April Swanson

Professor Salo

UP 260

22 September 2013

Critical Review #2

            Neoliberalism although successful in theory, has created severe repercussions for the lower and middle-class citizens it fails to empower. This political and economic philosophy mainly accepted by American political conservatives has driven the wealth of the United States into the hands of very few people who rest at tip of our capitalist society. The ideals of the free-market prized by neoliberalists are all-inclusive, however, power in reality is granted to those who are most able and affluent. The core of neoliberalism advocates for the domination of the market, works to reduce government spending for social services, and privatizes as many public goods as possible (Martinez and Garcia). As a result of neoliberal policies, the gap between wealthy corporate society and the working poor, particularly in American society has loomed large. We can see the connection these policies have to the stark inequality that resides in our local communities on topics of incarceration, food assistance programs, and immigrant rights.

Prison rates in the United States are the highest among all nations of the world. It is no coincidence that this social issue is rooted in a society dominated by the neoliberal doctrine. Prisons all around the nation, along with other formerly state owned enterprises have become privatized. Because United States prisons work under the framework of a corporate system, they are heavily based on profit and accumulation. The only way prisons in the United States can operate is if the cells maintain occupancy. Therefore, mass incarceration is not due to criminal insecurities, but by the prison system’s profit insecurity (Wacquant, 2010). The No More Jails in Champaign County campaign and its proposal to stop Champaign County from building another 20 million dollar prison is a rally for equality. Mass incarceration, specifically in this Central Illinois town, is due to many mild crimes such as minor traffic violations which are written up to fulfill a given quota. Many of those incarcerated for such crimes were unable to pay off the fines of the initial violations which then led to warrants and eventually their arrests. This inequality continues even after many of these prisoners leave the institution. Because re-entry employment and housing programs are not in favor by our neoliberal economy, countless former prisoners cannot sustain and improve their position after their release.

A recent cutback in funding for a major welfare program, The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), is a serious tactic of American House conservatives to decrease government expenditures (Krugman, 2013). Although the recession ceased in 2009, enrollment for this particular program has almost doubled in the past six years alone (Krugman, 2013). After this economic crash, very few people at the upper end of the income distribution have been able to financially restore themselves while the majority of lower income earners have actually continued to slide down this distribution. The neoliberal policies that have fueled this slash in government spending have also had an impact on who has the ability to climb the social ladder when these programs are unavailable. Decreasing assistance to this large chunk of society will have serious consequences for demographics including but not limited to single mothers and the disabled. These groups are largely unable to better their living situations through a neoliberal social structure. Without programs like these, the portion of society hit the hardest will not be able to attain an average quality of life, nevertheless be able to strive beyond the restrictions of a neoliberal society.

Neoliberal politics strengthen the rights of the most fortunate of society, mainly white men who claim generations of family members made their millions investing in stocks, passing down the family wealth to their predecessors. Neoliberalism mutilates the rights of those on the opposite end of the spectrum: poor immigrants. Inequalities in education, housing, and healthcare are buried here, bearing great consequences for those who come from overseas to seek light at the end of the neoliberal tunnel. Immigrants are without a doubt integrated into the capitalist framework favored by neoliberalism. Immigrants fill positions that many natives are not willing to accept, therefore, immigrants provide the foundation of cheap labor for the wealth to accumulate at the tip of the hierarchy (Serra, 2013). These people are able to find jobs they might not necessarily find back in their home nations but they are exploited by the system that neoliberalism supports. Immigrants fill the vacancy in a neoliberal society with cheap labor and are unable to climb to even the middle of the capitalist pyramid. Worker’s rights are phased out by private enterprises and wages and unions are sacrificed (Martinez and Garcia). Education programs for immigrants are also unavailable and as tuition for post-secondary education continues to rise, only those who can afford higher education and those who are eligible for student loans are able to grasp these opportunities. Neoliberal societies fail to assimilate immigrants into higher society and refuse to provide them with basic public goods that only those of higher classes have private access to (Serra, 2013).

The unregulated economy prized by neoliberalism works to help the economy flourish at the expense of majority of social groups. Only very few who are fortunate to sit upon their continuous returns established by generations of socially superior ancestors are able to reap the benefits of a free-market economy. As the income gap widens due to neoliberal policies, society is likely to experience a shrinking middle-class, an expanding lower-class, and majority of the nation’s wealth inflating among a few elite. Free-market economies create an imbalance of power, generating differences among race, class, gender, ethnic background, among many other distinctions. The main goals of the neoliberal school of thought are free-market domination, reduction in government spending for social and welfare services, and to morph many public domains into private spheres (Martinez and Garcia). The acceptance of neoliberalism and its ideals promotes an individualistic work ethic over collective social union (Haddis, 2010). Neoliberal politics have constructed a two-tier society in which inequality is presented as the norm and a huge divergence in humanity has created excessive social unrest among the majority of its subjects.










Works Cited

Haddis, Mekonen. The role Of Neo-Liberalism, in widening the income gap between

the rich and the poor. Political Snapshots. 5 Jun. 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://politicalsnapshots.wordpress.com/2010/06/05/the-role-of-neo-liberalism-in-widening-the-income-gap-between-the-rich-and-the-poor/>

Krugman, Paul. Free to Be Hungry. The New York Times: The Opinion Pages. 22 Sept 2013.

Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/opinion/krugman-free-to-be-hungry.html?hp>

Martinez, Elizabeth and Garcia, Arnoldo. What is Neoliberalism: A Brief Definition for Activists.

CorpWatch. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=376>

Serra, Benjamin. Neoliberalism: Immigration’s number one enemy. The Prisma: The

Multicultural Newspaper. 3 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2013. <http://www.theprisma.co.uk/2013/02/04/neoliberalism-immigration%E2%80%99s-number-one-enemy/>

Wacquant, Loıc. Crafting the Neoliberal State: Workfare, Prisonfare, and Social Insecurity.

Sociological Forum. Jun. 2010. Web PDF. 22 Sept 2013.




Discussion Questions

  1. What cases in history has neoliberal implementation seen relatively low levels of inequality? Where was there little inequality and where was there more?
  2. Would the founding fathers of the U.S. constitution think protection from government is a way to achieve equality?