Is a collective future still possible?

May 2, 2017

26 April 2017

Speech by Tim Lyons to the Victorian Fabians event: “Is Neoliberalism killing social democracy?”


It is tempting to deal with the question posed by the organisers (“Is Neoliberalism Killing Social Democracy?”) by simply saying ‘it already has’ and then resume my seat. Millions of words have been spent cataloging the decline of social democratic ideas, policy achievements, political parties and bedrock institutions (unions being the most important). Whether the illness was caused by something which can be usefully or accurately summarised as “neoliberalism” seems to me less interesting than asking what might be done to improve things.

For one, a more complex set of causes (including internal causes) seems intuitively more likely. To extend the illness analogy, perhaps it’s a case of co-morbidity: after all we adopted the language, some of the personnel and a tool-belt of bloodless “sensible-centrist” technocracy all on our own. In any event, I tend to dislike the term neoliberal as deployed in political discussions1. It is used to encompass such a broad range of “things people on the left don’t like”, that it lacks any precision and therefore any meaningful analytical utility. It’s useful enough as a club, but clubs are mainly useful for rhetorical purposes.

To read the full speech, click on the PDF link below.