In his book The Reactionary Mind, Corey Robin makes a convincing case that reactionary people are largely driven by a desire to silence and repress anyone they consider their inferiors, with violence if needed. This partly from a strong belief that ‘such people’ have no right to speak (or to be heard); partly because they fear loss of personal status and privileges; and partly from a conviction that society can only function properly when everyone 'knows their place'. Over the years, I've found this a pretty useful insight, and it made me wonder whether it was possible to similarly summarize the views and values of the '(center-)left' (called liberals or sometimes 'progressives' in the US, liberal or social democrats elsewhere). Because it was clear that they didn't subscribe to the ('radical') egalitarianism, inclusiveness and pro-emancipatory solidarity that forms the core of left politics (and to me, of being human).
Both David Harvey and Noam Chomsky have done a lot to analyze and explain the rise of neoliberalism. Both have pointed out that it should primarily be understood as a political project aimed at discouraging and disenfranchising 'ordinary' people, which gained steam shortly after the ‘social unrest’ of the 1960s. David Harvey has frequently pointed out that the neoliberal counterrevolution was kicked off by the publication of the conservative 'Powell Memo', while Noam Chomsky’s emphasized that elite liberals were equally outraged by what they termed "an excess of democracy". Pointing to the Trilateral Commission's The Crisis of Democracy, he notes the following:
This is a consensus view of the liberal internationalists in the three industrial democracies. They—in their consensus—concluded that a major problem is what they called “the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young.” The schools, the universities, churches, they’re not doing their job. They’re not indoctrinating the young properly. The young have to be returned to passivity and obedience, and then democracy will be fine. That’s the left end.
Up until 2008, I had mostly been ignoring economics as an area of study, as the subject bored me, and I found the mindset too unpleasant. The 2008 financial crisis made me realize that was a mistake, as it made me realize that economic policy couldn't be left to experts. But where to start?
Because I figured I should avoid economics textbooks, I did the next-most responsible thing: I started reading the serious and specialist media, paying particular attention to what the critics I found there had to say. Most of their explanations struck me as unconvincing, though, as they said little about the role played by elite fraud and grifting, even though it was perfectly obvious that the run-up as well as the "rescue" were wildly profitable to the already-rich. And I'd already noticed that the media carefully avoided talking about the blatant grifting that was going on in the context of the invasion and "rebuilding" of Iraq and Afghanistan. So I broadened my search, and encountered Naked Capitalism, and shortly after that David Harvey's work.