Progressive politics, ideas & culture


On Think Tanks and Market Fundamentalists

This Magazine Staff

The CounterCulture lecture series is organized by the Simon Fraser University School of Communication. Last thursday the speakers were Donald Gutstein and Jamie Peck, two leading researchers of neo-liberal think tanks. While I already knew how evil the Fraser Institute was before, it’s never been put to me in such an urgent way.
These think tanks are the reinforced concrete of the right wing propaganda structure. Not only do they play an essential role in setting the ideological agenda within the movement but by masquerading as genuine scholarly institutions they influence politicians, media, and regular people.
But it’s not regular people they’re after. According to Gutstein, the think tanks work on the treetops model, opposite of the grassroots model. They very conciously single out the small group of influential people whom they want to target and spare no expense reaching them. And they’re certainly well funded.
Thirty years ago, the Fraser Institute was one of two neo-liberal think tanks worldwide, but now with the help of money from big business neo-liberal think tanks exist in almost every country, American state and Canadian province. While most left leaning organizations focus on one issue, are staffed by volunteers and struggle to get media exposure, the Fraser Institute is multi-issue, flush with cash and has a direct line to the Canwest plutocrats. David Asper is a former Fraser Institute trustee.
Jamie Peck, a visiting professor from the University of Wisconsin, Madison spends his time interviewing think tank “intellectuals.” Like old school Maoists, these guys are “stark utopians” with a really pure idea of the future. He joked that these “market fundamentalists” will look you in the eye when they say the free market will solve the healthcare crises but will always look at their toes when discussing global warming. Which is probably why sometime last week the issue pretty much got dropped by the right.
You can read Gutstein’s article on Steven Harper and the Fraser Institute in the Georgia Straight and if you’re around the wet coast this month, i encourage you to check out the next CounterCulture talk:

Thursday March 15
SFU School of Communication CounterCulture Series presents,
Nandita Sharma
How to Stop Thinking Like a State:
No Border Movements and the Struggle Against National Forms of Discrimination
SFU Vancouver Campus
(515 West Hastings St. Vancouver)
7 pm
Room 1700 (7th Floor)
Nandita Sharma is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies and the Department of Sociology at the University of Hawai’i. Her recent book, Home Economics: Nationalism and the Making of ‘Migrant Workers’ in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2006), examines the importance of nationalist renditions of home, community and society to the indenturing of hundreds of thousands of people classified as non-immigrant workers. She is currently examining temporary “guest workers” in the U.S. Nandita has long been active in feminist, anti-racist and migrants’ rights movements. She helped to co-found a transnational campaign, Open the Borders!, in 1999.

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