What do you think is or isn't neoliberalism? - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#14875234
The term gets thrown around a lot and I'm never entirely sure what any particular person means when they say it. Looking around online I see definitions and descriptions that range anywhere from being basically libertarian to compatible with social democracy with a huge helping of corporate shill or just short hand for anyone who isn't on the far left or far right.

What do you think makes neoliberalism different from regular liberalism and regular pro-capitalist politics?
#14875237
When I think of "neoliberalism", I think of the kinds of policies followed by Clinton or Blair, basically. Free market economics and at home and liberal (pardon the pun) use of military intervention overseas. The difference with neoconservatism, in my view, is the social policies. Blair was a neoliberal while Bush was a neoconservative.

It's certainly compatible with liberal social-democratic policies (Blair introduced the minimum wage and increased public sector spending), but the overall effect is to skew power towards big business (think oil companies benefiting from the Iraq war or the significant financial deregulation of the Blair years).
#14875259
Neo-liberalism is a political movement more so than an economic analytical framework, in my opinion. It's a product of the The Mont Pelerin Society, by Freidrich Hayek, among others. The 'neo' denotes their supposed adherence to 'neo-classical' economic theory, whereas the 'liberalism' is basically just a euphemism for 'market fundamentalism'.

Economics was in previous periods typically regarded as a 'moral science', although this can be deceptive because the term 'moral' has a special connotation in economics. It basically means that one should lend consideration to the social, human, etc. effects of a given economic approach, i.e. consideration should be given to the people who make up the society which an economy is supposed to serve. It essentially means that they reject subjective consideration of the, say human, or social, effects of a particular economic policy or strategy, in preference of accounting-style analysis.

This is a fallacious approach, as not all things economics are tangible. The full economic impacts of any given approach are not measurable; and denying human or social aspects actually leads to unintended consequences.

This abdication of 'moral' consideration provided the basis for the deception that neoliberal economics is particularly scientific, but this is only a deception, because the neoliberal agenda often principally serves political ends. It is also highly interventionist, but what it aims to do is spur privatization of public assets and the like, in order to subject everything to the logic of the market. The notion is that the 'invisible hand' will take care of any matters of distribution, despite the fact that they completely pervert Adam Smith at every stop. Their application of Adam Smith's concepts have little to do with how Smith applied his own concepts.

David Harvey characterizes neoliberalism, in his book by the same title, as a counterrevolution by the aristocratic elites to seize back power, following the relative post-war ascension of the workers. I think this is correct.
#14875260
I read a couple of people who are considered "neoliberal" in by various people including an economist or two whose writing is tolerable and I have never heard them suggest that economics should be considered anything like that or that moral views and impacts on people shouldn't be considered when making policy.

Who in your view has espoused this sort of neoliberalism where social impacts shouldn't be considered?
#14875262
mikema63 wrote:I read a couple of people who are considered "neoliberal" in by various people including an economist or two whose writing is tolerable and I have never heard them suggest that economics should be considered anything like that or that moral views and impacts on people shouldn't be considered when making policy.

Who in your view has espoused this sort of neoliberalism where social impacts shouldn't be considered?


I believe it underlies the entire philosophical framework.

There are many mainstream economists who consider themselves adherents to neoliberalism. These are people who have been sucked in by the establishment. 'Dissident-economist' is a somewhat rare combination, for whatever reason.

Freidrich Hayek's 'The Road to Serfdom' is a good exposition of the abdication of any moral responsibility. He introduces it as a political book, but I have argued that neoliberalism is itself predominately a political ideology (the economics analysis serves as justification). In the book, Hayek essentially argues that any efforts by the government to consider economic policies intended to help people, inevitably leads to totalitarianism. Government 'planners' are the enemies of the society they contrive. The 'planners' are the avatar toward which Hayek directs his fire. The conclusion is that government shouldn't intervene, at all.

But as I said, neoliberalism is highly interventionist. They hold that organization of society by the market is a natural arrangement, and so the government should intervene so as to subvert all things to the logic of the market. The premise itself is flawed. The policy results are therefore grounded on false logical premise. As a result, they are socially experimental in nature. The number one case for illustration of this is the goings on in Chile after the coup by Pinochet (which was directly supported by neoliberal interests).

