What Exactly Is Neoliberalism?

By Birch, Kean; Professor, Associate et al. | The Canadian Press, November 3, 2017 | Go to article overview

What Exactly Is Neoliberalism?


Birch, Kean, Professor, Associate, University, York, Canada, The Canadian Press


What exactly is neoliberalism?

--

This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

___

Author: Kean Birch, Associate Professor, York University, Canada

I struggle with neoliberalism - as a problematic economic system we might want to change - and as an analytical term people increasingly use to describe that system.

I've been reading and writing about the concept for more than a decade. But the more I read, the more I think that neoliberalism is losing its analytical edge.

As a result of its growing popularity in academia, media and popular discussions, it's crucial to understand neoliberalism as a concept. We need to know its origins and its definition in order to understand our current political and economic mess, including the rise of nativism that played a part in Brexit and Donald Trump's election a year ago.

Neoliberalism is regularly used in popular debate around the world to define the last 40 years. It's used to refer to an economic system in which the "free" market is extended to every part of our public and personal worlds. The transformation of the state from a provider of public welfare to a promoter of markets and competition helps to enable this shift.

Neoliberalism is generally associated with policies like cutting trade tariffs and barriers. Its influence has liberalized the international movement of capital, and limited the power of trade unions. It's broken up state-owned enterprises, sold off public assets and generally opened up our lives to dominance by market thinking.

As a term, neoliberalism is increasingly used across popular media, including The New York Times, The Times (of London) and The Daily Mail. It's also used within international institutions like the World Economic Forum, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

Neoliberalism a Trump antidote?

Neoliberalism is criticized for giving markets too much power over our lives. Yet in light of the rise of Donald Trump and other nativist, anti-trade populists, there is a growing chorus of people extolling the virtues of neoliberalism.

What's most evident from this growing popular debate about neoliberalism - whether from left-leaning critics or right-leaning advocates - is that there are many different views of neoliberalism; not just what it means politically, but just as critically, what it means analytically.

This raises an important question: How do we use a term like "neoliberalism" when so many people have such different understandings of what it means?

I wrestled with this question when writing my book, A Research Agenda for Neoliberalism, in which I examine the intellectual history of neoliberalism. I do so in order to examine the different conceptions of the term and to expose the contradictions underlying our daily use of it.

The term "neoliberalism" has a fascinating intellectual history. It appears as long ago as 1884 in an article by R.A. Armstrong for The Modern Review in which he defined liberals who promoted state intervention in the economy as "neo-liberal" -- almost the exact opposite meaning from its popular and academic use today.

Another early appearance is in an 1898 article for The Economic Journal by Charles Gide in which he used the term to refer to an Italian economist, Maffeo Pantaleoni, who argued that we need to promote a "hedonistic world ... in which free competition will reign absolutely" -- somewhat closer to our current conception.

Adopted by liberal thinkers

As the 20th century dawned and the world moved through one World War and onto the next, the term was appropriated by a range of liberal thinkers who felt sidelined by the ascendance of state planning and socialism.

The conventional narrative is that "neo-liberalism" was first proposed as a term to describe a rebooted liberalism in the 1930s after the so-called Walter Lippman Colloquium held in Paris in 1938. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

What Exactly Is Neoliberalism?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.