George Monbiot‘s article, “Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems”, is a good summary of the Left’s problems with liberal economics, and one which indicts the Left too for not having come up with a better alternative. It helps to elevate the word “neoliberalism” into one which is simultaneously a centerpiece of Left-wing social theory and also boogeyman — one which, as the headline says explicitly, is “at the root of all our problems.” The diagnosis is wide, but flatland — only the Lower quadrants get a look.
The challenge for an Integral economics is substantial, particularly when popular sentiment among integrally informed folk these days seems to be all about simply adopting whatever the Left is doing. To meet the challenge Integral thinkers must give more than one side of the story. While honoring the prophetic streak in writers like Monbiot, we need to show the fuller picture revealed by a post-Green meme lens and demonstrate the utility of a more Integral economics. When the Left’s critique of neoliberalism is combined with everything good about liberal economics, we can arrive at a more realistic vision with pragmatic steps to move us forward. As Hillary Clinton recently lectured Bernie Sanders, it’s easy to offer a diagnosis; it’s harder to build solutions.
Monbiot concludes: “A coherent alternative [to neoliberalism] has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century.” There are currently programs in existence which seem to be pursuing creative approaches, but none have reached the place where governments can create policy alternatives. In my view, Integral economic thinkers ought to be part of the task of envisioning alternatives to our economic status quo and we should bring many insights obscured to flatland economic systems. But we need at least as much energy devoted to reforming liberal economics so it works better and more equitably, extolling its virtues and accomplishments, and resisting the effort by writers like Monbiot to proclaim the death of liberalism as a failed God.