Neoliberal Ayatollahs are Baffled...

25 Mart 2024 Pazartesi

At the core of the Ayatollahs beliefs lies the dogma of "rational expectations," which posits that people understand their economic interests and make rational choices accordingly.

A famous saying during Bill Clinton's presidential campaign was "It's the economy, stupid" (not foreign policy or anything else...). According to this view, elections are won by the ruling party when the economy is doing well and lost when it's not, creating positive economic expectations during the crucial part of the voting campaign.

Ayatollahs realized after the 2008 financial crisis that 'real life,' as then-Federal Chairman Greenspan put it, did not conform to their ideology (dogmas). This 'awakening' was short-lived; dogma regained dominance.

'It's not the economy, stupid!'

Now, faced with the situation with the US, the ayatollahs are baffled again: "Why don't voters see the improvement in the economy and behave rationally?"

 This debate has resurfaced in publications like The New York Times, Financial Times, CNN, and others.

While economic indicators in the US suggest improvement, President Biden's standing is not improving in the eyes of voters. Meanwhile, Turkey is experiencing a deep economic crisis; poverty is increasing rapidly, the middle class is declining swiftly, and people see that the solutions proposed by the neoliberal ayatollahs will only worsen the situation. Yet, support for the AKP, which has been in power for 20 years, remains stagnant at over 30% with no signs of change.

According to a Financial Times commentary, the 'new rule' in the USA is now, "It's not the economy, stupid!" (John Burn-Murdoch, 22/03). In the USA and Turkey, economic recovery or hunger and poverty do not seem to influence the thinking of a certain segment of voters. So, we must ask: "If it's not the economy, then what is it?"

If it's not the economy, then what is it?

Facts derive their meaning within a "system of meanings" (or, in more theoretical terms, within a 'regime of truth'. If a particular economic fact is interpreted differently by varying segments of society in US or Turkey, then we must conclude that these segments operate within different systems of meaning: We can say that two 'cultures' that do not align have divided society based on different demands and expectations. In contrast, in European countries where polarization has not yet occurred, there is still a clear positive correlation between the perception of the economy's condition by voters and their attitude toward the government (FT, agy).

We are confronted with an interesting symmetry: While the economy is giving positive signals in the US, the voter segments that continue to blame Biden, and in Turkey, voters continue to support the government that has brought the economy to this state. They are very similar: In the USA and Turkey, a large portion of these voters think and live within a religious regime of truth.

In the US, these voters make their choices on issues such as hostility towards foreigners (Muslims, Jews, Latinos, etc.), women's rights, LGBTQ rights, birth control, gun enthusiasm, and propensity for violence within a religious regime of truth shaped by fundamentalist Christianity. In Turkey, the voters I mentioned make their choices within a religious regime of truth shaped by fundamentalist Sunni Islam. In Turkey specifically, this regime of truth also imposes a 'biopolitics' through body aesthetics (appearance, clothing, facial hair), use and control of time and space etc.

In Turkey, the opposition is not aware of this fact, but the regime continues to plunder the country's resources with confidence. A fact that we have been underlining for years now. The ayatollahs of neoliberalism can discuss raising interest rates even more, cutting public spending, plundering resources to inspire confidence in future international speculative capital, without considering the difficulties that the comfortable and the lower classes will face, at a much greater cost in the economy, all while relying on the dominance of the religious regime of truth and not worrying about the risk of possible reactions.

As we continue to avoid a cultural struggle against the religious regime of truth, liberalism, fearing they might label us as "godless," or "illiberal/statist/populist," the situation becomes unsolvable.


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