Has Neoliberalism Really Come to an End?

Neoliberalism is contemporarily used to refer to market-oriented reform policies such as “eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers” and reducing, specially through privatization and austerity, state influence in the economy. DESPARDES EDITORS’ NOTE: Has it worked where political economy influenced by tribalistic mindset peppered with castes-driven manifestations overrides the national economy? Doesn’t seem so in the Tropic of Cancer region, specially in South Asia.

Illustration: China Daily

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins in The Nation: The term “neoliberalism” is often used to condemn an array of economic policies associated with such ideas as deregulation, trickle-down economics, austerity, free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. As a political movement, neoliberalism is seen as experiencing its breakthrough 40 years ago with the election into office of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. And since the 2007–08 financial crisis, an explosion of academic work and political activism has been devoted to explaining how neoliberalism is fundamentally to blame for the massive growth in inequality.

Yet Gary Gerstle—in his new book, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market Era—argues that this understanding of neoliberalism struggles to explain why it has exerted such a profound influence on both the left and the right. Gerstle—a professor of American history at the University of Cambridge—thinks neoliberalism should be understood as a worldview that promises liberation by reconciling economic “deregulation with personal freedoms, open borders with cosmopolitanism, and globalization with the promise of increased prosperity for all.”

Such a vision. as Gerstle relates, was able to attract such strange bedfellows as Steve Jobs and Barry Goldwater, Ralph Nader and Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. When seen as a worldview, Gerstle contends, neoliberalism can trace its origins just as much to the left, and in particular the New Left, as to the right. People across the political spectrum, including those aforementioned bedfellows, had a common goal: the end of a bureaucratized world.

More here in a conversation with historian Gary Gerstle about understanding neoliberalism as a bipartisan worldview and how the political order it ushered in has crumbled.