Andre Gunder Frank wrote a book about it, 'Economic Genocide in Chile. Frank was an economics PhD from the Chicago School, and was there during the 'neoliberal (counter)-revolution'.

Frank was himself the unusual combo of 'dissident-economist', and rejected neoliberalism.

Freidrich Hayek attended the University of Vienna, which was likewise a foremost economics program of his time, and included the likes of Ludwig von Mises in its faculty, premier extoller of the 'Austrian School', to which contemporary 'libertarians' ascribe so much credence. Austrian economics shares with neoliberalism the ideal of 'market-fundamentalism', the market should be left to decide all. This is part of neoliberalism's heritage, through direct line through Hayek, and others.

Karl Polayni was a contemporary of Mises; and a Hungarian, who was transplanted to Vienna, then London, and ultimately Canada. Polayni was a 'dissident-economist' in his own right, economic liberalism was an utter scourge, and Polayni remains the foremost critic of market fundamentalism, e.g., economic liberalism.

Edit: I just remembered. Road to Serfdom was one of Margaret Thatcher's favorite books.

Thatcher, Hayek & Friedman
#14875265
I think of Hayek as a libertarian not a neoliberal. Do you consider libertarians part of a broader neoliberalism?

They hold that organization of society by the market is a natural arrangement, and so the government should intervene so as to subvert all things to the logic of the market. The premise itself is flawed. The policy results are therefore grounded on false logical premise. As a result, they are socially experimental in nature. The number one case for illustration of this is the goings on in Chile after the coup by Pinochet (which was directly supported by neoliberal interests).


That's an interesting take that I think would be disputed by people who consider themselves neoliberal (I've had the term thrown at me a few times so I've looked into a couple of groups that consider themselves neoliberal).

I think they would claim that they merely think the market is the best way to run an economy but also that market failures exist in lots of places and it is the duty of the government to intervene to fix those failures. Not to force everything into market logic. One big example I can think of is education where they seem to broadly argue that it simply cannot and shouldn't be a free market enterprise but is nevertheless extremely important to society.

I'm not trying to particularly defend neoliberalism here, I want to point out, I just am not sure how much libertarianism and neoliberalism can or should be conflated.
#14875267
mikema63 wrote:I think of Hayek as a libertarian not a neoliberal. Do you consider libertarians part of a broader neoliberalism?



That's an interesting take that I think would be disputed by people who consider themselves neoliberal (I've had the term thrown at me a few times so I've looked into a couple of groups that consider themselves neoliberal).

I think they would claim that they merely think the market is the best way to run an economy but also that market failures exist in lots of places and it is the duty of the government to intervene to fix those failures. Not to force everything into market logic. One big example I can think of is education where they seem to broadly argue that it simply cannot and shouldn't be a free market enterprise but is nevertheless extremely important to society.

I'm not trying to particularly defend neoliberalism here, I want to point out, I just am not sure how much libertarianism and neoliberalism can or should be conflated.


Freidrich Hayek was an Austrian economist, who was one of the founders of neoliberalism.

Like I said, neoliberalism was born of the Mont Pelerin Society, of which Hayek was part founder. Hakek and Milton Freedman are two of the most influential theorists on the development of neoliberalism.

Freedman is also often thought of as a libertarian. How can this be? The fruits of his analysis in extolling market fundamentalism is useful for neoliberalism, so they integrated it. Freedman was of the Chicago School, which functioned as a laboratory for the Monte Perelin Society, basically.

Libertarianism and neoliberalism differ on some political aspects, and also on those things which they prefer to pick and choose from among the extant economics literature.

As I said though, Hayek was certainly not a libertarian, he was an Austrian economist, who was also one of the founders of neoliberalism.

I have absolutely no doubt some self-ascribed neoliberals wouldn't like what I have to say on neoliberalism, nobody likes to hear such things which question their worldview. Besides, economics faculty appointments are even ideological in nature a lot of the time, so they draw their very livelihood from adherence to neoliberalism, in a sense. This can inform deep bias.
Last edited by Crantag on 29 Dec 2017 21:36, edited 1 time in total.
#14875271
Part of the thing that makes me question this is that austrian economics is considered a joke by all those economists. It's considered heterodox beyond one or two insights like utility theory.

