Class Politics By Any Other Name: The Drift of the Center-Left in the Advanced Capitalist Economies

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:45
Oral Presentation
Jeremy COHAN, New York University, USA
Mark COHEN, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Suzy LEE, Binghamton University, USA
Within the neoliberal drift of the past several decades, it is striking that the established parties of the center-left in the advanced capitalist economies have almost nowhere and almost never represented a credible alternative. The Democratic Party in the United States and the various Labour, Socialist, and Social Democratic Parties of Europe have often been the authors of neoliberal policies, and when not, they have offered little effective resistance. Since 2008, with the exception of the recent resurgence of the British Labor Party, it has been these center-left parties that have suffered the worst at the polls, often to the benefit of parties of the far right. Meanwhile, again outside the U.K., attempts to pull the established center-left parties to the left or to found new parties to outflank them have met with only limited success. Together, these facts represent a puzzle that has received too little attention in accounts of the neoliberal era. Why is it that the established center-left parties have neither taken up the banner of a genuine “countermovement” to neoliberalism nor been supplanted by political forces that can do so? We argue that answering this question requires a new analysis of the class politics of the “progressive” branch of neoliberalism. The more socially inclusive neoliberalism peddled by the established center-left parties cannot be understood merely as an ideological cover, but instead it is necessary to explain which social groups they have managed to cultivate as an electoral base, including a significant number of those who have borne the brunt of the neoliberal economy. We offer an account that clarifies the shared economic and political dynamics that have given rise to, together, the center-left’s drift and the far right’s rise, linking both to the underlying conditions of competition and capitalist accumulation in the global economy.