The North Korea of Neoliberalism


To assume that the United Kingdom would leave the European Union in order to escape from neoliberalism is as naive and misleading as assuming that North Korea has historically kept its distance from the USSR and China as a way of escaping Communism. In both cases, we are dealing with a power that maintains an antagonistic and ambiguous relationship to its natural allies as a way of intensifying and purifying the ideological and disciplinary structure that unites them.

North Korea wanted the purest Communism, the truest instance of “socialism in one country.” The Juche ideology of “self-reliance” or “self-assertion” was of course delusional — as a small, out-of-the-way country, North Korea was always heavily reliant on trade and subsidies — but it has remained improbably powerful even up to this day. The comprehensive ideological apparatus and isolationism of North Korea has thus allowed its spectacularly unproductive economic system to endure far beyond the “classical” Communism of which it presents itself as the purest form.

Especially if Brexit succeeds, I could see a similar future for the United Kingdom as the North Korea of neoliberalism: British society organized as a vast, and startlingly unproductive, work-camp, governed by empty nationalistic slogans and rote pageantry. Even if and when neoliberalism is superceded, the UK would continue down its own unique path of self-punishment, scapegoating foreign interference until the last Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Skills works the last handicapped cancer patient to death.

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