Emma Bell is Professor in British Studies at the Université de Savoie Mont-Blanc. She is the author of Criminal Justice and Neoliberalism (2011) and Soft Power and Freedom under the Coalition: State-Corporate Power and the Threat to Democracy (2015), both published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Yet Another Empty Concept? The Epistemological Barriers to Defining Neoliberalism
The term “neoliberalism” is ubiquitous in many spheres of academia, journalism, politics and activism. Despite its prevalence, the concept is rarely explicitly defined by those who use it, who implicitly adopt a pragmatic, “I-know-it-when-I-see-it” approach. And when deliberate attempts are made to flesh out the meaning of this word, they invariably yield, at best, vague and partial, at worst, confused and confusing results. It is little wonder, then, that scholars such as macroeconomist John Grahl or intellectual historian Bruce Caldwell denounce “neoliberalism” as an “abused” and “empty” signifier.
In this paper, we argue that the reason for this sorry state of lexical affairs may lie in the intrinsic epistemological barriers to offering a clear and comprehensive definition of neoliberalism. By retracing the intellectual and institutional history of neoliberalism in Great Britain from the 1930s onward, we will show that there never was, at any point in time, a well-constrained neoliberal core, neither as a theory of economic policy, nor as a practice of economic policy. Rather, the legitimate definition of neoliberalism has always been the object of a struggle among neoliberal theoreticians and practitioners and has evolved through time as a reflection of changing power relationships within neoliberal intellectual and political circles and as a result of failed attempts to put the theories into practice.
We will also suggest that the absence of a well-constrained core is compounded by the fuzziness of the conceptual boundaries of neoliberalism. Indeed, neoliberal ideas and policies are often conflated with deep structural trends within western economies and societies – such as globalization, financialization, polarization and individualization – which preexisted the institutionalization of neoliberalism from the late 1970s onward. Since these phenomena are historically contingent associations to neoliberalism, this raises the question as to how far they can legitimately be labeled “neoliberal”.
Ultimately, we will ponder whether conceptualizing neoliberalism as a Foucaldian “rationality” offers a way out of the terminological quagmire.
Jean François Bissonnette received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Ottawa in 2012. His thesis explored the themes of desire and vulnerability in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, and their relevance for the understanding of the modern political culture. In 2012-2013, he was Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Social Science, Health and Medicine, King’s College London, where he worked on the topics of neuroeconomics and economic normativity. Since May 2014, he has been working as Associate Postdoctoral Researcher at the Sophiapol Laboratory, Université Paris Nanterre, where he studies the problem of credit and debt, and the impact of the financialization of capitalism on the formation of subjectivity.
Credit as Political Technology: Finance and the Production of the Neoliberal Subject
The phenomenon of increasing private debt has received much critical attention in the anglophone world, especially since the start of the 2008 financial crisis (e.g., Graeber 2011, Ross 2013, Dienst 2011). Apart from Lazzarato’s important contributions (2011, 2014), the francophone literature on the subject is comparatively sparse. There are perhaps cultural reasons for this. According to OECD data (2016), the major English-speaking countries (UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia) are all among the top 15 nations in terms of household debt relative to net disposable income. Although Scandinavian nations, as well as Japan and South Korea, also partake in this phenomenon, we might say that the anglo-saxon world has been a particularly favorable ground for a “culture of indebtedness” to take roots.
The spectacular growth in private debt over the last three decades can be seen as indicative of a major transformation in the capitalist mode of accumulation. Credit and debt are indeed a crucial aspect, if not a primary engine, of the financialization of capitalism (e.g., Lapavitsas 2013). Yet, it can also be analyzed as resulting from a radical shift in public policy. Colin Crouch (2009), for instance, argues that a form of “privatized Keynesianism” has come to define the current policy regime. Whereas classical Keynesianism advocated for a strategic use of public debt to stabilize the economy and provide social security to the populations, the current rationale would be to incentivize these populations to use credit as a means of ensuring their own security and well-being. Increasing private debt would thus signify a break away from the political rationality of welfare regimes. Mitchell Dean (1998) similarly argues that there has been a shift from a “socialization of risks,” typical of the latter, to their “individualization.” Individuals not only have to manage their own exposure to risk, they also have to take risks, that is, to speculatively unlock the potential inherent to the uncertainty of their own situation. The widespread use of credit, in that regard, would not only be part of an ongoing “financialization of daily life” (Martin 2002), but also an important element in the active personal management of one’s own opportunities and vulnerabilities.
