How Neoliberal Thinkers Spawned Monsters They Never Imagined

Interesting interview of Wendy Brown who has written a book on the topic:

Lynn Parramore: To many people, neoliberalism is about economic agendas. But your book explores what you describe as the moral aspect of the neoliberal project. Why is this significant?

Wendy Brown: Most critical engagement with neoliberalism focuses on economic policy – deregulation, privatization, regressive taxation, union busting and the extreme inequality and instability these generate. However, there is another aspect to neoliberalism, apparent both in its intellectual foundations and its actual roll-out, that mirrors these moves in the sphere of traditional morality. All the early schools of neoliberalism (Chicago, Austrian, Freiburg, Virginia) affirmed markets and the importance of states supporting without intervening in them.

But they also all affirmed the importance of traditional morality (centered in the patriarchal family and private property) and the importance of states supporting without intervening in it. They all supported expanding its reach from the private into the civic sphere and rolling back social justice previsions that conflict with it. Neoliberalism thus aims to de-regulate the social sphere in a way that parallels the de-regulation of markets.

Concretely this means challenging, in the name of freedom, not only regulatory and redistributive economic policy but policies aimed at gender, sexual and racial equality. It means legitimating assertions of personal freedom against equality mandates (and when corporations are identified as persons, they too are empowered to assert such freedom). Because neoliberalism has everywhere carried this moral project in addition to its economic one, and because it has everywhere opposed freedom to state imposed social justice or social protection of the vulnerable, the meaning of liberalism has been fundamentally altered in the past four decades.

That’s how it is possible to be simultaneously libertarian, ethnonationalist and patriarchal today: The right’s contemporary attack on “social justice warriors” is straight out of Hayek.

All human constructs have serious limitations…

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