Neoliberalism: Technology and Climate Change in the US
Free market capitalism and Neoliberalism principles have created numerous opportunities for individuals in the modern age. Neoliberalism is a popular but controversial term. Individuals use the term to explain phenomena, clarify, symbolise and even to denounce certain issues. Neoliberalism is a concept that can be used to explain numerous arguments concerning the modern age. Common aspects of the modern age that individuals use neoliberalism to explain include technology and climate change. It is possible to observe elements of neoliberalism in the current international governance of climate change. Modern technology has also been brought about by neo-liberal principles. Moreover, the deployment of different technologies in the 21st century has been in such a way that promotes transformations in the society which have both positive and negative impacts. Neoliberal values have a direct influence on the current measures to control climate change and how technology mediates the change. As a set of concepts and principles, neoliberalism has become part of everyday life, especially in this age where the majority if not all of the activities are driven by short-term profits. This essay will attempt to explore how neoliberalism controls the technology sector as well as the governance of climate control in the US.
Neoliberalism transformed from a positive concept that was initially meant to provide individuals with more freedom into a concept that is responsible for the majority of the problems in modern society. In its earlier life, intellectuals, economists, and scholars used neoliberalism in a positive light. Neoliberalism enabled these individuals to challenge and successfully oppose the implementation of collectivist values and socialism, which would have otherwise inhibited their goal of political and economic freedom (Eagerton-Pierce). However, this did not necessarily mean that these individuals supported the initial values of capitalism. Neoliberalism is a tool developed by and for elites in reaction to the post-war social movements (Eagerton-Pierce). Neoliberal policies are, therefore, tools that usually associated with the expansion of commercial markets while creating privilege for corporations. The neoliberal policy also involves the “re-engineering of the government as an entrepreneurial actor and the imposition of a fiscal discipline, particularly in welfare spending (Eagerton-Pierce).” The large majority of activities in the neoliberal era are driven by the need for profits. While this has created numerous benefits, including better trade, improved technology and employment, it also has numerous disadvantages which are becoming more pronounced as time progresses.
The Neoliberal era has been characterised as a period of rapid technology development. The modern economy has become highly dependent on the availability of information. Information drives the majority of decisions in businesses. Moreover, it influences the development of technological innovations. These innovations have enabled the development of solutions and strategies for capitalist driven organisations and economies. However, technology has also led to the creation of a global competition for scarce resources, which has, in turn, led to the development of climate change. In that sense, it is possible to establish a link between neoliberalism, technology, and climate change. Technology in the neoliberal era has also influenced how individuals form relationships In the book “Alone Together,” the author, Sherry Turkle, views technology as an element that destructs human relationships. Moreover, technology has the ability to replace human beings, especially in the workplace. Turkle criticises the role technology plays in mediating the deterioration of communication and intimacy. Szerszynski (28) explains the relationship between neoliberalism and technology as a perpetual innovation and at the same time, a perpetual crisis. This approach alludes to the significant benefits technology provides as well as the potential harm it has caused and could continue to cause. Either way, it is possible to observe the impact of these technological developments based on neoliberal ideology.
The effects of technology on communication are prominent, especially in the 21st century. Technology is changing how individuals interact with one another. In some ways, technology has improved communication between people in different locations. The development of mobile phones, social media, and other communication platforms have enabled individuals in the modern age to communicate more effectively. Relatives or friends in different locations can now engage in conversations in real time, which enables them to maintain healthy relationships. Moreover, technology has made it possible to meet new people. Social media platforms, forums, and dating sites all present people with an opportunity to interact and share ideas with new people. Therefore, technology has played a significant role in improving communication between human beings. From a neoliberal point of view, technology enhances the sharing of information between individuals (Turkle). Employees or managers in an organisation can share information more effectively and efficiently by adopting modern technology. Effective communication is a source of competitive advantage for organisations. Businesses and organisations can also reach a broader audience by using modern technology. The global business environment has created the need for effective communication. Technology has made the process of communication within and between organisations to become near instantaneous. Therefore, neoliberal values have enhanced communication significantly.
However, the neoliberal transformation of technology has also had negative effects, especially on the development of human relationships. Technology plays an important role in changing how people interact and relate to one another. Turkle provides several examples of how technology affects human relationships negatively. Turke explains the psychological effects of technology. Human beings in the modern age are trying to project human qualities onto computers and robots, and as a result, have come to expect more from technology than from human beings (Jagoe 156). Moreover, human beings have become more dependent on virtual interactions than in physical interactions with other people. Technology also makes it possible to engage or disengage from an interaction with another individual at one’s will. This means that one either chooses to remain in the conversation or to exit whenever the conditions are favourable (Turkle). Consequently, human beings in the information age have become overly dependent on technology for communication. Moreover, they place less emphasis on the physical aspects of communication, which include engaging in meaningful conversations in person. Human beings also find it challenging to process emotions while communicating. Communication that occurs over technology, including texts or emails, provides an emotional shield that protects individuals from exposing their emotions. Repeated use of these communication channels may affect an individual’s ability to process emotions effectively.
