The End of Neoliberalism?
MIGUEL DE BEISTEGUI
In this essay I want to ask several questions and examine one way of framing the discussion regarding the possible intellectual origins of the current crisis. Those questions and my attempt to frame recent economic events are all a way of asking the following: To what extent is the set of facts that led to the quasi collapse of the financial system and its rescue by governments a crisis? And, if it is a crisis, what sort of crisis is it?
In order to answer those questions we need to know what counts as a crisis. My first question, then, is: What makes a crisis a crisis? Now to that question, I simply want to answer by saying that a crisis is a specific kind of event—by that I mean a historical, political, and social shift such that we would be able to say that, perhaps after that moment, after that point, things never were the same again. In that respect, I am not sure that the events of the financial crisis of last year amount to a crisis.
We heard repeatedly in the six months following the crisis that it was an event. The crisis, we were told, consisted in the near collapse of the world economy, occasioned, as many of the essays in this volume show, by cheap available money, deregulation, and the shadow financial system. Those are all in many ways causes of the financial crisis. But in trying to speak about the origins of that crisis we should make a distinction between causes and origins. For some, especially on the Left, the origin of the crisis is none other than capitalism itself. The crisis, then, would be that of capitalism itself and signal its possible end. I’d like to be a bit more precise, and less categorical, and argue that the crisis of capitalism we are going through is a crisis of a particular form of liberal capitalism, one that we call “neoliberalism.”
This takes me to my second question: To what extent is the crisis itself and the way in which it was managed something that signaled the end, or the impossibility, of neoliberal capitalism? By impossibility I mean that