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Neo-liberalism and Dan O’Brien? Call off the search party! September 21, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

In a way it’s a thing of nothing, Dan O’Brien’s latest article on President Higgins and the use of the term neo-liberalism in a recent speech by the President, an unflattering usage as it happens.
And yet it’s also deeply odd. For O’Brien…

As if the political hue of all those cited approvingly in the speech was not enough to demonstrate bias, President Higgins resorted to the tiresome name-calling of the reactionary left. Their favourite term of abuse is “neoliberal”, a label slapped on those whose views on the relative roles of market and state differ from theirs.
Because nobody anywhere defines himself/herself as “neoliberal”, this makes dialogue impossible and the making of conspiracy myths all too easy, as the President illustrated well in his speech.

Strange that O’Brien doesn’t understand the distinction between being party political and a political worldview, or that an explicitly left-wing Presidential candidate would not be expected to take a neutral position on broader socio-political areas such as economics once elected.

Odd too as noted in comments here to find O’Brien complaining about people using the term neo-liberal when supposedly – according to him – no-one defines themselves as such while using the term reactionary left in precisely the same manner – something that at the very kindest is intellectually incoherent.

And as doctorfive points out, it’s not as if a certain Milton Friedman didn’t entirely consciously use the term himself all the way back in the 1950s to describe the approach he himself championed.

But there’s more! For on foot of this no doubt there will be a strongly penned letter from ex-Economist contributor O’Brien to the… er… Economist for its temerity in the following which reviews an entire book about… er… neo-liberalism.

Is O’Brien unaware of these not so minor details, did he not bother to find out, or does he know and just not care?


1. ivorthorne - September 21, 2013

The letters in today’s IT about O’Brien’s article are priceless.


WorldbyStorm - September 21, 2013

Thanks ivorthorne, that gave me a good laugh just now reading the letters. One wonders what, if any, response we will see from the bould D O’B to them.


2. EWI - September 21, 2013

The greatest trick a cohort like this can pull is the pretence that they don’t exist (you see this in O’Brien’s implicit claiming in the article that he himself is middle-ground, non-ideological, all the rest). It allows them to infest the Irish national media and airwaves and portray opposition as unreasonable.

Hence the entirely-deliberate freak-out over their (entirely appropriate) political designation – which allows people to comprehend the movement, and resist the agenda.


3. ejh - September 21, 2013

Because nobody anywhere defines himself/herself as “neoliberal”

I’m late to this, so I assume that many. many people have already observed that nobody anywhere defines himself/herself as “reactionary left”.


ejh - September 21, 2013

Note to myself – read whole blog piece before commenting on it.

Sorry about that. I’ll go back to sleep.


PaddyM - September 21, 2013

Nobody anywhere defines himself as a “masturbator”, but Kleenex still do plenty of business.


4. Liberius - September 21, 2013

I know this isn’t directly related to Dan O’Brien’s piece but I’ve always been slightly wary about using the term neoliberal as it makes it more difficult to associated them with the millions of deaths and economic chaos their liberalism caused throughout the nineteenth century. Either way the most important thing is getting rid of the ludicrous notion that liberalism has or indeed ever had a monopoly social freedoms.


WorldbyStorm - September 21, 2013

That’s an interesting point, and it’s one I’d share. I really don’t see anything terribly new about liberalism in that form. I guess it’s sort of handy in the sense that the phrase prevents confusion in a US context, but… it’s what you say.


5. Eamonn Crudden - September 22, 2013

Micheal D. passing time while writing his speech: http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/sep2013/in_your_eye_danny_copy_1_copy.jpg


6. CL - December 7, 2013

O’Brien has been denying the existence of neoliberalism for some time.


‘What Dan O’Brien seems anxious to deny is the idea that neoliberalism is a legitimate name for a social and historical phenomenon. As a consequence, he avoids the substance of the speech altogether and erects a straw man: Michael D Higgins is abusively slapping labels on people in pursuit of a political agenda.’


7. Enya Rand - December 8, 2013

I gave up reading D. Brown sorry O’Brien some years ago. Mainly because of the laziness of the positions expressed and and the utter lack of research beyond his comfort zone.

So my diagnosis (and I refuse to read the article) is more of the same.


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