2007 - 2022

Out of the Wreckage

George Monbiot recently came to Scotland to speak in Govan and Edinburgh to promote his new book ‘Out of the Wreckage’.

For Monbiot this is about ‘stories’ and the book is about how to replace the neoliberalism story with a new ‘restoration’ story and a ‘politics of belonging’:

“For George Monbiot, neoliberalism should best be understood as a “story”, one that was conveniently on offer at precisely the moment when the previous “story” – namely Keynesianism – fell to pieces in the mid-1970s. The power of stories is overwhelming, as they are “the means by which we navigate the world. They allow us to interpret its complex and contradictory signals”. The particular story of neoliberalism “defines us as competitors, guided above all other impulses by the urge to get ahead of our fellows”.

This story may not have been all that attractive, but it provided meaning and clarity. It offered a guide on what to do and how to live. With the rise of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, neoliberalism came to govern how policies were designed and institutions constructed. More diffusely, it came to shape how we understand ourselves, leading us to take on ever more responsibility for our own needs, economic security and wellbeing, devaluing social bonds and dependency in the process.”

Liz Murray from Global Justice Now interviewed him here:


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Comments (1)

Leave a Reply to SleepingDog Cancel reply

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    I think Monbiot’s metaphor of “stories” is wrong, and indeed in his interview he makes good points without using it. He comes from a generation and background which draws on literature and narratives. However, later generations growing up with digital games are likely to use more accurate metaphors of interactivity which better describe the complex adaptive systems of political economies.

    Neo-liberalism fails largely, I think, because it does not accurately model, predict or understand the patterns of interacting and evolving human behaviour from which functioning political and economic systems emerge. Although proponents use game theory, their psychological models are flawed and discredited.

    So Monbiot’s later comments which are about building systems up from interactive patterns like free trade are (to my mind) spot on, but these are not following narratives: they are reflected upon, the outcomes tested against values like fairness and ecological sustainability, and improved accordingly in what some might call virtuous cycles, actually more akin to the feedback loops in iterative design.

    So there is no beginning-middle-end story here, but a real possibility of open-ended generational progress with any amount of agents getting involved (not characters slaved to a plot).

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