Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis
a book by George Monbiot
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says the book is a thrilling new route to a better society. A toxic ideology of extreme competition and individualism has come to dominate our world. It misrepresents human nature, destroying hope and common purpose. Only a positive vision can replace it, a new story that re-engages people in politics and lights a path to a better future.
George Monbiot shows how new findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators. He shows how we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a “politics of belonging.” Both democracy and economic life can be radically reorganized from the bottom up, enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society.
Urgent and passionate, Out of the Wreckage provides the hope and clarity required to change the world.
Ronald Reagan sold us on neoliberalism, a con game to make oligarchs richer while sending us the bill
One insightful look at the blind alley we find ourselves in—and The Guardian is known for its uncommon insight—is from William Davies, who obviously understands where George Monbiot is coming from: "The particular story of neoliberalism 'defines us as competitors, guided above all other impulses by the urge to get ahead of our fellows.' This story may not have been all that attractive, but it provided meaning and clarity. It offered a guide on what to do and how to live. With the rise of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, neoliberalism came to govern how policies were designed and institutions constructed. More diffusely, it came to shape how we understand ourselves, leading us to take on ever more responsibility for our own needs, economic security and wellbeing, devaluing social bonds and dependency in the process. . . . The grand global difficulties of neoliberalism are plain to see. The financial crisis was testimony to the stupidity of deregulation, while the inability to move on from it demonstrates that orthodox economic policy tools no longer work. Solutions to climate change are hamstrung by the need to respect existing corporate and financial strategies. But Monbiot also details considerable psychological and biological evidence for how the ethos of individual competition harms us all, running counter to our innate needs and instincts. Loneliness and distrust are not just the defining social problems of our age, but increasingly posing risks to our health. . . . Out of the Wreckage is partly an activists’ manual, which aims to coordinate and energize those who want a different world." (Source: Out of the Wreckage by George Monbiot review – the thrill and danger of a new left politics, William Davies, The Guardian)
Neoliberalism tells us the law of the jungle is the natural order, but Monbiot shows us the ethos of individual competition harms us all, running counter to our innate needs and instincts
- No Contest: The Case Against Competition
- Beyond Discipline
- The Responsive Communitarian Platform
- Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other
- Children, Parental Guidance, And Emotional Intelligence
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
- Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Rather than building character, competition sabotages self-esteem and ruins relationships. It even warps recreation by turning the playing field into a battlefield
"No Contest: The Case Against Competition, which has been stirring up controversy since its publication in 1986, stands as the definitive critique of competition. Drawing from hundreds of studies, Alfie Kohn eloquently argues that our struggle to defeat each other — at work, at school, at play, and at home — turns all of us into losers. Contrary to the [neoliberal] myths with which we have been raised, Kohn shows that competition is not an inevitable part of “human nature.” It does not motivate us to do our best (in fact, the reason our workplaces and schools are in trouble is that they value competitiveness instead of excellence.) Rather than building character, competition sabotages self-esteem and ruins relationships. It even warps recreation by turning the playing field into a battlefield. No Contest: The Case Against Competition makes a powerful case that “healthy competition” is a contradiction in terms. Because any win/lose arrangement is undesirable, we will have to restructure our institutions for the benefit of ourselves, our children, and our society. For this  revised edition, Kohn adds a comprehensive account of how students can learn more effectively by working cooperatively in the classroom instead of struggling to be Number One. He also offers a pointed and personal afterword, assessing shifts in American thinking on competition and describing reactions to his provocative message." (Source: No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Alfie Kohn)
Review of No Contest: The Case Against Competition: Contending that competition in all areas—school, family, sports and business—is destructive, and that success so achieved is at the expense of another's failure, Kohn, a correspondent for USA Today, advocates a restructuring of our institutions to replace competition with cooperation. He persuasively demonstrates how the ingrained American myth that competition is the only normal and desirable way of life from Little Leagues to the presidency is counterproductive, personally and for the national economy, and how psychologically it poisons relationships, fosters anxiety and takes the fun out of work and play. He charges that competition is a learned phenomenon and denies that it builds character and self-esteem. Kohn's measures to encourage cooperation in lieu of competition include promoting noncompetitive games, eliminating scholastic grades and substitution of mutual security for national security.—Publishers Weekly (Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Review of No Contest: The Case Against Competition: Kohn, a journalist whose work has appeared in such publications as The Nation and Psychology Today, has written a timely summary of research and commentary by others on the psychology of competitiveness. He seeks to debunk the rationalizations for competition: that it is inevitable, more productive, more enjoyable, and likely to build character. In closely reasoned arguments he shows that, while competition is deeply ingrained [and key to neoliberalism], it is also inherently destructive, especially where self-esteem is contingent on winning at the expense of others. The book, which lacks depth only in its discussion of organizational behavior and the incentive for creativity, will provoke considerable discussion. Recommended for general collections and subject collections on social interaction.—William Abrams, Portland State Univ. Lib., Oregon—Library Journal
Americans reflect neoliberalism's win-lose, dominance, competition, and hyper-individualism; our parenting methods train us for beating others in a dog-eat-dog world, not cooperation or community or win-win
The story of neoliberalism has taken us blindly to the edge of a cliff, yet its story gives us no answers whatever to the question 'Now what?' Perhaps it was never right for us in the first place.