I'm pretty certain that simply conflating hayek and Austrian school economists, which generally inform the more extreme wings of libertarianism and ancaps, is going to miss a lot of nuance and casts the net far too broadly. Neoliberal economists tend to think Austrians are idiots.

I have absolutely no doubt some self-ascribed neoliberals wouldn't like what I have to say on neoliberalism, nobody likes to hear such things which question their worldview.


You aren't questioning their worldview so much as stating what it is, and I think we should take people seriously when they say that they do or don't believe something. I can't think of anyone who considers themselves neoliberal that I've ever read who have espoused the sorts of market fundamentalist toss that the Austrians believe in.
#14875274
mikema63 wrote:Part of the thing that makes me question this is that austrian economics is considered a joke by all those economists. It's considered heterodox beyond one or two insights like utility theory.

I'm pretty certain that simply conflating hayek and Austrian school economists, which generally inform the more extreme wings of libertarianism and ancaps, is going to miss a lot of nuance and casts the net far too broadly. Neoliberal economists tend to think Austrians are idiots.



You aren't questioning their worldview so much as stating what it is, and I think we should take people seriously when they say that they do or don't believe something. I can't think of anyone who considers themselves neoliberal that I've ever read who have espoused the sorts of market fundamentalist toss that the Austrians believe in.


I am questioning the moral foundations and underpinnings of their worldview, ergo to me at least I am questioning their world view.

Perhaps the problem is the casualization of terminologies. People can call themselves anything they like.

I didn't conflate Austrian economics, I raised it as an intellectual forebearer of neoliberalism, which it also is to libertarianism.

What sets neoliberalism apart is (ironically) the huge emphasis put on state intervention (to create the 'free-market promoting' agenda which neoliberalism pushes fervently).

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan are regarded as pioneers of neoliberalism.

It is not surprising that when people conduct their own diverse analyses, they will arrive at diverse individualistic conclusions and discussions, regardless.

I maintain that neoliberalism is all I have said it is.

It has certainly outgrown its britches by now, and neoliberal ideology informs a lot of the mainstream theory in economics textbooks, also. Such mainstream economics reasoning relies on highly contrived circumstances to fit the conclusions. These type of economists love to raise exceedingly dry examples, of the quaintness of certain phenomena, in a way that makes you want to vomit on reading, simply because it is so dull (as well as fantastical).

Neoliberalism is little more than a scourge. It is the political-economy framework of the American and British oligarchs, so extolled by the likes of Thatcher.

Edit: Also on a personal note, given the crimes attributable to the purveyors of neoliberalism (the so-called 'Chicago Boys') in Chile leading up to, and following the coup, which was truly a social experiment coming on the back of war crimes, my ire is attracted all the more. I look upon Naziism with scorn for the crimes associated with that ideology. I look at neoliberalism with scorn for its crimes in Chile, and beyond.
#14875278
I imagine neo-liberalism is another name for globalism, which by my impression is a bunch of liberals pretending that the world cares what the UN says about this or that, when the truth is that if you read between the lines even a little bit, no one seems to give a shit unless it happens to align with their preconceived goals.
#14875289
Hong Wu wrote:I imagine neo-liberalism is another name for globalism, which by my impression is a bunch of liberals pretending that the world cares what the UN says about this or that, when the truth is that if you read between the lines even a little bit, no one seems to give a shit unless it happens to align with their preconceived goals.


I do agree.

Thomas Freedman was a favorite propagandist for neoliberal globalization for a while. The international economics aspects of neoliberalism are pretty much embodied in the so-called 'Washington Consensus', which refers to the economic policy consensus practiced by the likes of the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO.

Thomas Freedman famously argued in 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree' (a great example of the vomit-inducing writing style I referred to in my previous post) that "no two countries with a McDonalds had ever gone to war with one another."

You can adopt the vision of Freedman here to the outlook of some neoliberal utopians on the eve of the Iraq War. I think they were envisioning an Iraqi landscape, dotted with McDonalds, and other Western companies. This actually amounted to a governing philosophy, for a destroyed nation, by (mostly American) mega-capitalists.

