20 July 2007

excerpts from Jeff Derksen's "Poetry and the Long Neoliberal Moment"

The characteristics of this moment, as David Harvey drafts and reiterates in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, grow from “a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong property rights, free markets, and free trade” (2) and which “seeks to bring all human action into the domain of the market” (3).
. . .

Brenner and Theodore point out that “whereas neoliberal ideology implies that self-regulating markets will generate an optimum allocation of investments and resources, neoliberal political practice has generated pervasive market failures, new forms of political polarization, and a dramatic intensification of uneven development at all spatial scales” (352).

. . .

[Slavoj] Zizek argues that we must assert the difference between two types of freedom active today, “formal” freedom and “actual” freedom: “This is what the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘actual’ freedom ultimately amounts to: ‘formal’ freedom is the freedom of choice within the coordinates of the existing power relations, while ‘actual’ freedom designates the site of an intervention which undermines these very coordinates.”

. . .

Poetry, as a creative practice can aim at an “actual freedom” through a language that challenges and negotiates a neoliberal structure of feelings; this project would designate “the site of intervention” while rejecting the formal freedom of what culture should do in neoliberalism (and post 9/11). A poetic project directed at the social logics of neoliberalism could potentially resist/complicate/refute inclusion into the formal freedom offered by neoliberalism, while pointing to the exclusions generated by neoliberalism’s class project and mapping the condition of neoliberalism (the neoliberal
condition?). Following the politics of poetics form, such a poetics points to the gap between the language and promises of neoliberalism and the conditions that actually existing neoliberalism brews up.

Derksen, Jeff. “Poetry and the Long Neoliberal Moment.” West Coast Line 51 Vol. 40 No. 3 (2006). 4-11.