The story of neoliberalism has taken us blindly to the edge of a cliff, yet its story gives us no answers whatever to the question "Now what?" Perhaps it was never the right story for us in the first place.
We are raising warriors, not children—what chance does cooperation, compassion or community have in such a win-lose environment?
In the U.S. totalitarian democracy, we all get a chance: the rich get a chance to get richer, and the nonrich are allowed the honor of paying the bill
This neoliberalism story was about greed, engineering consent, and hyper-competition. It was never about cooperation, community, humanism, compassion, or family values, regardless of how much we needed it to be, and regardless of how often the likes of Ronald Reagan delivered warm and fuzzy homilies to a public who had no idea that he and his "favorite grandfather" voice were playing Julie Andrews' role and singing "just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." And what medicine it was.
In neoliberalism, just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." And what medicine it was.
"Neoliberalism's overriding goal was to create markets; Monbiot’s is to create communities in which people have a sense of belonging"—Peter Wilby
Monbiot’s book ". . . is a clear, broadly informed and well-presented contribution to the discussion of where our societies need to go next, and how we can make them work for all of us, together"—Sara Catterall
So-called trickle-down economics trickled on the citizens but the rich were immune: welcome to neoliberalism
Elites want passive sheep who send in their taxes and keep their pie-holes shut—elites don't wish to hear even a baaaa of protest
It was the neoliberalism fraud, complete with Orwellian doublespeak, to socially manipulate the masses into passivity. Economic exploitation via terms like trickle-down economics was meant to passify as the nonrich saw how greedy the rich were being. And, more recently, "More surveillance is needed to stop terrorism" was distraction plus bait and switch." "In terms of doublespeak what this really means is more surveillance is needed on you and me (i.e., we-the-people) so that the oppressive regime can grow with less resistance. . . . Terminology is a favorite for the political con artists knowing they can cover up their ulterior motives with confusing words." [and use neverending propaganda to solidify the coverup] See 6 Examples Of Modern-Day Orwellian 1984 Doublespeak.
'More surveillance is needed to stop terrorism'—in terms of doublespeak what this really means is more surveillance is needed on you and me (i.e., we-the-people) so that the oppressive regime can grow with less resistance
"Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."—George Orwell, author of 1984
Elites want passive sheep who send in their taxes and keep their pie-holes shut—but we need to resist their oppression
"I reminded [the soldiers] and their families that the war in Iraq is really about peace."—Orwellian doublespeak from Dubya Bush, April 2003
A quote from 1984: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."—George Orwell
BLAT!!! Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. Note the appearance of solidity of her pure wind—it is an illusion.
"In Out of the Wreckage Monbiot argues that we, as a species, are limited by an imagination that sees politics in terms of a 'restoration story'. First, Keynesian economics, and then from the late 1970s, neoliberalism, both followed a repetitive arc portraying new economic models as heroic forces vanquishing, in the first instance: greedy landowners; and in the second: the overbearing state. What happens now, however, when both models have failed? Monbiot’s solution is disappointingly vague. 'Community' and 'Belonging' are the two buzzwords for his new 'restoration story'." (Source: George Monbiot 'Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis': This is the beginning of a discussion, Joe Goodman, Daily Info)
First, the social-democratic story: "The social-democratic story explains that the world fell into disorder – characterised by the Great Depression – because of the self-seeking behaviour of an unrestrained elite. The elite’s capture of both the world’s wealth and the political system resulted in the impoverishment and insecurity of working people. By uniting to defend their common interests, the world’s people could throw down the power of this elite, strip it of its ill-gotten gains and pool the resulting wealth for the good of all. Order and security would be restored in the form of a protective, paternalistic state, investing in public projects for the public good, generating the wealth that would guarantee a prosperous future for everyone. The ordinary people of the land – the heroes of the story – would triumph over those who had oppressed them."