Although it is worthwhile to interrogate the pertinence or precision of such a catch-all term as “neoliberalism,” it seems indisputable that the political rationality of welfarism has yielded to a new system of regulation. Whether we prefer calling it “neo-” or “advanced liberalism,” increasing private debt is a telltale effect of a new “style of thought,” of a new way of “governing economic life” (Miller and Rose 1990). Foucault’s concept of governmentality has proven very influential among anglo-saxon scholars, and his analysis of neoliberalism certainly helps to make sense of this phenomenon. If we accept his idea that neoliberalism calls upon individuals to become “entrepreneurs of themselves” in order to maximize their own “human capital” (Foucault 2004), the contemporary “culture of indebtedness” can thus be deemed indicative of a certain mode of constituting oneself as an economic subject in which the use of credit has strategic value.
The goal of this contribution would thus be to discuss how credit and debt can be conceived of as a typically neoliberal example of what Foucault (1988) called “political technologies of individuals.” Two main elements would be examined to grasp the kind of power wielded by the financial industry in its capacity to produce indebted subjectivities : a) the structure of incentives that leads to deepening indebtedness, which not only depends on the availability of credit as such, but more fundamentally on what we could call a “moral economy” in which credit is presented as a “leveraging” tool to access middle-class status symbols, such as homeownership and higher education; b) the surveillance apparatus deployed in order to supplement the “payback morality” of credit and to enforce financial self-discipline on the part of indebted subjects, which mainly consists in credit-scoring and transaction-tracking algorithmic technologies, upon which individual “life-chances” now largely depend.
Crouch, Colin (2009), “Privatised Keynesianism: An Unacknowledged Policy Regime,” in British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 11, no 3, 382-399.
Dean, Mitchell (1998), “Risk, Calculable and Incalculable,” in Soziale Welt, no 49, 25-42.
Dienst, Richard (2011), The Bonds of Debt, London, New York, Verso.
Foucault, Michel (1988), “The Political Technology of Individuals,” in Hutton (P.H.), Gutman (H.), Martin (L. H.), (eds.), Technologies of the Self A Seminar with Michel Foucault, Amherst, The University of Massachusetts Press, 145-162
Foucault, Michel (2004), Naissance de la biopolitique, Paris, Seuil-Gallimard.
Graeber, David (2011), Debt, The First 5,000 Years, New York, Melville House Publishing.
Lapavitsas, Costas (2013), Profiting Without Producing, London, New York, Verso.
Lazzarato, Maurizio (2011), La fabrique de l’homme endetté, Paris, Éditions Amsterdam.
Lazzarato, Maurizio (2014), Gouverner par la dette, Paris, Les prairies ordinaires.
Martin, Randy (2002), Financialization of Daily Life, Philadelphia, Temple University Press.
Miller, Peter and Rose, Nikolas(1990), “Governing Economic Life,” in Economy and Society, vol. 19, no 1, 1-31.
OECD (2016), “Household debt (indicator),” doi: 10.1787/f03b6469-en (Accessed on 15 October 2016).
Ross, Andrew (2013), Creditocracy, and the Case for Debt Refusal, New York, OR Books.
Lucie de Carvalho defended a PhD entitled “Has the Ship Really Lost her Captain? British Nuclear Power Policies from 1979 to 2015: The Role of the State and New Modes of Governance” at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 in 2015. Her research focuses on the role of the state and institutional and political actors in public policies, using the British energy sector and the current Nuclear Renaissance as a case in point. She is now a senior lecturer in British Studies at the Université Charles de Gaulle – Lille 3.