I don't want to give too much credit to Freedman though. He is mainly just a popular-press propagandist in it all.
#14875291
This is trending towards a bit more vitriolic conversation than I would really prefer.

So let's take it back a bit. I do agree that international institutions like the IMF, the world bank, and the WTO are good examples of neoliberalism internationally. Do you think they have had any positive effects or are they entirely negative? Should they be eliminated or is there some set of reforms you would make to these institutions to make them work?

Do you really consider the base project of the UN to promote peace and a venue for diplomacy to be a total failure or is there some value to that institution? How should it be changed?
#14875294
mikema63 wrote:This is trending towards a bit more vitriolic conversation than I would really prefer.

So let's take it back a bit. I do agree that international institutions like the IMF, the world bank, and the WTO are good examples of neoliberalism internationally. Do you think they have had any positive effects or are they entirely negative? Should they be eliminated or is there some set of reforms you would make to these institutions to make them work?

Do you really consider the base project of the UN to promote peace and a venue for diplomacy to be a total failure or is there some value to that institution? How should it be changed?


I don't have much to say on the UN. It grew from the League of Nations, and I think it is effective as a venue for Diplomacy. An organization such as the UN though can only have a limited influence in a world made-up of sovereign nation-states (which adhere to the international system growing from the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648).

I regard the IMF and World Bank in particular as wholly corrupt institutions. It would seem as though Joseph Stiglitz, at least in important aspects, would agree with me on this.

At issue though is the fact that the governing institutions of society do exist, and you cannot well tear them down willynilly without having destabilizing consequences.

What's more, I don't think it is so much a matter of determining a proper path, as it is allowing things to play out as they may, with the unfolding direction of institutional patterns inevitably being pulled this way or that by this or that interest group.

The one major failure I see in prevailing economic policy directions as these ones, is the utter absence of the voice of workers. This is to the detriment of the system. The Germans have figured out that systematic worker participation can have a positive effect on business.

It was the utter disdain for labor in the crafting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which constituted the very poison pill within. Thus, this was an unintended consequence from the standpoint of its architects.

Disdain for labor is a principal aspect of neoliberal ideology, at least in practice. Just look at the work of Regan and Thatcher on this front.

What I see inevitably occurring though is a gradually weakening of the influence of the IMF and the World Bank. This has already been under way, and it will continue.

The reason is that the technical facilitation provided by the IMF and World Bank will be subplantable by alternatives, and with every strike against the prestige of these institutions such alternatives will become so much more viable.
#14875338
I personally liked this summary from "Neoliberalism" Steger, Manfred B. Roy, Ravi K., ch 1, 'The Three Dimensions of Neoliberalism'.

Spoiler: show
'Neoliberalism' is a rather broad and general concept referring to an economic model or 'paradigm' that rose to prominence in the 1980's. Built upon the classical liberal ideal of the self-regulating market, neoliberalism comes in several strands and variations. Perhaps the best way to conceptualize neoliberalism is to think of it as three intertwined manifestations: (1) an ideology; (2) a mode of governance; (3) a policy package. Let us carefully unpack these fundamental dimensions.

Ideologies are systems of widely shared ideas and patterned beliefs that are accepted as truth by significant groups in society. Such 'isms' serve as indispensable conceptual maps because they guide people through the complexity of their political worlds. They not only offer a more or less coherent picture of the world as it is, but also as it ought to be. In doing so, ideologies organize their core ideas into fairly simple truth-claims that encourage people to act in certain ways. These claims are assembled by codifiers or ideologies to legitimize certain political interests and to defend or challenge te dominant power structures. The codifiers of neoliberalism are global power elites that include managers and executives of large transnational corporations, corporate lobbyists, influential journalists and public-relations specialists, intellectuals writing for a large public audience, celebrities and top entertainers, state bureaucrats, and politicians.

