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What is Neoliberalism?


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#1
starspawn0

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https://www.intellec...t-neoliberalism



Venugopal concludes that the term neoliberalism “bundles together a proliferation of eclectic and contradictory concepts (…) [which] serves as a rhetorical tool and moral device for critical social scientists outside of economics to conceive of academic economics and a range of economic phenomena that are otherwise beyond their cognitive horizons.”


So, it's like "heat" for critical social scientists: the term heat encapsulates all those complicated thermodynamic processes beyond human analysis. If we were smarter we might break it down into hundreds of other phenomena; and then perhaps a term similar to heat will be used to describe the part least understood. Even though we can't understand it in full, we can at least understand it statistically.

(I'm not being especially original here. I lifted this description of "heat" from a recent interview with Yann Lecun by Lex Fridman.)

....

One example of the contradictory meaning attached to "neoliberals" is that they favor large corporations and also almost totally free markets. But...
 

Note first the obvious contradiction between these two accounts. If neoliberalism favors deregulation and free markets, large corporations should oppose it. As put by Venugopal, “neoliberalism as an agenda of the capitalist class rule rests on a crucial assumption that capitalists favor markets and that markets benefit capitalists (…) but this is not always the case.”

In effect, incumbent firms on the market don’t like competition. The creative destruction process typical of market economies forces businesses to be constantly alert not to lose their market position, something that happens very often (ask Yahoo, Kodak, or Nokia about it). Therefore, either neoliberalism follows the ideas of Hayek and Friedman, or it’s an agenda of economic elites. Both positions are incompatible.



#2
wjfox

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Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems
 
Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump –
neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with
an alternative?
 


#3
starspawn0

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Monbiot is great.  I like his work.  But he falls in the category of critics mentioned in that piece in the OP.  Economists generally don't use the term.  Emphasis on "generally".



#4
Alislaws

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Neoliberalism is not a purely economic set of ideas though, it is primarily a political philosophy with some arguments based on economic theory supporting it. 

 

So "supports large corporations" and " supports free markets" is not a contradiction.

 

Neoliberal government supports large corporations, using "free markets are more efficient" as a justification for the government sitting back and failing to regulate industries or break up monopolies. The government does not believe in or support free markets in the face of monoplolistic businesses any more than it has to in order to maintain PR. 

 

For example the classic neoliberal argument IMO is that companies' behaviour should be moderated not by the state or any kind of oversight body, but by individuals researching every company they interact with in depth, and "voting with their wallets". As the 20+ year nestle boycott shows, this is not an effective way to moderate the behaviour of big businesses.



#5
starspawn0

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I slightly misstated it. It's not that supporting almost completely free trade and supporting large corporations are contradictory, it's that if one is an executive at a large corporation then one probably won't favor across-the-board deregulation -- and if the deregulation puts ones business at risk, one will oppose it. That leads to a contradiction if one is an top executive / capitalist and embraces "total deregulation", in the sense that ones own beliefs work against the well-being of ones company. As a general rule, heads of companies, therefore, shouldn't be said to embrace "neoliberal values" if neoliberal means support for the freest markets possible (and deregulation) and support for large corporations.
 

Neoliberal government supports large corporations, using "free markets are more efficient" as a justification for the government sitting back and failing to regulate industries or break up monopolies.


But that doesn't mean they support monopolies; it just means they don't oppose them.

Anyways, monopolies are a special case. There aren't that many of them, almost by definition, depending on how you you define "monopoly". Most "large corporations" are not monopolies, and many will suffer under the right deregulatory pressures.




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