This is interesting. Philip Mirowski, a "historian and philosopher of economic thought at the University of Notre Dame" and author of a newish book called Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (a book I mostly recommend), used the keynote speech for a conference in Australia ("Life and Debt: Living through the Financialisation of the Biosphere") to attack Naomi Klein and all other leftists who are under the impression that, unlike the right, their political view is closer to or agrees better with the current scientific understanding, particularly in the area of climate change. (Mirowski is a leftist thinker who is in the habit of attacking other leftist thinkers, including me—read his new book). Here is the lecture...


Here is his argument: Mirowski believes that thinkers and writers on the left are misreading the relationship that the right has with science. True, some on the right are in denial about the science of climate change, but this is only a small part of the picture. The main part is this: Neoliberals, who are distinct from neoclassical economists (the lecture convincingly explains the distinction), are well aware of the science of climate change and, more importantly, want science to fix these problems without disrupting or changing the market. But the science to fix these problems within the context of the market does not exist yet, and so neoliberalism has to buy time. It does this by, one, denying the science and, two, offering flimsy market solutions to the huge crisis ("carbon permit trading" and so on). The reason for delaying meaningful public action is to give what is presently in a state of science fiction (geoengineering) time to develop into an actual science. Geoengineering will eventually provide an entrepreneurial correction to the market failure of climate change. Well and good.

But here is where Mirowski makes a massive mistake: He argues that neoliberals actually do have the same close and practical relationship science as those on the left. Science (in the form of geoengineering), he says near the end of the lecture, is just as important to their thinking as ours. The problem with this argument? Neoliberals are not dealing with science but with science fiction. And those two things are not at all the same.

The right, then, is either in the past (denial) or in the future (science fiction) but nowhere to be found in the moment, the concrete science, the current hard data. Where the left is is still where the science is.

Finally, Mirowski should not give neoliberals so much credit. They are delaying action not because they are waiting for the science to arrive, but because they want to pass the problem into the future ("In the long run we are all dead"). And this nihilistic program (pushing as much of the present into the future) is indeed consistent with the 30-year financialization of the economy.