Has the state stopped steering markets? Rethinking Periodization and Neoliberal Interventionism in the United States and the United Kingdom
In an amusing but scientifically poignant YouTube video created by producer John Papola and economist Russ Roberts, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich A. Hayek engage in an intellectual rap battle, with a chorus that summarizes their differences:
We’ve been going back and forth for a century [Keynes] I want to steer markets [Hayek] I want them set free
The rap quite accurately depicts the two models that have dominated debates in political economy since the 1930s, namely the Keynesian model, which uses state intervention to “steer” markets in a socially desirable direction; and the Hayekian model, which rejects such intervention and sees “free” markets as the most efficient means to allocate people and resources. As traditional historical periodization would have it, the Keynesian model dominated Western policymaking between the 1930s and the 1970s, while a “neoliberal revolution” brought the Hayekian model to predominance starting in the late 1970s. Accordingly, neoliberalism has often been understood to be the scaling back of the state’s attempt to steer markets.
The United States and the United Kingdom have been presented as the leaders of this “revolution.” Indeed, scholars have highlighted numerous parallels between these two English-speaking countries with a transatlantic “special relationship”: in 1979 and 1981, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan respectively came to power with the intention to significantly reduce the role of government in economic life; in the 1990s, New Labour and the New Democrats shifted the Left to the center by proposing a “third way” that embraced the basic tenants of the free market paradigm; and despite the new consensus that was generally critical of state intervention, both the British and American governments were prompt to intervene in order to contain the 2008 financial crisis. These similarities seem to make a comparison between the US and the UK a legitimate approach when trying to harness the nature of neoliberalism on an international level.
Our respective research has focused on two topics that bring neoliberalism into question: on the one hand, the analysis of the 2008 financial crisis in the United States (Bradley Smith); and on the other hand, the Nuclear Renaissance in Britain since 2005 (Lucie de Carvalho). At first sight, it may seem that these topics make a weak case for a comparative approach, given the different economic and national settings. As defended by Cécile Vigour, however, different elements become comparable as soon as they can be related to some common criterion or seen from a common conceptual angle. What our research shares in common is the key question of the role of the state in steering markets—be it the US federal government steering financial and housing markets, or the UK multi-national state steering nuclear energy markets. As such, empirical research allows us to assess to what extent a “neoliberal revolution” really happened in these two important sectors, in the sense of the state setting these markets free instead of using political mechanisms to steer them in a certain direction.
Following Ragin’s methodological theory of developing a “qualitative comparative strategy based on variables” and not “cases,” our research cannot be reduced to merely putting two monographs in parallel. By tapping into different strands of literature, inherited from political science on the one hand and economic philosophy on the other, we unexpectedly reached similar conclusions regarding the role, forms and purposes of state intervention in markets within the assumed neoliberal model. Contrary to what neoliberal ideology would lead us to expect, we find that the American and British states have not ceased to steer the markets in question over the past four decades; instead, they have used more indirect means to orient these markets in a politically-defined direction. To be sure, these new means often rely more on market forces and private actors than in a state-controlled model. Nevertheless, neoliberal reform was designed to provide a framework for markets to achieve specific political objectives; and whenever these objectives were not fulfilled, the state resorted to more direct means on numerous occasions, in both the British and American settings. This new dynamic between indirect and occasionally direct forms of state intervention to steer certain markets is what we call “neoliberal interventionism.”
As confronting two phenomena can help to find a proper balance between the “particular” and the “general” (Pelassi & Dogan), such binary analysis has thus allowed us to question the very notion of a “neoliberal revolution” understood as the rolling back of the state. Using a diachronic and comparative approach, this presentation will therefore aim not only at questioning traditional historical periodization, but also at identifying the various forms of state intervention in markets on either side of the Atlantic. As comparisons only become useful when endowed with a synthesizing dimension, our ultimate purpose will be to defend that the echoes identified between our respective empirical research may actually help to narrow down the definition of neoliberalism as a concept.
Simon Choat is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Kingston University. He is a political theorist and is the author of Marx Through Post-Structuralism: Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze (Bloomsbury, 2010) and Marx’s Grundrisse: A Reader’s Guide (Bloomsbury, 2016).