Economic background: With the oil shock of 1973, and the economic problems of the 1970s (e.g., stagflation), Keynesian demand-side economics began to fall out of favor since the elites got too greedy to stand any more progressive taxation. Reaganomics, which is supply-side economics, started in the 1980s. The advent of New Keynesian economics in the 1990s now dominate mainstream economics because they seemed to work well for elites, who were unconcerned that non-elites fared less well. Monbiot's point is correct—a story that works only for the rich is a failure.
Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.—John Kenneth Galbraith
The horse-and-sparrow theory: If you feed the horse (elites) enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows (citizens)
Next, the neoliberal story: "The neoliberal story explains that the world fell into disorder as a result of the collectivising tendencies of the over-mighty state, exemplified by the monstrosities of Stalinism and Nazism, but evident in all forms of state planning and all attempts to engineer social outcomes. Collectivism crushes freedom, individualism and opportunity. Heroic entrepreneurs, mobilising the redeeming power of the market, would fight this enforced conformity, freeing society from the enslavement of the state. Order would be restored in the form of free markets, delivering wealth and opportunity, guaranteeing a prosperous future for everyone. The ordinary people of the land, released by the heroes of the story (the freedom-seeking entrepreneurs) would triumph over those who had oppressed them."
Some economists, in the vein of ecological economics, believe that the neoclassical "holy trinity" of rationality, greed, and equilibrium, is being replaced in the 21st century by the holy trinity of purposeful behavior, enlightened self-interest, and sustainability, considerably broadening the scope of what is mainstream. Ecological economics addresses sustainability issues, such as public goods, natural capital and negative externalities (such as pollution). See:
- Creating Alternative Futures: The End of Economics
- Post-Capitalist Society
- The Politics of the Solar Age: Alternatives to Economics
- Ecological economics
Because no replacements were forthcoming once these two stories failed, neoliberalism was not abandoned but was allowed to degenerate into an anti-human, anti-society story of disfunction and—for its victims—devastation. It was parasitical for all but a few greedy neocon oligarchs. It was a pimple on the ass of humanity. It begged for a replacement story, and then along came Monbiot and gave them one. Since it requires that people—regular citizens—get involved for its actualization as a replacement story, it is unlikely to be adopted by the masses. It has socialistic, progressive ideas in it like Bernie Sanders' campaign plank. His platform, popularity, and enthusiasm struck a chord with activists and progressives and wannabe socialists, as will Monbiot's book if it is widely read. That's a pretty big if, however. People read to escape, not to confront, and, like every other important book, the ones who need to read it never will, while the ones who already agree with Monbiot will read it.
Monbiot says that when we are trying to develop a restorative political story around which we can gather and mobilise, we should first identify the values and principles we want to champion, because the stories we tell will propagate the beliefs which guide the story. We know of a story that would help evolve a restorative social narrative. See The Forest Through The Trees. This highlights the values, cooperation, community, humanism, compassion, and family values needed. This will take us half way to the political story. Note that the novel is utterly unrelated to politics. It relates ONLY to what individuals and families can do and how they can get together with friends and create a great lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that must be utterly divorced from social engineering, politics, social programs, or tax and spend to actualize someone's "great ideas." The lifestyle MUST come out of each person's individual or family initiative. It must evolve from below, NEVER from above
Neoliberals see the world as dog-eat-dog, but the heroes of Monbiot's story see the values of cooperation, community, environmentalism, humanism, compassion, and altruism as key
One of the values Monbiot would like to see in the restorative social narrative that replaces the two failed stories is "We want to live in a place in which everyone’s needs are met, without harming the living world or the prosperity of future generations." He mentions that—in spite of hollow, dog-eat-dog values of neoliberals—studies in neuroscience, psychology and evolutionary biology all point to altruism naturally evolving in very young children (14 months to three years). Monbiot is correct. Kids given the chance will evolve in this benevolent way in families, and the inverse is true as well: Kids given no real chance to evolve in this benevolent way in families will not and they'll be emotionally stunted. Where is there to be found such a need-filling environment and how does one create such a thing? We have that aspect of the story 100% solved. See the Novel.
The Forest Through The Trees
Note that the neoliberal story is all about win-lose, competition, greed, acquiring, consumerism, and getting ahead climbing over the corpses of others. The novel's story is about cooperation, community, humanism, compassion, and family values—the opposite of the hollow neoliberal story. The novel's story has win-win values in it and these are learned in authoritative parenting environments using win-win child rearing in a good community environment, while neoliberalism is instrinsically win-lose as is most parenting, sports, schools, and businesses. See Flat-gradient Nurturance versus Steep-gradient Nurturance, Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs, and Why Do We Need Communities?.