Academic journal article The Journal of Philosophical Economics

Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown

Academic journal article The Journal of Philosophical Economics

Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown

Article excerpt

Review of Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown, New York, Verso, 1st edition, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-781-68079-7, 384 pages

Philip Mirowski's work is an important contribution to the post-2008 crisis economic literature. The book aims to show how Neoliberalism (or the Neoliberal Thought Collective - NTC, as it is referred to here) took over aspects of society beyond the economy and became integrated in everyday societal life, to the degree to which neoliberal thinkers were able to manipulate evidence and realities.

One of the great themes of the book is the concept of 'Russian dolls'. In order to explain how Neoliberalism became so influential, Mirowski introduces the 'Russian dolls' as a concept, essentially agents of influence in favor of Neoliberalism that operate at the societal level in the United States, from think-tanks, to politicians to the media. The doll in the very core of this interlocking system is represented by the Mont Pelerin Society, a Neoliberal laboratory of ideas.

This innermost doll was subsequently wrapped in a favorable rhetorical campaign aimed to promote Neoliberalism. The theory and ideas were there, the next phase, as Mirowski shows, was to make them acceptable for the masses as a mainstream current. To Mirowski, the acceptance and embrace of Neoliberalism came as a result of its resonance with basic American principles, such as the laissez-faire. Neoliberalism relied on ideas such as promoting entrepreneurship and reduced government to resonate with many of the Americans for whom all these were principles of successful leadership. To the degree to which this was initially an economic current and a public policy approach, it is now today a cultural and societal expression. This is the primary reason for which Neoliberalism remains so successful today, despite the economic and financial crisis it has passed through.

After presenting some general considerations on the crisis in chapter 1, Mirowski goes down history lane in Chapter 2 ('Shock Block Doctrine') in order to present to the reader key incipient figures of Neoliberalism (primarily Friedrich von Hayek) who shared a common belief: all economic issues could be solved by further encouraging the development of free markets.

The acceptance of Neoliberalism at the societal level is a result of the interlocking relationship between different entities, from corporations to the government to the individual and academic institutions. The informational society in which we live today is fundamentally and culturally Neoliberal, it favors the free flow of information, increased communication through new forms and platforms of interaction and so on. Mirowski's belief is that Neoliberalism has become an everyday activity for the masses, redefining today's society, and he argues this throughout chapter 3 ('Everyday Neoliberalism'), using an analysis of French philosopher Michel Foucault and various views on today's American society.

It is also, in Mirowski's view, a gross manipulation of realities by the Neoliberals, as emphasized in chapter 5 of the book. The manipulation is done perfectly, because reality is not only altered, but new realities are actually created for the individual. The author resumes his argument from chapter 2, per which 'the relation of the control of knowledge to political power has been a neoliberal specialty' (p. 242). He quotes a Bush administration official saying, in 2002, that, embracing its new quality as a global empire, when the US acts, 'we create our own reality' and that 'while you are studying that reality, we'll act again, creating other new realities. …

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