against corporate capitalist organizations have been established and are making its Socialist voice known. What this research will examine is how and why in modern day, do the historical features of capitalism dominate the corporate-led markets within a neo-liberal network. Furthermore, it will provide an investigative look into the damning effects of capitalism on consumers through corporate control of the culture industry and an infiltration into the Superstructures of society. This research is to affirm the viability of anarcho-syndicalist position and to provide evidence to encourage the anti-globalisation and anti-neoliberal protests.

Benjamin Wright and Michael Roberts argue, using Stuart Hall’s theory of encoding/decoding Louis Althusser’s ideological theory of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) — which posits that the media, the family structure, school and function as sites that wave ideological power to keep in line and the threat of violence from the Repressive State Apparatus (army/police) for social delinquents, that children’s television programmes on Public Broadcasting shows such as Thomas & Friends, Barney & Friends and Bob the Builder are encoded texts that reflect the shifts in the global political and socioeconomic area towards neoliberalism, with each of the aforementioned showed situated in a particular historical policy and political stance.

Thomas & Friends delivered messages that mirrored United Kingdom’s then Prime Minister Margate Thatcher’s defeat of labour unions in the mid-1980s (Wright and Roberts 2013:25), seen in the depiction of the workers — trains, as submissive and passive instruments for the neoliberal agenda (cited in Harvey 2005:40), which led to the establishment of a labour market that was not favourable to workers, led to factories shutting down and a weakened negotiation tool in the form of worker unions. These pro-capitalist decisions that impacted many a worker’s lives negatively, were proposed as being the only options possible. Between the end of George H.W. Bush’s presidency and the beginning of Bill Clinton’s term in office, Barney & Friends debuted, and it endorsed notions promoted by the two presidents such as: the outsourcing of menial labour to the global south markets where products were and still are cheaper to produce; of downsizing the number of workers which meant increased workload at the same wage amount for the few that remained under a condition of job insecurity; a greater income divide between the rich and poor as the rich became richer as the poor plunged into even deeper levels of poverty as economic growth only benefitted those in upper echelons of society’s class pyramid; of less social welfare spending and finally of working multiple jobs to support a political-economic condition that makes it necessary to do so in order to survive. Characters such as “Mr Boyd and Ms Kepler” best exemplify this phenomenon.

Thomas & Friends, Barney & Friends and Bob the Builder all underpin a variety of neoliberal capitalist principles and values such as the “normalization of working multiple jobs, the naturalization of the nature of disposable labour and the representation of work as natural” (2013:3) and these “texts participate in the construction of legitimacy and consent given to the changing social relations of production that have occurred [during neoliberal capitalism]” (2013:3) and are juxtaposed with Sesame Street which is seen as more progressive as it promotes creativity, an explorations of life’s alternatives and does not frame leisure time as time wasted but as necessary time away from work (2013:4).

Adorno and Horkheimer engaging in “The culture industry: enlightenment and mass deception” highlights the aspects of uniformity in the mass culture of the U.S.A that underpins fascism in Germany, also alluding to totalitarianism. Like totalitarian states, a fascist government system suppresses opposition and criticism, regiments all industry and commerce to assume complete power. Capitalism has this kind of power to impact an entire country via the medium of the culture industry, and it has, only through less explicit and aggressive methods. Capitalists are played by the role of corporations that provide consumption points for their constantly advertised goods and services. Adorno and Horkheimer note that the power of technology over the masses is “the power of those whose economic hold over society is the greatest,” (Hollows and Hutchings, 2000:7). This great ‘economic hold’ can be attributed to something bigger than government control, it owes its survival to the large, elite corporations of the world. This control by corporations does not only play a restrictive and threatening role over the content of programmes by the mass media, it exercises it.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Capitalism not only affects the culture and media industries, Louis Althusser, writing on “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” notes that State institutions such as the Church and school “ensure subjection to the ruling [capitalist] ideology,” making it difficult for us to distance ourselves from it or reflect on its corrupt lies, (Žižek 1994:104). In this way, capitalism has grown, transformed and advanced its way widely into the superstructure of our contemporary society, the culture industry of mass media and has successfully mechanized the subjectivity of consumer’s minds. Neoliberalism, a successor of Keynsianism and an excessive variation of Liberal democracy and Capitalism of the contemporary era, uses the ideology of competition and “free trade” to justify its global exploitation. In his time, Marx had expressed that a governmental state of this kind “fails to be a genuine locus for […] species-being,” characteristic of man who is “conscious of and concerned for others as well as self,” (Conway 1987:25). It is arguably true of Callinico’s assertion in An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto, that neoliberalism has not particularly been favoured by the masses although it has been designed and implemented by some of the biggest, most powerful institutions in the world, beginning with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Even globalisation, to the joy of corporations and authoritarian social policies, welcomed neo-liberal economics since redistribution and public ownership are no longer viable options. Neoliberalism has become both an ideology and a strategy with many aliases such as, “Reaganomics,” “Thatcherism,” and “new classical economics.” The markets, made up of large and influential multinational corporations as well as the government and elitist individuals, worship the ideology of neoliberalism and its subordination the mass population to its demands. The orthodoxy of neo-liberal economics, similar to what Marx rejected in 19th century capitalism, includes privatization, reduced social expenditures, liberalisation of trade, as well as lower wages, higher profits, free capital mobility and the accelerated commodification of nature. The global effect is a downward levelling for most and increased power for capitalism. Unemployment and expensive credit thrive in developed countries whilst in Third World countries, development has been replaced by under development. This history suggests that ending neoliberalism will not only be a tough challenge, but one that involves going beyond reformism and using the power of the opposing masses to defeat all forms of capitalism.

