The March of the Neo-Liberals : Stuart Hall

Growing up as a youth worker in the 1970’s and fancying myself as one of  Gramsci’s organic intellectuals I was drawn inevitably to the outpourings of the Centre of Contemporary Critical Studies , of which Stuart Hall was the Director. In particular the work of such as Angela McRobbie, Paul Gilroy and Paul Willis around youth, culture, gender, race and class provided insight and inspiration as well as its fair share of illusion. We collected the Centre’s Stencilled Papers, which were not only difficult to read because of the language used, but also because the Gestetner duplicator at the Centre must have been on its last legs! In the Wigan Youth Service of those days, free from the ‘tick-box’ mentality of occupational standards, the part-time youth worker qualifying course thrived on arguing the toss about whether this stuff was of any use when it came to working with young people. Rightly or wrongly we put consciousness first, technique second.

I’m minded of this because Stuart Hall has produced a sweeping historical analysis of the neo-liberal revolution, which begins:

How do we make sense of our extraordinary political situation: the end of the debt-fuelled boom, the banking crisis of 2007-10, the defeat of New Labour and the rise to power of a Conservative-Liberal-DemocraticCoalition? What sort of crisis is this? Is it a serious wobble in the trickle-down win-win, end-of-boom-and-bust economic model which has dominated global capitalism? Does it presage business as usual, the deepening of present trends, or the mobilisation of social forces for a radical change of direction? Is this the startof a new conjuncture?

Close to the end, fond still of his Gramsci and maintaining a continuity of thought over at least four decades, he argues:

Hegemony is a tricky concept and provokes muddled thinking. No project achieves ‘hegemony’ as a completed project. It is a process, not a state of being.No victories are permanent or final. Hegemony has constantly to be ‘worked on’, maintained, renewed, revised. Excluded social forces, whose consent has not been won, whose interests have not been taken into account, form the basis of counter-movements, resistance, alternative strategies and visions … and the struggle over a hegemonic system starts anew. They constitute what Raymond Williams called ‘the emergent’ – and are the reason why history is never closed but maintains an open horizon towards the future.

To be found in a much truncated version in the Guardian, March of the Neo-Liberals, and in its rich entirety at Thatcher, Blair and Cameron – the long march of neo-liberalism continues.

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