The necropolitics of neoliberalism: Clara Valverde Gefaell

Whatever reality corresponded to the distinction between the working class and the sub-proletariat/lumpenproletariat under industrial capitalism has been lost in the fragmentation of the former under financial-speculative capitalism. Industry has not of course disappeared, but the conditions under which those who labour in it have little to do with the post-WWII social contract of managed welfare-state societies. The ever increasing unrestrained exploitation of industrial labour, the growing general precariousness of labour throughout the global economy (part-time/day labour, zero contracts/non-contracted work, free labour), mass unemployment/underemployment and the stripping of labour of rights fought for over a century, has reduced most of humanity either to the status of a sub-proletariat or simply rendered them expendable.

There is a necropolitics at the heart of contemporary capitalism or neoliberalism. If formerly, capital could socially integrate workers through stable work, today each of us is increasingly forced to make of oneself an entrepreneur; ultimately, an entrepreneur of oneself, maker and bearer of a bio-human-capital, but also of endless debt. One’s self as capital requires permanent investment, a working of the self through technologies of self-making and self-control. The exercise however is unpredictable and unstable, for capital is volatile. And in a world governed by a generalised entrepreneuriate, laws and moral codes are radically matters of convenience. The distinctions of legal and criminal economic activity, productive and speculative investment, real and fictional economies, legal and illegal political power, public and private interests fade in a sea of unrestrained corruption and authoritarianism. And for those who cannot remain on the surface of the flows of capital, which is potentially all of us, their obligation is but to disappear.

If fascism is a political regime which makes us all superfluous, as Hannah Arendt argued, then it is under contemporary State-Capital that fascism has found its most perfected expression.

In resonance with this reflection, we publish a translation from spanish of a text by Clara Valverde Gefaell, teacher, writer and activist in the politics of health ( 13/12/2014).

Are we complicitous with the necropolitics of neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism maintains the power and wealth of the privileged by means of the orders of the markets that grow destroying the planet and its inhabitants, beginning with those persons who are excluded. The wealthy and their corporations increase their benefits stealing by non-complicity with the law (not paying taxes, corruption, exploitation of the natural environment) and the creation of its own laws (the TAFTA treaty which, among other things, will accelerate the commodification of public goods, like health).

Inequalities increase at a vertiginous speed, making evident that neoliberalism is not compatible with the life of the excluded, those who cannot or who do not wish to believe in the myth of development.

They are the most affected by the injustices and the violence of neoliberalism: those without work or with badly paied work, those without a roof, the sick, the incapacitated and the dependent, the old, hungry youth and children, and those who have arrived here fleeing poverty and the effects of climate change in other places.

The new necropolitics does not require weapons to kill the excluded. By means of its policies, the excluded live dead in life or they are allowed to die because no longer profitable. They are of no use even as slaves.

Yet is it not sufficient to let them die without access to food, a roof, heath care? Why are politics and ways of governing developed that accelerate their death, which assure that they are at the limit of life in the “privilege” of survival? Well because they are a threat. Without being aware of it or even presenting themselves as such, the excluded and the precarious demonstrate, as resonating bodies, as speakers, all of the injustices of neoliberalism. And this, the powerful, will not tolerate because it may inspire solidarity in the rest of society, solidarity that could convert itself into rebellion.

That’s why, through various forms of discrete violence, the excluded are again and again crushed. They are finished off. And the rest of society is convinced that they participate in this necropolitics, not only assuring themselves that there is no solidarity, but also relying upon the “included” and the experts to keep the excluded at bay.

Neoliberalism maintains itself, in part, thanks to these “included” who still believe that they are safe, who still falsely believe that they are free and who hope that better times will come by magic. That is why the creation of a radical empathy to threaten neoliberalism is more than ever necessary.

The interstitial spaces in which the excluded live could be the point of departure from which the rest of the 99% could begin to develop a radical empathy. It is not a question of including the excluded in the social movements. This old paternalistic strategy already demonstrated its uselessness. Now it is necessary for those who believe that they are the “included” to stop believing in the depoliticising, tranquilising and somniferous stories of the powerful. It is necessary that they become aware of their own vulnerability, of the official silence, interiorised and inherited from their place in history as the vanquished and that they carry out their mourning and that of their grandparents. And that they look in the face of the excluded.

This face dislocates and creates disquiet. This is the disquiet that is necessary to re-politicise, to awaken a radical empathy. One has to put one’s body and one’s gaze in the interstitial spaces. Any resistance to participating in the necropolitics of neoliberalism must come from the clarity of being able to see everyone, that we are all vulnerable and excluded.

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