It’s much easier to teach students how to shift curves, solve equations, and run regressions, than to carefully observe economic life and think deeply and critically about it. Students also tend to feel comfortable – and even feel powerful – when told “here, we are handing you the exact tools and models you need to use to understand how the economy works.”
It’s in the interests of the 1 percent that we not use the Nordic model as a way to talk about vision. They’ve watched with alarm the growing public appeal of Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, which are partial versions of the Nordic model. Especially now, they don’t want us to expand, to talk in an appealing way about system-change.
The coronavirus pandemic is like a chunk of ice falling off of a melting glacier. You can see the ice falling, but you can’t see the melting of the whole glacier. Similarly, climate change will keep dropping chunks of ice at humanity well after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
To return to the pre-coronavirus assumptions about the world is to return to a way of thinking and living that cannot be sustained and that will destroy the planet. We need to reinvent modern civilization and we need colleges and universities to take on a leadership role in this great task.
This crisis must be an opportunity to challenge what we have allowed corporations around the world to do with the natural environment (conveniently referred to as resources) and people (labour) in the name of economic growth. Thatcher was wrong: there are alternatives.
We are all inside the crucible right now, and the choices we make over the weeks and months to come will, collectively, determine the shape and defining characteristics of the next era. However big we’re thinking about the future effects of this pandemic, we can think bigger.
This pandemic health crisis exposes the injustices of the global economic order. It must be a turning point towards creating the systems, structures and policies that can always protect those who are marginalised and allow everyone to live with dignity.
The future is uncertain. Attempts to impose Lex Mercatoria will continue but there will also be social victories along the way, along with the increasingly widespread conviction that we are facing a profound and epoch-making alternative: ‘democracy or markets’.
Monbiot argues that capitalism now is neoliberal capitalism. And, unusually, that capitalism and consumerism are ideologies as much as neoliberalism is. “Part of the insidious power of these ideologies is that they are the water in which we swim – the plastic soup in which we swim. They are everywhere.
For us, it is good to know what we are against, but if we are to fight for something better, then we really need an alternative vision. Our idea is to work with those that come on that. What comes out of it will depend on the level of interest, enthusiasm, creativity and commitment to do further work.
We should use the new story, and the proposals this narrative vehicle carries, to build mass resistance movements, taking inspiration from – and building on – highly effective mobilisations such as the youth climate strikes. We will draw strength from the movements in other nations, and support them in turn.
When I step from the timeless present to time again, the horror would overwhelm me, but for the utopian light, the other side of darkness. Utopia is not fanciful. Our lives are that. It is imaginative and true. Utopia is possible. It is our weakness which makes it apparently impossible.