This rhetoric promotes the privatization of the costs of social reproduction, along with the care of human dependency needs, through personal responsibility exercised in the family and in civil society—thus shifting costs from state agencies to individuals and households. This process accompanies the call for tax cuts that deplete public coffers, but leave more money in the « private » hands of the wealthy.
The valorized concepts of privatization and personal responsibility travel widely across the rhetorics of contemporary policy debates, joining economic goals with cultural values while obscuring the identity politics and upwardly redistributive impetus of neoliberalism. Two general policy arenas have proved especially productive for these concepts and help to illustrate the relationship between the economic policies and the cultural projects of neoliberalism—welfare « reform » and « law and order » initiatives. In both arenas, neoliberals have promoted « private » competition, self-esteem, and independences the roots of personal responsibility, and excoriated « public » entitlement, dependency, and irresponsibility as the sources of social ills. And in both arenas, state policies reflect and enact identity and cultural politics invested in hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality as well as class and nationality.
Welfare reform and the law and order politics of the past two decades clearly illustrate the dense interrelations among neoliberalism’s economic vision and its cultural projects. The goal of raising corporate profits has never been pursued separately from the rearticulation of hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality in the United States and around the globe. Neoliberals, unlike many leftists and progressives, simply don’t assume that there is any important difference between material goals and identity politics. They make use of identity politics to obscure redistributive aims, and they use « neutral » economic policy terms to hide their investments in identity-based hierarchies, but they don’t make the mistake of fundamentally accepting the ruse of liberalism—the assertion of a clear boundary between the politics of identity and class.
Lisa Duggan, The Twilight of Equality : Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy, p. 14-15