Despite the suspension of economic activities caused by the coronavirus, the main Spanish electricity companies earned up to 36% more last year, maintaining the astronomical remuneration of their senior officials and directors, among whom are not a few former national politicians. Meanwhile, these days we wake up with the news that the price of electricity and energy is at one of the highest levels in recent times without the companies that monopolize the sector doing anything to remedy it. How is it possible that citizen outrage does not go beyond mere resignation?
For some time now, the idea that neoliberalism is not only the defense of an economic conception, but also the imposition or the assumption of a new symbolic frame of reference, of a new mentality that has modified our behavior patterns, has been insisted on for a long time. and our margins of action in the economic, social and political fields. To answer the question asked, we are fundamentally interested in three of the changes that it has introduced in the collective and individual imagination after decades of hegemony, changes that occur in our conceptions of the past, present and future.
First, regarding the past, oblivion. Neoliberalism practices and drives the amnesia of political communities, unable to remember the recent and almost finished social state. The “Spirit of 45”, which Ken Loach talks about, is not that far away in time, much less the wealth redistribution policies of the 50s or 60s. Many would be astonished to read the programs of the social democratic parties today of those years, in which the nationalization of strategic companies or plans as ambitious as Meidner, in Sweden, were openly defended. And without going to such extremes: only a few years ago that the essential or strategic sectors of the economy were public property… Also in Spain! My students are surprised when I explain that Telefónica, Endesa or Seat were public corporations, until recently, controlled by the State.
Second, about the present, denial. Currently, the legally valid and operational instruments that our States still have to deal with the ignominious and absurd concentration of capital are considered dead. Neither the cartelization of the economy, which is increasingly concentrated in its essential sectors in the hands of a few, is not effectively fought, nor is it allowed to even speak of the possibility of a forceful intervention in the deified “markets.” The Spanish Constitution of 1978, that so reviled by a part of a left also amnesiac, that same that is sacralized by a right that does not know it … that, yes, establishes in its article 128.2 the possibility that by law (simple majority in the parliament) may be reserved for the public sector “essential resources or services, especially in the case of monopoly, and also agree to the intervention of companies when the general interest so requires.” Why is it that none of the members of the public, public opinion, or influencers day-to-day media even talk about this possibility? Neoliberal hegemony denies it and, what is worse, tries to nullify it thanks to the normative and institutional framework of the economic government of a European Union overturned and built around “market reason” and not constitutional democracy.
Third, the closure of the future. Neoliberal capitalism has managed to narrow our horizons of action and transformation to the unimaginable, relegating them at times to mere resistance to the few remaining social conquests, and which are maintained more as a gift from those above than as a collective patrimony of those below. . The future is loaded with the worst of the neoliberal present: possessive individualism, precariousness, limitless instability, the anxiety of a daily life submerged in a stressful sea of networks and notifications and increasingly inhumane, cold and harsh social relationships. . And politically, the impossibility of a true change, of a radical change that goes to the roots of the problems and injustices that afflict us.
These three neoliberal impacts must be overcome and replaced if we want to face the challenges of today and tomorrow, among which climate change, injustice and inequality stand out. On the past, and without falling into pure nostalgia, recover the memory of the conquests and experiences of a social state that, with its shortcomings and design defects, knew how to redistribute part of the wealth and socioeconomically elevate those who historically had been the (and) disinherited of the West. Regarding the present, the defense of the instruments that still exist and the affirmation of their regulations, of their very possibility of application and effectiveness. On the future, broaden the horizons and think about new (or old?) Ways of life and sociability that completely mutate the fetishes and false appearances of the neoliberal system of our days. To achieve, in short, that the next rise in electricity will not be paid for by those who work the hardest and fight day by day for their dignity.