Of all the supporters of socialism, I usually find Nathan Robinson, the colorfully dressed editor of Current Affairs, to be one of the few who can usually come off as reasonable. He is the kind of man who can spend seven paragraphs defeating you on the smallest things, before explaining to you why it’s not the smallest thing, making you feel very stupid. With that said, he sometimes falls into the same traps many socialists fall into, such as when he tweeted this on 12/20/2020:
I think reluctance to believe in extraterrestrial life is part of neoliberal “end of history” ism. If the universe is teeming with life we haven’t yet found, but could, it suggests that neoliberal capitalism is not our peak but is in fact a very primitive early historical state.
I think this is why I see a lot of Silicon Valley types casting doubt on the existence of aliens. You might expect these space-loving rationalists to be into aliens, but aliens would actually prove that they are part of a primitive society rather than an advanced, unique one.
There are various issues with this, not the least of which being the idea that aliens would have both a more advanced civilization and one that’s similar to what we currently call socialism being rather unlikely. If aliens came down turned out to live under fascist, would Robinson believe that is the next logical point in history and not socialism? What if they have a system unlike anything we thought of on Earth because they come from a different planet with different politics?
Also, the idea of their being an endpoint to history is a rather Marxist concept, as Marx said communism, or the idea of a moneyless, classless, stateless society was the logical endpoint of Enlightenment ideas combined with the escalation of the class struggle he saw history as. In fact, the farther right the ideology (and therefore, the more skeptical they are of human nature) the less likely they are to believe that humans could come to the best conclusions on their own. This is why many conservative philosophers have a cynical view of history, believing the best time was before the one we currently live in. Meanwhile, progressive views of history are most likely to believe our best days are ahead of us, that we progress as a species as history moves foreword.
The idea that the end point of history is our current time is commonly attributed to Francis Fukuyama and his 1992 book The End Of History And The Last Man, in which he argued American Democracy was the endpoint of man’s ideological evolution and the future would show it to be the winner. (I should note, Fukuyama identifies as a neo-conservative, not a neo-liberal.) However, this has been argued by many throughout history, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end,” said Henry Leavitt Ellsworth in 1843.
But this is one big issue with the term “neoliberalism” in general, it has become nothing more than a term to describe things populists don’t like, even if the thing in question is also done by their side. If one looks up neoliberal on Amazon, you’ll find tons of books criticizing it by people like David Henry and Noam Chomsky, but no books actually advocating for it. Everyone from Milton Friedman to Bill Clinton has been accused of being a member of this ideology — and yet almost nobody actually identifies as one.
If one looks up “Conservative” or “socialist” into Amazon, you’ll find tons of writings by people promoting those ideologies. (The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk and How To Be A Conservative by Roger Scruton on one side, and The Socialist Manifesto by Bhaskar Sunkara and Why You Should Be A Socialist by Nathan Robinson on the other) Even looking up “fascist” will produce that much (The Doctrine Of Fascism, for example), yet neoliberalism just seems immune from having a manifesto of some kind. You can buy such works as Organs for Sale: Bioethics, Neoliberalism, and Public Moral Deliberation by Ryan Gillespie and The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump by Jack Rasmus, however. But nothing that actually promotes this ideology which supposedly is believed by some of the most powerful people in government. Peter Joseph, the man behind the Zeitgeist film trilogy, is also not a fan of this ideology.
I’ve noticed, especially among fans of Secular Talk and especially Jimmy Dore, that neoliberals are seen the same way the John Birch Society used to view communists. They are this ominous force that has taken over government and control everything in the world. Dore even went so far as to say the failed government in Chile was because of neo-liberalism, in spite of Chile being under socialist control for most of its history after Pinochet was gotten rid of. Both the rise of China and the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would have done much to counter China, are the result of this one ideology. In fact, the way they talk about this one ideology is also similar to a certain other group that has been a scapegoat for centuries — specifically, the way that in Europe, no matter what went bad, it was always the fault of the Jews.
Now, I was not implying that everyone who uses the term “neoliberal” is anti-Semitic, that would be ridiculous. I am saying that people are using the term in a similar manner, an evil force controlling all of humanity behind the scenes who is doing all the evil in the world. This is human nature, trying to turn complex events into simple good vs. evil — comic book writer Alan Moore even singled this out as the reason conspiracy theories become so popular among certain folks. However, it should always be noted how lazy of a way of thinking this is, blaming all the world’s evils on just this one group that nobody even says they’re apart of. If you take issue with specific people and their ideology, you can simply state that instead of warning of an ideology that does not exist.