The “Invisible Doctrine” destroying our planet and controlling your life

Jul 8, 2024
Man's hand with a hammer hits the planet Earth. Anthropogenic impacts. Environmental effects. Harm and damage. Elements of this image are furnished by NASA.

Best-selling British writers, George Monbiot and Peter Hutchison, have very recently published “The Invisible Doctrine”, which is a powerful critique of neoliberalism, and the role they believe it is playing in destroying our human future.

The authors say that the neoliberalism is the dominant ideology of our time, but many people do not know much about it. They claim that it has caused, or contributed to most of the crises that now confront us, including rising inequality, the slow degradation of healthcare, education and other public services, the crumbling of infrastructure, the 2008 financial crisis, as well as environmental disasters. They say it has also contributed to the rise of modern day demagogues like Donald Trump and others.

They add that neoliberalism is neither inevitable nor immutable. It was conceived and fostered as a deliberate means of passing power to “the invisible hand of the market”. And that the crises that it causes, are not perverse outcomes of the system. They are the system!

Neoliberalism is often described as “capitalism on steroids”. Capitalism is defined as an economic system, in which private actors own and control property in accord with their interests, and in response to the constraints of demand and supply. And the authors point out that very often, making a profit, involves making the world worse for other individuals or other communities or countries. They discuss the claim by John Locke in 1689 and his followers that “working a piece of land, enables humans to make the land their property.” And that once they own it, they are free to do what they will with it to raise money. But the authors also draw attention, to the colonial takeover of indigenous lands which had been “worked“ by indigenous people for many thousands of years.

The term neoliberalism was coined at a conference in Paris in 1938, and in 1948, Frederick Hayek published his book “The Road to Serfdom,” in which he explained the theory. He argued that the welfare state and social democracy were reducing the scope of individual action and would mutate into the sort of absolute control exercised by both Stalin and Hitler. The neoliberals therefore claimed the need for :”private equity funds” to exercise greater control of the system, and to minimise the role of governments.

Prior to the advent of neoliberalism, the global economy had been very significantly influenced by the writings of John Maynard Keynes, who had argued that governments should pursue full employment and that taxes should be high and public services well-funded, with inequality constrained. On these matters, the neoliberals were telling a very different story, and Keynesian economics began to run into various crises, with neoliberalism becoming increasingly popular and effective in taking control of public policy.

The neoliberal approach was adopted increasingly by American Presidents. In the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher became a neoliberal disciple and claimed that “There Is No Alternative (TINA)” to the new approach.

The book argues passionately for urgent system change, away from the control currently exercised by profit makers, and the need to strengthen governance and how the economy operates, though expanded participatory democracy. This is a well written, quite brief book that deserves a wide readership by those of us concerned about the many crises that now threaten our human future.

George Monbiot and Peter Hutchison, “The Invisible Doctrine. The secret life of neoliberalism and how it came to control your life”, Penguin, 2024, is available here.

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