The university as enterprise: Approaches to understanding the neoliberalization of UK higher education
The UK government’s Higher Education and Research Bill 2016-17 (at the time of writing working its way through Parliament) promises to enhance student choice, promote greater competition and innovation in the higher education sector, and deliver teaching excellence. In this paper I use the concept of neoliberalism to examine the Bill, claiming that the latter reflects and embodies core neoliberal principles (in its reliance on market solutions, its use of the language of ‘choice’, ‘competition’, and ‘enterprise’, and its understanding of the value of education in purely economic terms) and can help us understand how neoliberalism operates.
‘Neoliberalism’, however, is a contested concept, used within a wide array of theoretical frameworks and subjected to a range of competing and sometimes incompatible definitions. Two interpretations in particular are dominant: a Marxist approach that defines neoliberalism as a class project whose aim is to reassert the power of capital over labour and which is pursued through policies of privatization, deregulation, and welfare cuts; and a Foucauldian approach that defines neoliberalism as a governing rationality that installs competition and enterprise as regulatory norms. I argue that in order to understand the Higher Education and Research Bill – and broader changes to the UK higher education landscape – we must use both approaches simultaneously: the Marxist interpretation allows us to understand the wider macroeconomic context and the push for privatization of higher education, while the Foucauldian interpretation illuminates the proliferation of bureaucratic forms of governance and the production of particular modes of subjectivity (e.g. student ‘consumers’). As such, the aims of the paper are twofold: to analyse recent changes to the UK higher education system using the concept of neoliberalism; and to use UK higher education as a case study with which to highlight the advantages of a distinctive Marxist-Foucauldian approach to understanding neoliberalism.
Gilles Christoph teaches at the École normale supérieure de Lyon. His research centers on the intellectual history of Anglo-American neoliberalism over the course of the twentieth century and on the relationship between science and philosophy in the wake of the science wars of the 1990s.
See Emma Bell abstract
Gabriele Ciampini obtained his PhD in political science at the University of Florence. He completed his undergraduate studies in political theory at the University of Pisa and obtained a Master of Arts in Political theory spending one semester at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. His PhD research project, focused on the history of political thought, looks at the reconstruction of the political thought of Bertrand de Jouvenel. Previously he has acted as Co-Chair for a Section on EU Politics at the ECPR Graduate Student Conference held in Tartu 2016 and a Chair of the Panel ‘Liberalism and Economics’ at the ECPR General Conference in Montréal.
The Conservative Neoliberalism of James M. Buchanan and Russell Kirk and the Moral Justification of Economic Austerity
Especially since the financial crisis began in 2008, the notion of ‘austerity’, intended as a limitation of public expenditure and adoption of restrictive monetary policies has been widely debated. But how did this concept develop? Does it have a philosophical or ethical basis? This paper aims to illustrate a theoretical aspect that has not been adequately analyzed: that of the relationship between moral conservatism and neo-liberal economic policies. To do this, it is significant to delve into the political thought of James M. Buchanan (one of the most important representatives of Public Choice) and Russell Kirk (one of the fathers of American conservatism).
It may appear that Buchanan, as a defender of contract theory, has little to do with moral considerations. It is important to emphasise the fact that Buchanan advocates the existence of a ‘moral framework’ which is an important element in the implementation of a non-expansionary economic policy. Buchanan was born in Tennessee a substantially conservative environment. His mother came from a family of Presbyterian preachers. We want to propose the idea that for Buchanan economic constitutionalism is best defended in the presence of an appropriate ethical structure that permeates the society.
Another author who justified a moral framework for the development of market economy is Russell Kirk. For Kirk, the solidity of the community is founded not only on a necessary political and constitutional framework within which the economy grows; it is also based on respect for natural law and attachment to tradition. Like Buchanan, Kirk also claimed that the promotion of Keynesian policies had encouraged the abandonment of traditional values that incorporate the freedom of initiative and the spirit of independence. Moreover, Kirk repeatedly defended in his works the Southern culture in which James Buchanan grew up.
