Neo-Liberal Ideology: History, Concepts and Policies

By Rachel S. Turner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Reinventing the liberal agenda

INTRODUCTION: IDEAS AND ACTION

Political figures and think-tanks in Germany, Britain and the United States carried forward the process of liberal reinvention started at Mont Pelerin in the post-war years. The revival of liberalism in intellectual life through the Mont Pelerin Society was accompanied by its slow revival in political life in these three countries. In these national contexts, serious attempts were made by liberal politicians to overcome the 'interventionist chaos of the world today'1 and to recapture the ideological ground through the creation of a preliminary political agenda. The intellectual interest in liberalism evident at Mont Pelerin became part of a wider liberal counter-movement in Germany, Britain and the United States after 1950, which went beyond the bounds of anything ever envisioned by the society: liberal ideas were disseminated in think-tanks and made accessible to a wider audience; these ideas captured the minds of eminent political figures and thus had a direct bearing on policy discussions; and, ultimately, they created a discourse which shaped the parameters of political debate in the second half of the twentieth century. It was against this background that the term 'neo-liberal' started to be more widely deployed, so as to define a particular shade of opinion within the liberal camp. A conscious attempt was made to articulate and publicise a 'new' strand of liberal ideology in Germany, Britain and the United States in the post-war world. Although this strand of liberalism was not always referred to, in name, as 'neo-liberalism' by those who advocated it, it is termed neo-liberalism in this chapter, to prevent confusion and to distinguish it from the ideas and policies of prevailing liberal creeds.

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