The point of resistance began near the end of the 20th century with the successful protest against the World Trade Organisation’s trade meeting in Seattle (1999) that planned to discuss the liberalization of trade in services. This strategy would see them use the three key orthodoxies of the neo-liberal agenda. This protest instigated by what was known to be ‘a movement of movements’ involved about 40, 000 and more demonstrators from non-governmental organizations such as ecological activists and socialists, to young anarchists targeting corporate brands. A revolution had been started and almost immediately, whenever world leaders gathered — APEC conferences, G8 summits, trade negotiations — they would be met with vehement protesters, among them, human rights activists. A few South American countries are an example of the rejection of neo-liberalism for socialism. That is, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America integrating the social, political and economic spheres between Latin America and the Caribbean, to stand as a united with other socio-democratic governments against the global threat of neo-liberalism. This serves to prove the political economic shift existing in some governments towards an anti-neoliberal world.

In respect to “The next economic crisis: digital capitalism and global police state” (2018), William Robinson discusses the transformations in the socio-economic dimensions of the globalised neoliberal capitalist order, and how these new practices of societal formation in the military sector, in terms of ideological positionalities and in the political arena. The same structural circumstances remain unchanged as consumer debt continues to escalate, more money printing by reserve banks to extend credit to financial institutions, increased speculative investment and bailouts of corporate entities and banking organisations (Robinson 2018:79). Robinson predicts that the impending economic crisis, as the gap between the production side of the economy — factories, physical markets and ports — and the fictitious economy widens for further speculation, there is an emergence of a concept called the “global police state” (2018:79), a tri-tiered development and interrelated structure. This trident framework is characterised by, firstly, a systems of repression, mass social control and warfare that ever-more omnipresent in society that are promoted by the ruling class in order to neutralize any actual or impending anarchy and rebellion from the dominated socio-economic classes who have been rendered surplus humanity and marginalised to the metaphorical and literal slums of society. Secondly, these very systems of warfare, social control and domination and repression is becoming the basis on which the globalised economy is being based upon, in both the two-pronged deployment and development of these pervasive systems in the effort of accumulating more capital and profit in the face of economic stagnation (Robin 2018:79). This is termed “militarised accumulation or accumulation by repression” (Robin 2018:79). Thirdly and finally, political systems are increasingly being (re-)characterised by twenty-first century fascism as problematic conservative and regression to systems of old are looked to in times of crisis as solutions (Robin 2018:80).

The stock-market sector, particularly in Silicon Valley’s high-technology and innovation fraternity, could be a trigger for a new crisis through capitalism’s inherent structural issue of overaccumulation through the ever increasing social polarisation that leads to both cyclical crises– every decade, lasting a year-and-a-half — and structural crises — every half-a-century, that result in economic stagnations, some socio-economic transformation, recessions and economic depressions (Robin 2018:81). The technological and scientific revolution in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector has been in and of itself a response to capitalists seeing less and less rates of profit with the working class becoming more organised and stronger in negotiations (Robin 2018:80). ICT has enabled capitalism to go global and also has radically transformed the working environment, to favour the oligarchs and not the workers which has resulted in less workers needed as labour has become digitalised and semi- or fully automated, in conjunction with outsourcing jobs from the global north markets to global south countries and the hiring of ‘flexible’ workers who are not given the same employee benefits as full-time workers(Robin 2018:83).