Serving as the chief advocates of neoliberalism, these individuals saturate the public discourse with idealized images of a consumerist, free-market world. Skillfully interacting with the media to sell their preferred version of a single global marketplace to the public, they portray globalizing markets in a positive light as an indispensable tool for the realization of a better world. Such market visions of globalization pervade public opinion and political choices in many parts of the world. Indeed, neoliberal decision-makers function as expert designers of an attractive ideological container for their market-friendly political agenda. Their ideological claims are laced with references to global economic interdependence rooted in the principles of free-market capitalism: global trade and financial markets, worldwide flows of goods, services, and labour, transnational corporations, offshore financial centres, and so on. For this reason, it makes sense to think of neoliberalism as a rather economistic ideology, which, not unlike its archrival Marxism, puts the production and exchange of material goods at the heart of the human experience.

The second dimension of neoliberalism refers to what the French social thinker Michel Foucault called 'governmentalities' - certain modes of governance based on particular premises, logics, and power relations. A neoliberal governmentality is rooted in entrepreneurial values such as competitiveness, self-interest, and decentralization. It celebrates individual empowerment and the devolution of central state power to smaller localized units. Such a neoliberal mode of governance adopts the self-regulating free market as the model for proper government. Rather than operating along more traditional lines of pursuing the public good (rather than profits) by enhancing civil society and social justice, neoliberals call for the employment of governmental technologies that are taken from the world of business and commerce: mandatory development of 'strategic plans' and 'risk-management' schemes orientated toward the creation of 'surpluses'; cost-benefit analyses and other efficiency calculations; the shrinking of political governance (so-called 'best-practice governance'); the setting of quantitative targets the close monitoring of outcomes the creation of highly individualized, performance-based work plans; and the introduction of 'rational choice' models that internalize and thus normalize market-oriented behaviour. Neoliberal modes of governance encourage the transformation of bureaucratic mentalities into entrepreneurial identities where government workers see themselves no longer as public servants and guardians of qualitatively defined 'public good' but as self-interested actors responsible to the market and contributing to the monetary success of slimmed-down state 'enterprises'.

In the early 1980s, a novel model of public administration known as 'new public' management took the world's state bureaucracies by storm. Operationalizing the neoliberal mode of governance for public servants, it redefined citizens as 'customers' or 'clients' and encouraged administrators to cultivate an 'entrepreneurial spirit'. If private enterprises must nurture innovation and enhance productivity in order to survive in the competitive marketplace, why shouldn't government workers embrace neoliberal ideals to improve the public sector? Based on this neoliberal governmentality, US Vice-President Al Gore famously utilized the new public management principles in the 1990s to subject various government agencies to a 'National Performance Review' whose declared objective was to cut 'government waste' and increase administrative efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.

Neoliberalism as new public management: ten government objectives
1. Catalytic Government: Steering Rather than Rowing
2. Community-owned Government: Empowering Rather than Serving
3. Competitive Government: Injecting Competition into Service
4. Mission-Driven Government: Transforming Rule-Drive Organizations
5. Results-orientated Government: Funding Outcomes, Not Inputs
6. Customer-Driven Government: Metting the Needs of teh Customer, Not the Bureaucracy
7. Enterprising Government: Earning Rather than Spending
8. Anticipatory Government: Prevention Rather than Cure
9. Decentralized Government: From Hierarchy to Participation and Teamwork
10. Market-oriented Government: Leveraging Change through the Market
Source: David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, Reinventing Government (1992), cited in Robert B. Denhardt, Theories of Public Organization, 5th edn. (Wadsworth, 2007), pp. 145-6

Third, neoliberalism manifests itself as a concrete set of public policies expressed in what we like to call the 'D-L-P Formula': (1) deregulation (or the economy); (2) liberalization (of trade and industry); and (3) privatization (of state-owned enterprises). Related policy measures include massive tax cuts (especially for businesses and high-income earners); reduction of social services and welfare programmes; replacing welfare with 'workfare'; use of interest rates by independent central banks to keep inflation in check (even at the risk of increasing unemployment); the downsizing of government; tax havens for domestic and foreign corporations willing to invest in designated economic zones; new commercial urban spaces shaped by market imperatives; anti-unionization drives in the name of enhancing productivity and 'labor flexibility'; removal of controls on global financial and trade flows; regional and global integration of national economies; and the creation of new political institutions, think tanks, and practices designed to reproduce the neoliberal paradigm. As we shall see in later chapters, so-called 'neoconservative' initiatives often supported the neoliberal policy agenda in pursuit of shared political objectives. In turn, many neoliberals embraced conservative values, especially 'family values, tough law enforcement, and a strong military. Te nearly universal adoption of at least some parts of this policy package in the 1990s reflected the global power of the ideological claims of neoliberalism.