Tendencies for human beings to impose human-like qualities on machines have also had negative effects on their welfare. Increased global competition compels organisations to identify potential ways to remain competitive. One of the ways to remain competitive is to reduce operating costs using various measures. For instance, organisations might identify areas that can be improved to reduce the total cost of manufacturing a specific product. Automation has enabled organisations to replace human beings with machines that are more efficient, and that can complete the tasks at a significantly faster rate than human beings (Carvalho et al. 671). Industrial revolutions that have occurred in the past have continually reduced the number of people working in an assembly line. Currently, the majority of operations in manufacturing plants are automated. However, there is considerable potential to further replace more human beings with intelligent machines (Fernández-Herrería, and Martínez-Rodríguez 321). The fourth industrial revolution could potentially lead to the replacement of numerous tasks completed by human beings with intelligent machines (Carvalho et al., 672). The machines which have specialised intelligence can perform better than human beings at a specific task and would save organisations significant costs over the long term. Consequently, modern organisations would be able to create a sustainable competitive advantage. However, the competitiveness will come at the cost of the employees who will be unemployed. Due to the free nature of the market and the economy, it may become considerably challenging to prevent the eventuality that intelligent machines might replace human beings in the workplace.
In the US, technology has had a considerable impact on production activities. Technology is a key driver for the majority of developments in the US. Advancements in technology make production activities in manufacturing plants more efficient. As a result, consumers get to enjoy cheaper and better quality products. Other activities that have improved as a result of technology include transport and energy. In the US, fossil fuels are the main source of energy (Ciplet and Roberts 151). Industries, agriculture activities, commercial buildings, homes, and transport mainly rely on fossil fuels as the primary source of energy (EIA). Fossil fuels present a relatively cheap source of energy that can enable organisations and industries to maximise their profits. Neoliberalism values promote the ideology of profit and loss as the main drivers for making decisions (Ciplet and Roberts 149). To remain competitive, it is essential that companies can utilise cheaper sources of energy. Consequently, the development of fossil fuel technology has advanced significantly in comparison to other forms of energy despite the negative effects it has on the environment and climate change. The development of cleaner and renewable sources of energy including solar, and wind appeared to be somewhat suppressed despite the presence of evidence to support the argument that the use of fossil fuels was contributing to climate change.
The management of climate change in the US is an ideal example of the negative effects of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, in this case, may be considered to be a programme for destroying structures that impede market logic. This means that neoliberalism aims to make decisions that promote the attainment of an ideal market condition. However, in some cases, these decisions are driven by the need for profit and fail to consider the negative impact they have on the environment. A somewhat new trend in neoliberalism is market environmentalism, also referred to as environmental neoliberalism (Ciplet and Roberts 149). This ideology aims to solve environmental problems by “increased privatisation, commercialisation, and commodification of natural resources and ecosystems (Ciplet and Roberts 149).” Further, the ideology is characterised by reduced state governance in favour of public-private partnerships. In the new paradigm, private institutions are the dominant figures in decision-making processes (Ciplet and Roberts 149). Consequently, the management of critical elements of the environment, including climate change is likely to be influenced by market-based variables. Privatisation of climate change control could affect the ability of the public to participate in decision making. Moreover, it might lead to a decision-making process that is based solely on making profits. Besides, the primary objective of the majority of organisations in the private sector is to make a profit. Therefore, they may not be the best-placed institutions to manage climate change.
Neoliberalism has a negative impact on the quest to prevent climate change. Ideally, the process of preventing climate change should be controlled and managed by the government or a public institution. Instead, climate change activities in the US are mainly controlled by organisations from the private sector. This provision makes it considerably challenging for the nation to control the challenges associated with climate change. Moreover, the dependence of the US economy on short term profits makes it challenging to create mitigations for climate change (Ciplet and Roberts 149). Further, leaving climate change under the management of private institutions presents an additional challenge when attempting to enforce large scale mitigations to control climate change. The large scale dependence by companies in the US on fossil fuels would present a logistical challenge for private institutions to manage. Besides, private companies are mainly in control of the fossil fuel industry. It would be challenging for private institutions that are after profits to sabotage their operations to solve climate change. Capitalist exploitation that is mainly controlled by private organisations is the main driver for climate change. The quest for ideal market conditions and profits overshadows the interest to create a safe and clean environment that is inhabitable for future generations.
Despite the challenges presented by neoliberalism, it is still possible to create an effective mechanism to solve climate change. However, to realise tangible results, it would require that there are significant reforms in the management of climate change. Since the use of private institutions to manage the issue has proved to be challenging, it is essential that the government regains control. Furthermore, due to the intensity of the effects of climate change, it is important that drastic measures are taken to mitigate climate change. Currently, the government is the ideal organization to manage the issue. In incidences of urgency, the government has the ability to utilise its powers of command to create the desired change (Ciplet and Roberts 152). Classical management would be ideal for the management of climate change. In this case, the government should utilise its powers to enforce the adoption of cleaner and alternative sources of energy (Ciplet and Roberts 152). Rather than focusing on profits or losses alone, the government should make decisions that would have a long-term positive effect on the welfare of the nation. This does not, however, mean that the government should fail to consider the market conditions. Instead, the government should consider the interests of the private sector as well as the public to make decisions that would have a positive impact on the environment. Besides, the government has the resources to finance and enforce climate change programs. Allowing the nation to drive, plan, and fund climate change programs would result in a better management of climate change.
Neoliberalism affects numerous aspects of life in the modern age, including technology and climate change. Neoliberalism aims to disrupt the structures that prevent individuals from making decisions based on the pure market. The majority of organisations in the modern age operate based on neoliberalism ideologies. As a result, the majority of products and services follow the same principle. One of the key traits of the modern age is the dependence on technology and information. While technology has improved numerous aspects of life, it has also had several negative impacts. For instance, technology has caused human beings to develop poor communication skills. Dependence on technology for communication causes people to place more human values on the machines resulting in a detachment from the human aspect. Organisations are also attempting to replicate human-like values in machines with the aim of replacing human workers with intelligent robots. Similarly, neoliberal values have created a futile fight to control climate change.
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