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Henry A. Giroux on Neoliberal Ideology and the Road to Fascism

How has neoliberalism paved the way for the rise of far-right ideologies and populists around the world?

Part of the Series

In the episode, I speak with Henry A. Giroux, who is McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest and the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy, and author of The Terror of the Unforeseen.

How has neoliberalism paved the way for the rise of far right ideologies and populists around the world? As demonstrated in the elections of, and policies enacted by, such leaders as Donald Trump in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, a “neoliberal fascism” is emerging globally. As Henry elaborates in his book The Terror of the Unforeseen, “neoliberalism creates an all-encompassing market guided by the principles of privatization, deregulation, commodification, and the free flow of capital. Advancing these agendas, it weakens unions, radically downsizes the welfare state, and wages an assault on public services such as education, libraries, parks, energy, water, prisons, and public transportation. As the state is hollowed out, big corporations take on the functions of government, imposing severe austerity measures, redistributing wealth upward to the rich and powerful, and reinforcing a notion of society as one of winners and losers.” To further this point more succinctly, Henry states “neoliberalism became an incubator for a growing authoritarian populism fed largely by economic inequality.”

As societies become subsumed politically, economically, and culturally by the logic of a neoliberal ideology, the outcome is widespread social fragmentation and disintegration. This in turn has manifested into a groundswell of authoritarian and fascist politics in nations that have been traditionally defined as “open and free democratic societies.” As Henry challenges us in this interview, unless we critically address neoliberal capitalism and the impact this ideology has played in lives of countless human beings across the world, we cannot even begin to adequately understand and effectively resist this trend of rising of far right populist movements globally.

Professor Henry Giroux is a regular contributor to a number of online journals including Truthout, Truthdig and CounterPunch. He has published in journals including Social Text; Third Text; Cultural Studies; Harvard Educational Review; Theory, Culture & Society; and Monthly Review. His primary research areas are cultural studies, youth studies, critical pedagogy, popular culture, media studies, social theory, and the politics of higher and public education. He is particularly interested in what he calls the war on youth, the corporatization of higher education, the politics of neoliberalism, the assault on civic literacy and the collapse of public memory, public pedagogy, the educative nature of politics, and the rise of various youth movements across the globe. An internationally renowned writer and cultural critic, Henry has authored or co-authored over 65 books; written several hundred scholarly articles; delivered more than 250 public lectures; been a regular contributor to print, television and radio news media outlets; and is one of the most cited Canadian academics working in any area of Humanities research.

Episode Notes:

  • Learn more about Henry and his work.
  • Read Stephen Rohde’s review of The Terror of the Unforeseen and purchase a copy.
  • Read Henry’s op-ed “Neoliberalism Paved the Way for Authoritarian Right-Wing Populism” at Truthout.
  • The songs featured in this episode are “Professor At Large” and “Rip Kalibma God” by Marco Polo from the album Baker’s Dozen: Marco Polo.
  • The introduction features audio from Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1984 Republican National Convention.
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