And it was my understanding that the washington consensus in trying to aid world poverty and such was an utter failure and lead to a crisis dubbed the post-washington consensus in which the bankruptcy of people's alternatives to free market capitalism.
The post-Washington Consensus: the unraveling of a doctrine of development
#14936294
mikema63 wrote:I read a couple of people who are considered "neoliberal" in by various people including an economist or two whose writing is tolerable and I have never heard them suggest that economics should be considered anything like that or that moral views and impacts on people shouldn't be considered when making policy.

Who in your view has espoused this sort of neoliberalism where social impacts shouldn't be considered?


Utilitarianism. Started with John Stuart Mill i guess... (The most impactfull "who")

Basis for considering Social impact instead of ignoring it, can be accredited again to many but at current times John Rawls is the most impactful "who" i guess.
#14936324
Hong Wu wrote:I imagine neo-liberalism is another name for globalism, which by my impression is a bunch of liberals pretending that the world cares what the UN says about this or that, when the truth is that if you read between the lines even a little bit, no one seems to give a shit unless it happens to align with their preconceived goals.


That's not even close. It takes 2 min to get a rough idea of it from wikipedia, why not do that instead of typing out some stupid shit?
#14936325
JohnRawls wrote:Utilitarianism. Started with John Stuart Mill i guess... (The most impactfull "who")


What in the hell does utilitarianism have to do with neoliberalism?
#14936464
Accumulation by dispossession is a concept which defines the neoliberal capitalist policies in many western nations, from the 1970s and to the present day, as resulting in a centralization of wealth and power in the hands of a few by dispossessing the public of their wealth or land. These neoliberal policies are guided mainly by four practices: privatization, financialization, management and manipulation of crises, and state redistributions.

Privatization

Privatization and commodification of public assets have been among the most criticised and disputed aspects of neoliberalism. Summed up, they could be characterized by the process of transferring property from public ownership to private ownership. According to Marxist theory, this serves the interests of the capitalist class, or bourgeoisie, as it moves power from the nation's governments to private parties. At the same time, privatization generates a means for profit for the capitalist class; after a transaction they can then sell or rent to the public what used to be commonly owned, or use it as capital through the capitalist mode of production to generate more capital.

Financialization

The wave of financialization that set in the 1980s is allowed by governmental deregulation which has made the financial system one of the main centers of redistributive activity. Stock promotions, Ponzi schemes, structured asset destruction through inflation, asset stripping through mergers and acquisitions, dispossession of assets (raiding of pension funds and their decimation by stock and corporate collapses) by credit and stock manipulations, are, according to Harvey, central features of the post-1970s capitalist financial system. That aspect relies entirely on the fact that quantity of money in circulation and therefore demand levels and price levels is controlled by the boards of directors of privately owned banks.

Those boards of directors are also on boards of corporations and any number of other legal vehicles who are also profiting from asset price swings. At the heart of accumulation by dispossession is the private control of the quantity of money supply that can be manipulated for private gain, which includes creating unemployment or restive conditions in the population. This process is well documented in English history as far back as prior to the founding of the Bank of England and before that in the Netherlands. The process works well with or without a central bank and with or without gold backing. The details are also manipulated from time to time as needed to satisfy popular rage or apathy.

Management and manipulation of crises

By creating and manipulating crises, such as by suddenly raising interest rates, poorer nations can be forced into bankruptcy, and agreeing to such deals like that of the structural adjustment programs can yield more damages to those nations. Harvey reasoned that this is authorized by parties such as the U.S. Treasury, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

State redistributions

The neoliberal nation-state is one of the most important agents of redistributive policies. Even when privatization or commodification appear to be profitable to the lower class, in the long run it can affect the economy negatively. The state seeks redistributions through a variety of things, like changing the tax code to profit returns on investment rather than incomes and wages (of the lower classes).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accumulat ... possession
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