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Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy (Cultural Politics and the Promise of Democracy) Paperback – September 17, 2004
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“Against the Terror of Neoliberalism showcases why Henry A. Giroux is one of the most important and influential thinkers on the cultural left. … [He] critiques the present of politics, as always, eloquently and yet clearly and pointedly, with theoretical sophistication, acute insights into the structures in which power operates, a careful reading of its contemporary manifestations as well as its historical roots, and an in-depth grasp of current academic debates. … Against the Terror of Neoliberalism makes an incontrovertible demonstration of the ways that education is at the center of both how the forces of oppression gain ascendance and how the forces of dissent need to think [about] the future of opposition.”
―Robin Truth Goodman, Florida State University, in Symploke
“At the core of Henry Giroux’s latest, and perhaps most incisive, encompassing and challenging book, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism, are urgent questions and concerns about youth, education, responsibility, the future, and democracy, all rigorously examined and captured brilliantly. … [The book] should be obligatory reading across the spectrum of US education, from high schools and schools of education, to cultural studies, political science, union halls, military barracks, and departments of communications. Giroux thinks and writes with an unrelenting urgency, rigor, and clarity that provides us with critical tools for thinking hard about the world.”
―Scott D. Morris in Dissident Voice
“Henry Giroux has done it again! Against a fastball from Wall Street, the World Bank and the IMF, and the ideologues and practitioners of free market fundamentalism, he smashes a home run. Giroux surgically and decisively dissects the contradictions and the brutal inhumanity and injustice of the ‘free market.’ He also provides the outlines for a roadmap to get out of this living hell.”
―Robert W. McChesney, author, The Problem of the Media
About the Author
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. He has published numerous books and articles and his most recent books include America’s Educational Deficit and the War on Youth (2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (2014). The Toronto Star has named Henry Giroux one of the twelve Canadians changing the way we think! Read the article here: Twelve Canadians Changing the Way We Think
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As it should be, for it paints the United States as a country spinning away from any semblance of an actual, functioning democracy and into a web where capitalism is the new democracy and public participation in the phenomenon that shape our lives is largely removed or rendered a cynical joke. Giroux examines neoliberalism as the main 'philosophy' or force that has driven the USA toward a more private society where the social contract is chipped away, job, life, and health security are weakened to strengthen authority, inequality has gone through the roof, and of course, money rules. That it's now easier to imagine the end of the world before the end of the current strain of capitalism (which has pretty much replaced democracy) just about says it all.
Giroux covers the erosion of public debate, where the complete corruption of terms neutralizes discussion and discourages thinking ('conservative', 'liberal', 'terrorism', etc, etc), the slow death of public space, public service, and the obsessive privatization of life, and other major phenomenon you never hear about in the news because you'd probably want to kill yourself, or do something about it.
He's certainly not off point, if anything, he's rightfully disgusted about the state of affairs. Where is the outrage, he asks. As for the Bush administration, it's not new, it's just more extreme in its vision of an 'ownership society' and in the empty rhetoric of 'rugged individualism' and 'freedom from the government' that is, of course, a weapon against the common schlep who can only increase their human value by positioning themselves as profit-generators. The poor subsidize the rich, absorbing risk while the dough pours into the same few pockets. Everybody else can rent themselves out to whoever decides to keep jobs in the USA, where we endlessly consume while producing less and less. And the government, well, it's this terrible, meddlesome, flabby entity that should be cut down to size because it's restricting all of us. Unless, of course, that same government works overtime to protect the rich from the market forces that would destroy them as it bails out failing companies, enacts tariffs, and gives huge breaks to those who need it least so that we can all survive but hiring ourselves out to the same folks. If you're lucky, maybe you can work at a nice suburban office park that your favorite credit card or cell phone company has decided to establish in your area.
Judging by this sober assessment, the US of A is heading down the tubes, and fast. What does one do? The time to act is now, it seems, though our choices are fewer and fewer. When we're all sitting in front of a computer for 8-10 hours a day doing intellectually bankrupt work for pathological institutions that threaten to toss us out because we don't fit into their Excel columns, cost too much to take care of because of a massively inefficient health care system, and are subject to huge phenomenon that nobody really bothers to address in the pursuit of cash, I guess we can all hope we're near the blast radius when mankind decides to finally blow up the world.
Not the most cheerful book, it's a cold, hard look at what has happened to the state of democracy in the USA, and how the forces of capital have boxed and wrapped every facet of life, destroying anything the founding fathers had in mind. Time to go live in the woods.
The strengths of the book lie within its ability to connect neoliberalism and its policy initiatives with the real life affects and consequences of its execution. Giroux discusses many aspects of complex American identities affected by these schemes, which include cultural, educational, racial, militaristic, and commercial realms. I believe that The Terror of Neoliberalism provides both the inexperienced reader and the engaged academic citizen with explanations and examples regarding neoliberalism's design and results of its implementation. Giroux does, what I consider, a wonderful job of tying together the American neoliberal policy environment with its resultant views of a newly designed racism, an abandonment of the future of the country through a disregard, mistrust, and neglect of youth, as well as the insipid nature of neoliberalism's absolute invasion of the culture arguably leading toward a new type of authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, Giroux finds himself repeating sections of the book verbatim throughout many of the chapters, which frustrates the flow of the reading and interrupts the continuity of the text. While these misgivings can be overlooked and the message of the book still readily grasped and undeniably appreciated, I have also found that the book lacks a good historical understanding of the origin and evolution of the neoliberal movement. This movement often traced back to the leadership of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, but arguably traced back further to the post-WWII era with the establishment of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as well as the execution of the Marshall Plan is largely ignored in the book. While I find this to be a fundamental flaw in a text that works to elucidate a developing and frightening neoliberal tradition, the text still does an excellent job of providing the reader with a contemporary understanding of the terrifying outcomes of this policy design.
Giroux's book is admirable in its avoidance of defeatism in the face of an extremely well executed attack on civic freedom, critical intellectualism, and general welfare-state necessity. The Terror of Neoliberalism does not just leave the reader in a state of disbelief and depression at the harsh reality of American life, but provides the reader with an understanding of both how to critique the current political environment, and advice as well as theoretical designs for how to organize and resist its seeping infiltration of every aspect of life. Readers of Giroux's book will hopefully find themselves outraged and at the same time motivated to change the environment which they have been presented.