Neo-Liberal Ideology: History, Concepts and Policies

By Rachel S. Turner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Constitution: Government and
the rule of law

INTRODUCTION: GOVERNMENT, LIBERTY AND
DEMOCRACY

The Constitution is the third concept that is allocated a core position in neo-liberalism's conceptual configuration. Neo-liberals, as the previous chapters have demonstrated, acknowledge the need for government, but are at the same acutely aware of the dangers that government embodies. The Constitution is a fundamental political concept for neo-liberals because it represents a means through which the powers of government and other state officials can be curtailed. Individual liberty, they contend, can only be safeguarded by constitutional constraints and by the sup remacy of law – constitutional government is equated with limited government. There is thus a significant ambivalence in neo-liberal ideology towards the state and politics. At the heart of neo-liberalism is a serious doctrine about politics and government. Neo-liberals recognise that, in order to have a functioning market order, it is vital to have a corresponding form of political order. Indeed, they must emphatically engage in politics in order to free society from politics. In neo-liberalism, the principles and operating procedures of a specific form of constitutional order represent the only acceptable means of both limiting the coercive power of government and upholding the rules of the market.

At the heart of neo-liberalism's conception of constitutionalism is its interpretation of the rule of law. In neo-liberal ideology, the powers of government are constrained by the rule of law underpinning the constitution. The rule of law represents the fundamental fixed rules that stand over and above the political community. It prevents government from stultifying

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