Global corporations and transnational entities that have a lot of financial resources but do not have enough investment opportunities have taken pursuit to militarised accumulation and /or investment in financial speculation funds, predominately in the science-tech industry (Robin 2018:85). In dealing with the growing challenge of the contemporary neoliberal world order, accumulation by repression there is a pseudo war on terrorism and on drugs (Robin 2018:85), the expansion of the military-industrial-complex, the overuse of security apparatuses for surveillance, regimes that promote deportation and the deployment of military personnel unnecessarily in society. The growing tech-sector which includes telecommunications, data processing and data analytics in the purpose of digitalising of the global economy for the neoliberal, capitalist application of penetrating every sphere of society globally, including the systems and apparatuses of repression and warfare (Robin 2018:85).

Digitalisation, Robin argues, (2018:86) is entrenched in the latest industrial revolution — fourth industrial revolution — which brings about automation, autonomous transportation, cloud services and virtual computing, robotics, artificial and smart intelligentsias, quantum computing processes, new ways of storing energy and machine learning to name but a few changes in society. This is the centre and core of the neoliberal, global capitalist agenda, with the backdrop of global financialization. The digital economy will, Robin contends (2018:86) that (contrary to its marketing posture) accelerate unemployment and under employment rather than create employment opportunities, alongside being a catalyst of making the working environment a precarious and casual one further adding to the growing population rendered surplus humanity.

Robin concludes quite powerfully by “The struggle for development is a struggle for social justice and must involve a measure of transnational social governance over the process of global production and reproduction,” (2010:15). In “Global Capitalism Theory and the emergence of Transnational elites” (2010), Robin advances his appraisal of the significant transformation of recent decades in the world’s socio-economic class structures as nations have been co-opted and integrated into a globalised financial and production system. He posits that there an emerging class of elites that are transnational in orientation, who are perched on “globalized circuits of accumulation” (Robin 2010:2), and are in competition with those more established elites who are oriented nationally, based on the nation-state and its domestic circuits of capital accumulation which are often protected by conservative economic policies which are at odds with the transnationalist capitalist class and their intentions (Robin 2010:2). Local development processes and the social reproduction of status and socio-economic position are the sites of power that legitimize elites that are oriented nationally, whilst those elites who are of transnational orientation are less reliant on reproduction of localised social status and more dependence on global power and coercion (Robin 2010:3). The socio-cultural and economic-political shift of power to transnational from national ruling elite is reflected in a change in world discourse from defining development of countries from national industrial improvement and increased consumption to a definition that is measured against the levels of integration into global markets (Robin 2010:4).

Differing policies and political interests from transnational-oriented elites pursue development in terms of creating systems that integrate national networks of neoliberal capitalist accumulation into the novel networks of accumulated of the global economy stand in contrast to national-oriented groups with a local focus and through a domestic-lens (Robin 2010:5). The nation-state is undergoing radical transformation and reimagined as the transnational capitalist class (TCC) (Robin 2010:6) have won state power and utilized the power, money and influence restructure productive apparatus that are locally based and integrated them into global production and distribution systems. The greater democratization of societies and with it more liberties and collective nights, the rise of social movements, uprisings in the Third World. In the first world, the Keynesian Fordist model was broken down. Robin contextualised that “Keynesian was replaced by monetarist policies, deregulation, and [regressive taxation]” (2010:7).

The tension between neoliberal propaganda and the impending collapse of the neoliberal world system. Public television plays a key role to legitimize the state and its discourse as an ideological state apparatus. The values that endorse the economic, cultural and political ideology that the state is centered on the imperative for values supportive of neoliberalism as an economic, political, and cultural ideology. Althusser (2001) states that in order to produce, every social formation must reproduce both the forces and the existing social relations of production, with the latter reproduced outside the factory doors. To this effect, skills and know-how must be instilled in individuals, creating a pool of labour that freely pushes forth the system that creates their exploitation.

Bibliography

Hollows, J., Hutchings, P. and Jancovich, M. (eds). 2000. The Film Studies Reader. London: Arnold.

Robinson, W.I. 2010. “Global Capitalism Theory and the emergence of Transnational elites.” Working Institute for Development Economic Research

Robinson, W.I. 2013. “Globalism and its Anti-‘Human Face’: Organic Intellectuals and Interpretations of the Crisis”. Globalizations Vol. 10, №5, 659–671

Robinson, W. I. 2018. “The next economic crisis: digital capitalism and global police state.” Race & Class Vol. 60(1): 77–92

Wright, B. and Michael Roberts. 2013. “Reproducing ‘Really Useful’ Workers: Children’s Television as an Ideological State Apparatus”. Rethinking Marxism, 25:4, 566–591

Žižek, S. (ed.). 1994. Mapping Ideology. London: Verso.

Writer/Poet | This is ancestral, past-life reading; this is meditation & prayer; this is future telling. Always becoming. The undying soul in a decaying case.