Neo-Liberalism or Democracy? Economic Strategy, Markets, and Alternatives for the 21st Century

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Arthur MacEwan Neo-Liberalism or Democracy? Economic Strategy, Markets, and Alternatives for the 21 st Century Zed Books Ltd., London and New York, 1999, pp. 255. ISBN 1-856-49724-0 (hbk) L45.00 ISBN 1-856-49729-0 (pbk) L15.99

This book, whose subtitle is `Economic Strategy, Markets, and Alternatives for the Zest Century', is divided into three Parts. Part I focuses on neo-liberalism, particularly on some of the central myths that are the foundation of the neo-liberal argument and shows how and why they are false. Chapter 2 particularly discusses the `free trade' myth, the claim that international commerce without government regulation holds the key to successful economic expansion and Chapter 3 examines the relationship between income distribution and economic growth. The book attacks the seemingly paradoxical neo-liberal myth that substantial inequality is necessary for economic growth and economic growth brings about greater equality. MacEwan argues that `the market is a historically contingent phenomenon'. The market is not a fixed institution, but is continually evolving and it has no particular legitimacy. Arguing that markets are socially constructed, he lays a basis for the discussion in Part II of the book about the different ways they can be constructed (which includes how they can be limited and constrained).

Part II presents 'a strategy for democratic economic development, explaining in some detail how it could be organised.' In Chapter 5 MacEwan provides a framework for examining alternatives. He wants to establish the point that, `while economic growth is a necessary part of development, any programme that would meet the material needs of the majority of the people must include a multidimensional set of goals'. This set of goals includes economic and social equality, environmental restoration and preservation, the security and social cohesion of communities, and popular participation in social, economic and political affairs.

Chapter 6 examines the macroeconomic foundations of a democratic strategy. It refutes the claim that `there is no alternative' to neo-liberalism and Chapter 7 turns to the central aspects of a democratic alternative and discusses the general role of social programmes with particular attention to education or, more precisely, to schooling that is `widely recognized to play a very important role in economic development'. …