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Neoliberalism – The 'Zombie Doctrine' at the Root of All Our Problems


Neoliberalism – The 'Zombie Doctrine' at the Root of All Our Problems

George Monbiot

It’s as if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?


Thanks for this, Mr. Monbiot. It's about as timely as it gets, in this time of awakening when many people are starting to ask the questions that this article answers. (I can't wait to read the new book.)

Wow! Utopia indeed!


The new century ahead is humanity's most critical as it could presage a physical crisis rather than only a fiscal one. The environmental crisis cannot be ignored which means that any newly devised system for 21st century must revolve around solving that crisis. Thus any new system need not do away with capitalism nor impose any other system but it must be based on solving the environmental problems.

We need an environmentally based growth. Environmental jobs, environmental manufacturing considerations , environmentally sensitive changes to the unenvironmental ways of doing things that produced this crisis. It is actually true that nothing will ultimately succeed if we do not make it an active part of the environmental century ahead of us. The point I am making is that we actually have no choice but to make any solution - any new system - be designed to correct or supplant the flaws in our present system that brought us to this point.

It has to be an environmental system ... if not then we fail.

Promoting solar and wind on a big scale would produce millions of jobs installing and maintaining, buying and selling etc... A boost for the economy of the world for a few decades at the very least but which is clean energy so it is ultimately sustainable for generations in the long term...that is the kind of changes - a new system - a new way to do what we need done that is environmentally clean for example!


Monbiot speaks of the wealthy living off interest income? Odd, but there isn't any to be had for anybody unless you're in with the banks charging usury to the masses for credit cards and such. I find Max Keiser to be clearer about "interest rate apartheid" (interest free loans for the rich, usury for the masses) than Monbiot. Furthermore, the problems don't lie with Keynes, but with the neoliberal perversion of Keynes into neokeynesian monetary policies like QE, a la Krugman. As a result, this article seems incomplete. Keynesian policies can be used to stimulate renewable energy development just as Sanders suggested ...


Lots of great stuff here, and i add my congrats to Monbiot for this work.

But i disagree that we need "... to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st Century."

Unless he means specifically that we need to tailor a new system to harmonize with and support the functions of the ecology.

It's not about human ideology, except in terms of recognizing the limitations, absurdities and outrages of human ideology. It's about ecological function.


"There is only one conspiracy at the root of our ills, that is capitalism, and it trumpets barefaced in the noon of day." Sa, from An Epiphany on Wall Street

Substitute the word "capitalism" for this wishy-wash use of the word "neoliberalism," Mr. Monbiot, and you have something to say. With the inevitability of a compounding interest algorithm, capitalism always grows into its most "crony" and "neoliberal" forms. It is not "this kind of capitalism" or "modern capitalism" or neoliberal capitalism, it is all capitalism that leads us to this impasse.

And the left's answer was, is, and will continue to be socialism (all socialism is 'democratic socialism,' there is no other kind).

And yes, neoliberalism has brought us Trump, but it has also brought us Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, in opposition to neoliberalism and to Trump.

Mr. Monbiot, stop equivocating.


Thanks for that. I wasn't familiar with it, or with Isaiah Berlin. In both Monbiot's usage and the original, it's effective visual imagery.


Terrific start on a long needed critique of the industrialization of human communications and its metastasis as "market research" and advertising - now the primary characteristic of the dynamics of what was once actual conceptualization of democratic governance.

"Efficiency", I would submit, is also an 'economic' term that needs to be deconstructed. Industrial/corporate efficiency seems historically a razor applied to what will be permitted to be named and described or not. "Externalized costs" is the pathological legacy of the right of kings, notably including defining how 'god' is to be used in this scheme. Hence de facto asserting that the domination model IS GOD.

Efficiency has a simple human root in life otherwise recognized as 'learning from mistakes'. When efficiency is based on rationalizations that its right and proper to play god, it is more a 'null set' becoming glaringly obvious by the consequences it leaves behind. One of those consequences is an inability to recognize the true wealth of life in balance as a framing for REAL EFFICIENCY.

Instead we now have a legacy of power that is, in the face of crisis, incapable of stopping from digging the deadly grave it constantly tells itself is some sort of creative castle and/or ivory tower. Just as the mantra of constant growth has become deaf, dumb and blind and doubling down on these as though they are actual 'assets', it concurrently poisons all that really IS necessary apparently thinking that aggregate synergies of negation will somehow magically flip to positive with faith in the elaborate labyrinth of its false 'god'.


Neoliberalism is just the polite word for fascism, the apparatus of the state working hand in hand with the corporations to empower and enrichen the few, including using the law enforcement powers of the state to suppress opposition and dissent.

In 1985 the two major American political parties effectively merged when the Democrats abandoned the New Deal and adopted in its place the "neoliberal" policies prescribed by the self-appointed Democratic Leadership Council. It's been downhill since.


Talked to a senior guy who said BAD GOVERNANCE is the problem...so, the result will not change until it becomes Good again. (I think USA has about 5000 key element in the BG)...Thanks


Powerful piece by Mr. Monbiot (including the article on loneliness which he's linked with this article).

This quote goes out to all those Libertarians so fond of NO government (preferably with the muscle to regulate), whatsoever:

"Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty."


If you read Ralph Nader's article a few days ago, he explains that it's the UNION management that backs the Neo-liberal style Democrats. A majority of actual union MEMBERS don't take that same stance.

The Democrats under the guidance of the Democratic Leadership Conference fell prey to Big Money and adopted efficient ways and means to essentially court it.

