Neoliberalism has proven itself to be a durable form of laissez-faire late Capitalism. The ‘free market system’ has been the dominant economic ideology in the Western world since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, informing the tacit knowledge of billions around the definition of a successful life and how to achieve it. The Coronavirus presents faces the greatest challenge to Neoliberalism’s authority since it became the dominant economic ethos. The Neoliberal rule book has been torn up in ways that would have been unthinkable 10 weeks ago. Will it survive? The ‘For’ side argues that the Coronavirus will indeed deal a mortal blow to an ethos and system of economic and social organisation that was already facing serious challenge. ‘Against’ counters that, notwithstanding the short-term global shock the virus has delivered, Neo-liberalism will prevail as the dominant system of economic organisation once the crisis has passed.
The world is scrambling to come to terms with the Coronavirus crisis. No news there. Naturally, most attention has focussed on the drastic Public Health measures designed to bring the spread of the virus under control. But what of the consequences, unintended and perhaps even intended, of these measures? The ‘For’ essay argues that the threat to Liberal Democracy posed by actions taken under cover of crisis is a real one. It urges us to be wary of the ‘black-ops’ of Disaster Capitalists who might use our natural fear of Coronavirus to institute measures that will have long-lasting, negative effects on our liberal democratic way of life. ‘Against’ argues that, when faced with a potentially existential threat, certain aspects of our freedom and privacy must temporarily be suspended. We should not be too precious about these if it means slowing, and eventually halting, the march of Coronavirus.
The ‘user image’ of Brexit, a bit like that of Trump, the AfD or, in Ireland, Sinn Fein, isn't the most attractive available on the ‘market’. Typically older, angrier and more dis-advantaged than the average citizen, the Brexit voter is regularly painted as inward-looking and even Neanderthal. Thus, the Brexit act is typically portrayed as one where hopeless nostalgia meets impotent rage. But is this portrayal even a tad simplistic? The ‘For’ side argues that Brexit is a prescient acknowledgement of an inexorable shift in the global balance of power toward the young, thriving metropolises of the East. ‘Against’ suggests that, in fact, Brexit is the wrong strategy, perfectly implemented, the inevitable result of a botched electoral process based on a false premise.
Do we need to change the players in order to change the game? As the boardroom presents itself as the final frontier in the battle of the sexes, many have called for gender parity legislation and quotas to address the imbalance. But do quotas work? And, will they fundamentally change corporate culture for the better? In this debate, the For side argues interventions are essential to redressing historical discrimination, while the Against side takes the position that using the poison for the cure may not be the panacea progressives hope for.
Few things inflame the passions more than challenges to identity. These days, such challenges are everywhere. Individuals and organisations—even nations face the fallout of a shifting worldview that has pit an old guard against a new establishment. Central to these challenges is language, the very foundation of our understanding. This point becomes apparent in the debate as to whether or not Ireland could be considered a vassal state. Here, the For side lays out a largely semantic argument, while Against extols the virtues of Ireland’s quiet diplomacy as evidence of the country’s prowess, if not independence. As ever, the validity of each argument is up to the reader to decide.
Shosanna Zuboff coined the term ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ in 2019 to refer to the mass commodification of hitherto private domains of our existence. The debate on this issue turns on contrasting views of the power of human agency. The ‘For’ side, argues that submission to the audacious will of Surveillance Capitalism has become one of the Terms and Conditions of modern life, and threatens our personal freedom. The ‘Against’ side adopts what might be termed a refusenik stance, positing that we can in fact choose to opt out of the services offered by the apparatus of Surveillance Capitalism.
While there’s no question that Climate Change presents an existential threat, whether or not the movement’s adherents have imbued it with religiosity is a matter of debate. Here the ‘For’ side argues that the fervour, blind adherence and occasional intolerance of the Climate Change movement resembles religious practice, which threatens an unbiased application of scientific evidence. The ‘Against’ side argues global scientific consensus ought not be construed as religion, on the basis that the compelling evidence and significance of the threat should impel us to immediate, decisive action.