Röpke, Kirk and Buchanan have repeatedly emphasized the importance of small communities, based on shared cultural assumptions, regarded as a way to resist State power. This conception is also rooted in the social, political and constitutional history of the United States: the mistrust in an intrusive central state is also due to the belief that a solid moral structure can let a society better work. This concept has permeated for a long time the culture of Southern state in the US. They were, members of the Mont Pelerin Society, within which they were able to have an intellectual exchange. We can therefore see that in the Mont Pelerin Society developed a conservative neo-liberalism in which the ethical and the economic aspects were considered complementary. By analyzing the relationship between Buchanan and Kirk, we want to show how neoliberal ideas have repeatedly been linked with conservatism in order to justify, on the moral level, austerity policies.
Marine Dassé is a PhD candidate and teacher at the university of Paris West Nanterre. Her research focuses on the different forms of privatization of public spaces in Southern California. She taught in Southern California ( at UCI) while conducting field research and now teaches American civilization at the University of Paris West Nanterre.
The broken window theory, anti-homeless laws and the neoliberalization of public spaces in Los Angeles.
In 2006, an anti-camping law was passed in Skid Row, Los Angeles drawing on the ‘broken window’ theory. In order to revitalize the city, the mayor decided to suddenly enforce section 41.18(d) of the municipal code which provided that “[n]o person shall sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or other public way” except during parades and upon benches’. Homeless people were then banned from the streets as camping was deemed illegal. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit and the court of Appeal ruled in favor of the Union and homeless people and against the city of Los Angeles. The court stipulated that the enforcement of that law was ‘one of the most restrictive municipal laws regulating public spaces in the United States’  and deemed it unconstitutional.
The desire to “clean up the street” is the evolution of complex neoliberal politics that started in the 1980s. In recent years, the frontiers between public and private have become increasingly blurred as the street has become more elitist. Fewer people can access it. Indeed, rights over public spaces aren’t universal and have been acquired through social struggle. Although the concept of public space is both a spatial and temporal construct, it seems that the idea of a common space is essential to democracy. How does this type of decision refer to neoliberal urbanism? To what extent have public places become neoliberalized?
My paper shall be threefold. I will first be paying attention to this anti-homeless law and analyze how it came into being. Then, I will explain to what extent securing the street refers to neoliberal urbanism. Finally, I will explore its social and political impacts.
Simon Dawes is maître de conférences at l’Institut d’études culturelles et internationales (IECI) – and member of the research team, Centre d’histoire culturelle des sociétés contemporaines (CHCSC) – at l’Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) in France. His research revolves around issues of media theory, history and regulation. His book, British Broadcasting and the Public-Private Dichotomy: Neoliberalism, Citizenship and the Public Sphere (Palgrave Macmillan), will be published in July 2017.
Andrew Diamond is Professor of American history and civilization at the Université Paris-Sorbonne, where he directs the research group Histoire et dynamique des espaces Anglophones (EA 4086). He is the author or co-author of numerous articles and books on the history of race, politics, and political culture in the urban United States, including Mean Streets: Chicago Youths and the Everyday Struggle for Empowerment in the Multiracial City, 1908-1969 (University of California Press, 2009) and Histoire de Chicago (Editions Fayard, 2012), which was a finalist for the Grand Prize of the Rendez-Vous de l’Histoire in 2013. His forthcoming book, Chicago on the Make: Power and Inequality in a Modern City (University of California Press, 2017) explores the link between race and neoliberalization at Chicago’s grassroots over the twentieth century. He is also currently co-editing a collection of essays with Thomas Sugrue on the neoliberalization of US cities in the postwar era to be published by NYU Press in 2017.
Historicizing the Long March of Neoliberalization at the Urban Grassroots
If, as the organizers of this conference have suggested, inquiries into the dynamics and contours of neoliberalism have proliferated within the humanities and social sciences over the past few decades, historians, in particular, have proved somewhat reluctant to embrace the concept. As a consequence, the project of historicizing the advance of neoliberal logics and rationalities has hardly begun. Moreover, many of the scholars who have cast a historical gaze on the subject have tended to cut the story short by adhering to David Harvey’s view of the 1970s and 1980s as the pivotal moment of the neoliberal turn. This paper will discuss how we might begin to correct this historical myopia. Focusing on the US context, it will highlight the need to view neoliberalization as a process that unraveled gradually and unevenly over much of the twentieth century. The neoliberal takeover of the Reagan Era did not happen overnight, but rather culminated out of preexisting ideological, cultural, and policy frameworks that were decades in the making. By offering a series of ground-level snapshots from the urban United States between the 1920s and the 1980s, I will argue that urban historians, in particular, have an important role to play in illuminating at the local level how market values and economizing logics gradually penetrated into political institutions and beyond them into the broader political cultures of US cities.
Charles Egert is a lecturer in language, humanities and media studies at Telecom Management School. His interdisciplinary research in semiology focuses on the reception of texts, and the meaning of cultural artifacts in a late-capitalist era.
Urban Arts in the 1980s: Inner-City Voice
In 1955 the builder of Rockefeller Center had Diego Rivera’s murals portraying Lenin destroyed before they could be seen in public, thereby creating the historic precedent of confrontation between capitalism and the arts in New York City. In the 1960s pop art turned the mass media into a material for the arts, and a pop artist such as Warhol strived to be provocative (Danto), however, in the 1980s, popular art was placed more at the center of a struggle between artists and controllers of mass media. In New York City Rivera’s unfinished murals provide a precedent for the destruction of the arts by neoliberalism in the 1980s. On Forty-Second Street in Manhattan scenes straight out of the film Midnight Cowboy were replaced by a corporate sponsored urban renewal. The result was a Disneyland type language. The arts that were threatening to undermine capitalist mythology in the 1980s were successfully rendered ephemeral by the undermining force of late capitalism. Artists who first recuperated popular culture in the 1980s now have their techniques incorporated in mass media. Today it has made such threats to a neoliberal hegemony less likely especially since neoliberalism has been able to reinforce its position thanks to IT (Harvey). NYC-based artists at that time often identified with lifestyles of poverty and protested against the territorial encroachment of neoliberalism. At the same time the larger public became acquainted with neoliberalism thanks to terms such as yuppie, inner-city, urban renewal, gentrification, and consumerism as they appeared in the media. Artists instead made popular culture a territory for the expression of the personal in order to project their vision into the public spotlight. This represented a threat to the growing hegemony of neoliberalism in the public imagination in the 1980s, and on the products of popular culture thanks to what Harvey asserts was an unquestioned control of the mass media, and a growing monopoly on the production of ideas. In this perspective Harvey cites a 1976-headline taken from The New York Dailey News: “Ford to NYC: Drop Dead.” This paper approaches a language of neo-liberalism that was the product of the 1980s and studies through this medium a before and after. It does this by contrasting examples from different artistic milieus based in the NYC metropolitan area. Artistic expression made identities the stakes in an attempt to defend social classes such as intellectuals, gays and feminist, or the working class. After a theoretical exposition of the concept of mythology and neoliberalism we will look at examples in narrative, rock music, visual arts and multi-media drawn from the 1980s.
Danto, A. C. (2009). Andy Warhol. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
McChesney, R. W. (2008). The political economy of media: enduring issues, emerging dilemmas. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Juliette Feyel holds a PhD in Comparative Literature that addressed the representation of the sacred and eroticism in the works of D.H. Lawrence and Georges Bataille. She taught French and English literature for several years in the Universities of Nanterre and Cambridge (UK). After writing a monograph “Georges Bataille, une quête érotique du sacré” (2013, H. Champion), she has been developing research in the representations of the self, subjectivity and the body in contemporary literature and cinema.
Representations of the 2008 crisis in British and American films: what makes a successful crisis narrative?
The 2008 global financial crisis can be considered both as a historical event and as a discursive process. The Marxist tradition has long analyzed crises as being part and parcel of the capitalist economy (Harvey 2005) and the 2008 crisis appears as one of a long series (Bensaïd 2009). But a crisis is also a discursive process, where actors with diverging interests compete to impose a hegemonic narrative (Hall and Massey 2010), upon which political responses will then be predicated (Hay 2001). Competing discursive constructions are circulated through political speeches, the media and – notably – cultural productions. Cultural productions may operate in two ways: firstly as a space where narratives of the crisis are amplified or silenced, and secondly as a place for such narratives to emerge. This paper therefore offers to study representations and narratives of the 2008 crisis in fictions and documentaries. Our analysis will focus on feature films which have been met with commercial or critical success in the US and in the UK (as reflected by box office figures, film awards, and preeminence in cultural press) in order to assess the dominant, mainstream narratives in circulation. This survey will deal with modes of representation both politically and aesthetically. Politically speaking, some films constitute indictments of neoliberal capitalism (documentary Inside Job, 2011) while others endorse a rather didactic stance when discussing the crisis (fictional feature The Big Short, 2015). Such examples show that any assumed correlation between generic and political parti-pris not only deserves but also needs to be interrogated. From an aesthetic point of view, the crisis may be given various dramatic statuses; for instance they can either serve as a socio-economic background allowing the plot to develop or become an actual key dramatic element. These sets of criteria will enable us to sketch a typology of representations of the crisis, and thus contribute to highlight formal and political characteristics of successful mass-consumed crisis narratives.
Bensaïd, D., 2009, « Crises d’hier et d’aujourd’hui », Marx, K., Les crises du capitalisme, Paris, Demopolis, pp. 27-72.
Hall, S., Massey, D., 2010, “Interpreting the Crisis”, Soundings, No. 44, pp. 57-71.
Harvey, D., 2005, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Hay, C., 2001, “The ‘Crisis’ of Keynesianism and the Rise of Neoliberalism in Britain: an Ideational Institutionalist Approach”, Campbell, J. L., Pedersen, O. K. (Eds.), The Rise of Neoliberalism and Institutional Analysis, Princeton, Princeton University Press, pp. 193-218.
Clémence Fourton is a doctoral student in English Studies at Poitiers University. Her research focuses on the social and political effects of the 2008 crisis in the UK. She is a graduate of the Ecole normale supérieure.
See Juliette Feyel abstract
Des Freedman is interested in the relationship between media and power together with the political and economic contexts of media policymaking, regulation and reform. He was a founding member and recent chair of the Media Reform Coalition and was project lead for the Inquiry into the Future of Public Service Television chaired by Lord Puttnam. He is a former editor of the Sage journal, Global Media and Communication, and has edited several strands for openDemocracy including ‘Anti-austerity and media activism’ (with Natalie Fenton and Gholam Khiabany), ‘Liberalism in neo-liberal times’ (with Gholam Khiabanay, Kate Nash and Julian Petley) and ‘Capitalism and universities’ (with Michael Bailey). His latest books include Misunderstanding the Internet (2nd edition, Routledge 2016, with James Curran and Natalie Fenton) and The Contradictions of Media Power (Bloomsbury 2014).
The media and the neoliberal swindle
Media, and especially public media, have hardly been immune to the tidal wave of neoliberalism. Media that were once assumed to have important democratic responsibilities – witness the stickiness of metaphors concerning the media’s role as a public sphere, fourth estate, critical watchdog and a check on power – have, since the early 1980s, been commercialised, starved of funding, attacked and restructured – such that they have increasingly been drawn into neoliberal logic. Yet this narrative assumes that neoliberal states inherited fully functioning democratic systems and set out systematically to roll back their democratic functions. Neoliberalism has certainly weakened democratic media but is it the case that this degeneration had already started? In other words, to what extent did neoliberalism simply speed up a process that started many years previously? When were media institutions ever genuinely accountable to publics apart from those moments when publics themselves ‘comandeered’ media technologies in the pursuit of democratic aims?
This paper draws on Marx’s analysis of the ‘democratic swindle’ to suggest that we are now facing a new swindle in which elite institutions are using the crisis posed by the growth of anti-establishment politics to advance the need for consensual, rational, truth-telling media – precisely the same structures that failed in their democratic duties and that are intimately connected to the neoliberal order that has so enraged millions of people. The paper argues that the task today is not to return the media to an imaginary pre-neoliberal bliss but to build a radical political project in which truth-telling and communicative capacity emerges from the bottom up and not through paternalistic diktat or market exchange.