What this ilk does is a poor representation of those it purports to represent. It is in microcosm what the political system--as a macrocosm--represents. In both instances, a small subset makes decisions on its own behalf that do not hold the backing of the larger "member populations." Based on top-down systems of hierarchical power and privilege, the latter is essentially "done unto."


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I lived in London as a college student and I don't think there's a more arrogant form of male on this planet. Part of the arrogance is that the United Kingdom, as an Aries nation resonates with Mars. It's the planet that governs the head; and I always found British men to be so lost in their intellects (and the sense of their inherent intellectual superiority) as to be rather out of touch with their bodies.

Few nations produce men so lacking in basic sensuality or comfort IN their own bodies.

With that being said, there's a real disconnect on the part of a number of otherwise luminous British intellectual males when it comes to the STATE of the Earth and Global Warming, in specific.

There are so many things that David Icke explains that are brilliant; but he thinks climate change is a ruse dreamt up by the Left.

Doesn't Monbiot favor building nuclear power plants... I seem to remember him endorsing that approach in the past.

As stated before, most human beings are specialists. They may excel in one or two areas and some are blind as bats in others. Or, more plainly stated, we all have our blind spots.

I agree with you that any future economic construct MUST take the sanctity and would-be sustainability of Earth (Mother) and her systems into account.

The current Pope seems more hip to this item than any that have lived within my lifetime.

All over the planet, Indigenous Peoples on the front lines of defending the last of the natural/wild places are leading the opposition to the 21st century's global conquistadors: the predatory corporations who never met a natural resource they weren't willing to destroy... and put a price-tag upon.


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I've often said that any time a poster turns ONE issue into the sole criteria for analysis, their argument is lacking.

MANY ills predated capitalism whether they are defined as conspiracy-based, or otherwise.

Slavery, the subjugation of women, the brutal forms of colonialism used to steal Indigenous lands, and so much else.

Patriarchy, war, and structural hierarchy paved the way for capitalism... not the other way around.

There's also no proof that shifting from capitalism to a different economic model would, in and of itself, remedy racism, sexism, and religious delusion.

One could argue that the Military Industrial Complex is the largest organ of socialism IN the U.S. (apart perhaps from Medicare and Social Security).

What screen name did you use prior to this one?


Monbiot provides a profound anthropocentric comment without taking into account the reality of how civilization operates under the control of natural forces. This discussion is like old people discussing their financial and social affairs and blithely ignoring the fact that it would all come to an end. Neoliberalism is a form of intangible decision making that has to operate within the bounds of what is physically possible.For example, it is very dependent on the ability to communicate through electronic devices (which have limited lives), on the ability to fly around the globe and numerous other services provided by the aging infrastructure that is built, operated and maintained by using up natural material wealth.Neoliberalism is a faulty way that society makes decisions. But the way society operates is a faulty way of dealing with the benevolence of mother nature. Irreversible rapid climate disruption and ocean acidification and warming is but one symptom of the malfeasance that even the elite will not be able to deal with.


Anyone who reads George Monbiot's article, and who wasn't just born yesterday, would sense the deja vu. This has been written about throughout the whole period of the 'neoliberal' era. And to focus it even more, any extraterrestrial need only look at the past half century of Noam Chomsky's written and verbal efforts to see the picture, including the loneliness that Monbiot talks about. A common refrain has been to say that 'things aren't what they used to be'. A younger generation person would comment that 'every generation says that'. Chomsky was the first I've ever encountered who put substance into this 'thing aren't what they were' perception.

The workings of power throughout history are akin to viruses. They maintain their own survival in part by attacking weakness in hosts (societies). Neoliberalism is a designation given to a particular period, still ongoing obviously, of strong 'viral' activity. Among the effects of neoliberalism is to weaken the socializing nature that we as a species have as a natural endowment. People are atomized and lose the sense of community and thus the cohesiveness and strength that comes from being a community. But that sense of community is what we are as a species. That's certainly why a public figure (eg – Sanders) who speaks and acts like a member of our own species can help to galvanize and break through that neoliberal virus. The rest is a battle to recover our collective and individual health against the virus. And hopefully to continue the sane and rational efforts to find a permanent 'cure' for that virus problem.


Excellent article. Because the name of this malicious doctrine sounds similar to "Liberalism" many mistakenly assume Neoliberalism is simply an updated version of FDR Liberalism, which it is not. While, as you suggest, new ideas are needed to deal with new 21st Century problems, the solutions that the New Deal put in place worked until the Banksters and the Billionaire oligarchs whittled away at them to nothing. The mass popularity of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are indicators that a growing number of people are aware that the system is corrupt, even if they don't agree on the solution. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has become so riddled with corruption they will do anything to prevent a genuine reformist from being nominated. Vote rigging and outright ballot stuffing has become endemic, all of it can be traced back to the Clinton money machine and their financers.


Thought-provoking, but no candy in this piñata. Our "ills" was and is intended to mean in consequence of conspiracy, not universal ills, and made in answer to the "conspiracy theorist" or nut as some would say, though I can see out of context of the book you might rush to think otherwise. And I confess I so intended in order to correct Mr. Monbiot's ONE issue.

Of course, many issues precede capitalism, and indeed, as you point out, paved the way for capitalism, I would only argue that these ills are now frozen in the amber of capitalism, and one cannot confront the one without the other. The DNA of capitalism is "Slavery, the subjugation of women, the brutal forms of colonialism used to steal Indigenous lands, and so much else" as well as those ills strictly inherent to it. Stop war or sexism? Capitalism stands guard, externally and in the mind. End racism or religious delusion? Not on capitalism's watch.

In that light, the argument comes full circle. :wink:

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