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Are Anarchists Just Neoliberals Without Money?

A charge that has been leveled by the pro-government left is that anarchists are simply neoliberals without money or some variation upon this. The tweeter in question provides no definition of neo-liberalism, so, we turn to Dictionary.com to provide us with a definition of neoliberalism to be used in analyzing this charge. It’s as follows:

a modern politico-economic theory favouring free trade, privatization, minimal government intervention in business, reduced public expenditure on social services, etc

There’s a wide range of anarchist views and types of anarchism. Some of which largely or entirely reject economies based on notions of free exchange or free trade. Anarcho-communism and anarcho-primitivism come to mind. They tend to favor gift economies and oppose market economics. There are forms of anarchism like mutualism and left-wing market anarchism that do support free trade and markets. Their conception of free trade and markets is not neo-liberal however. These types of anarchism involve worker control and opposition to usury in some cases.

The related notion of privatization is another supposed feature of neo-liberalism that anarchists allegedly also agree with. There is a huge problem with this accusation. Anarchists favor the abolition of capitalist private property. A faulty assumption at work is that the government sphere and public sphere are the same thing. It’s possible to advocate “privatization” in the sense of non-government or non-state control/ownership without ditching the idea of public space. The kind of corporate capitalist privatization favored by neo-liberals is also not what anarchists support. A related point to be made is that neo-liberal “privatization” tends to involve just outsourcing a government monopoly to a private corporation. This corporation is the new monopolist protected by law and gains tax dollars via government compulsion.

What about minimal government intervention in business? Not all anarchists advocate business arrangements. Those that do are proponents of non-capitalist markets. It’s also important to note that our present neo-liberal system includes plenty of subsidies to corporations. This corporate welfare is something anarchists oppose.

Anarchists also don’t have the same ideas about what should replace government social services. We oppose capitalist arrangements as a viable alternative. Neo-liberals don’t. This is an important difference to note.

A final and very important difference to note is that neo-liberalism is not really so anti-government. Peter Frase noted this in a good Jacobin piece. He said:

Neoliberalism is a state project through and through, and is better understood as a transformation of the state and a shift in its functions, rather than a quantitative reduction in its size. In his Brief History of Neoliberalism, David Harvey underlines the importance of the state in forcibly creating a “good business climate” by breaking down barriers to capital accumulation and repressing dissent.

Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist