Ideology and the Social Sciences

By Graham C. Kinloch; Raj P. Mohan | Go to book overview

6
Beneath the Veil of Market Rationality: Cognitive Lumping and Splitting in Narratives of Economic Development

S. Wojciech Sokolowski

Are large bureaucracies an efficient form of business organization? Are the markets? What is the proper role of government in modern economy and society? What is that of business? Does ownership form of business enterprise matter, and why? Do cultural norms, values, beliefs, and expectations? How much decision-making autonomy should the management have? How much should the workers?

These and related questions occupy a central place in most public debates concerning the problem of economic development and modernization, as their answers have profound implications for the interests and well-being of a large number of people and entire nations. Consequently, numerous social scientists representing various schools of thought and political persuasions contributed their vast knowledge and expertise to proposing different solutions to economic development problems. Recently, however, a different type of social and economic policy discourse gained prominence, especially in Europe and North America. This discourse, popularly referred to as neoliberalism, proposes a simplistic concept of "free market" as a panacea for all social and economic problems and calls for the massive cuts of functions performed by public agencies, especially the so-called welfare state.

While the dominant position of neoliberalism in public discourse has been linked to the long-term influence peddling by conservative interest groups, it cannot be simply dismissed as a work of propaganda. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu ( 1998: 30) explains that neoliberal dominance of public discourse by the process of "inculcation," whereby conservative

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