It has been clear since 2008 that, unless we abandon neoliberalism, globalization will fall apart. With Brexit and the election of Donald Trump that process has now begun.
The fatal attraction neoliberalism exerted on the elite, and on two generations of professional economists, was rooted in its apparent perfection. In its economic content it confirmed the notion that capitalism is essentially the market, survival of the fittest, and the small state. In its political form it fitted perfectly the core liberal-democratic assumption: that we are all merely citizens, not workers or bosses, and that all our rights are primarily individual, not collective. Even now – with Renzi fallen, Hollande stumbling to the end of his presidency, Schäuble demanding yet more austerity in Greece – the social and political elite of neoliberalism has barely begun to question this essentialist mindset. Instead a break has begun in the opposite direction. The authoritarian populism that is mobilizing a minority of working-class voters across Europe is, essentially, a demand for de-globalization. Its reactionary nature lies not only in its preference for racism, Islamophobia and social conservatism but in its complete ignorance of the complexity of the task.