Perpetual Crisis.The reason the “abolition,” “defunding,” and reform agenda achieved so much visibility so quickly is that it perfectly embodies the disruption/permanent revolution logic that neoliberalism thrives on. The idea that institutions are “in dire need of reform” is central to the livelihoods of the managers, senior administrators, and consultants who make their living from reforming institutions and—ultimately—to the viability of the neoliberalised institution itself.
The reform agenda is also instrumental in demoralising those who work in institutions and making them comply with the neoliberal-managerial agenda. The justification for neoliberal reforms in the 1980s was that state institutions were “inefficient” and didn’t offer “value for money.” Market-based reforms (and mass layoffs and service cutbacks) were then enacted to “address” these supposed problems. The current assault on the legitimacy of a range of institutions—schools, universities, police, libraries and museums, the civil service, state borders—is part of the same neoliberal project of institutional reform and privatisation.
In the language of social justice, neoliberalism has found a powerful new vocabulary for representing its interests as moral necessities and demonising its opponents, just as the old justifications for reform were losing their cutting edge. Large, woke-washed tech firms and outsourcing companies will claim the ability to deliver state services to a diverse range of clients in a more responsive and respectful manner than the state ever could.
Anyone who opposes this new, turbocharged form of moralised neoliberalism will be branded with the predictable epithets, which will justify them being deplatformed and silenced.