Common-sense neoliberalism (Soundings 55, Winter 2013)

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Publication date: December 1, 2013

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Stuart Hall, Alan O’Shea

The idea that we all share common-sense values, and that specific proposals self-evidently ‘make sense’ according to these precepts, is a powerful legitimation strategy. The assumption that everyone is obviously going to agree with what is being proposed is in fact itself a means of securing that agreement. In the mean time a ferocious battle is waged over what actually constitutes popular common sense. Well-endowed supporters of neoliberalism are able to put substantial resources into shaping public opinion; and the left need to counter these activities by working with the grain of the good sense that exists alongside and within popular common sense Рfor example a widespread sense of what is just and unjust, of the rich being too powerful, of the need to look after the vulnerable. But articulating these ideas to a political project also requires work Рand recognition that this work is central to political activity. When Labour politicians frame their proposals within neoliberal terms and rhetoric Рfor example when they talk about being tough on people living on benefits Рthey are actually undermining their own position.

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