Nicholas Gane is Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick and a board member of the journal Theory, Culture and Society. He is a social and cultural theorist with an interest in political economy and economic sociology. He has a long-standing interest in the sociological analysis of capitalism and culture, as well as the sociology and history of neoliberalism, and a developing interest in the sociology of debt, banking and finance. He is the author of Max Weber and Postmodern Theory (Palgrave, 2002), New Media: The Key Concepts (with David Beer, London: Bloomsbury, 2008), Umberto Eco (co-edited with Mike Gane, London: Sage, 2005), The Future of Social Theory (London: Bloomsbury, 2004), Roland Barthes (co-edited with Mike Gane, London: Sage, 2004) and Max Weber and Contemporary Capitalism (Palgrave, 2012).
What is Neoliberalism and Why Does (or Did) It Matter?
The term ‘neoliberalism’ has flourished since the financial crisis but is now, in the post-Brexit, post-Trump world, said to be meeting its end. But what is (or was) neoliberalism, how does it relate to its others (in particular, libertarianism and neoconservatism), and why does (or did) it matter? Many critics have argued that neoliberalism was a concept that was destined to fail as it was a catch-all term for everything on the New Right while in practice few, if anyone, identified as being neoliberal. This paper will argue, however, that this view is mistaken and that neoliberalism has a very specific set of meanings that need to be considered historically within a number of key national trajectories and contexts. These trajectories are complex and often contain contradictions that make it hard to produce a singular definition of neoliberalism, which has always contained libertarian and neoconservative elements to lesser or greater degree. The paper will conclude by considering what this history of neoliberalism might bring to an understanding of the present, and will ask whether its death is as likely as many have recently proclaimed.
Rosalind Gill is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at City, University of London. She is author or editor of many books and articles, including, most recently, Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism (with Ana Elias and Christina Scharff, Palgrave 2017). She is currently completing a book with Meg-John Barker and Laura Harvey titled Mediated Intimacy: Sex Advice in Media Culture (Polity, in press).
Neoliberal feeling rules? The affective and psychic life of neoliberalism
In recent years there has been a growing interest in neoliberalism’s hold on contemporary societies. Despite critiques, it seems to be strengthening rather than weakening. Its strange ‘non-death’ (Crouch) has become the focus of many reflections, with the idea that it is strangely resistant to attack, indeed somehow ‘bullet proof’ (Heidman). In this paper I argue that part of the reason for neoliberalism’s force and tenacity lies in its ability to meaningfully connect with and make sense of people’s lives. It has made itself, in Stuart Hall’s words, not just part of ‘them’, but also part of ‘us’. I will explore what has been dubbed the ‘psychic life’ of neoliberalism (Scharff) and also its affective life, arguing that neoliberalism’s power derives not simply from its programmatic political and economic values, but also from the way it has been able to colonize and recast our most intimate thoughts and feelings. The talk will take inspiration from feminist research, including Wendy Brown’s work on entrepreneurial subjectivity and Arlie Hochschild’s idea of feeling rules. It will ask whether we are seeing the emergence of distinctively neoliberal – and perhaps also postfeminist and postracial – feeling rules.
Dr. Debbie Ging is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communications at Dublin City University. She teaches Media Studies with a focus on gender and sexuality. Her current research is concerned with articulations of gender on social media, and addresses issues such as cyberbullying, online misogyny, men’s rights politics, eating disorders and the sexualisation of children.
Betamorphism: The Affective Politics of the Manosphere
The emergence of web 2.0 and, more specifically, of social media has facilitated a particularly toxic brand of anti-feminist men’s rights. Known as MRAs (men’s rights activists), these groups have merged with a diverse range of other online cultures preoccupied both with the plight of men and the exclusion of women. This much looser network of blogs, forums and online publics, collectively known as the Manosphere, has become the dominant arena in which anti-feminist men’s rights and issues are now discussed and perpetuated. This highly participatory online culture has increasingly moved its rhetoric away from rights-based issues such as child custody and divorce to more affective and emotional expressions of discontent with feminism and women generally. This paper considers how the affective assemblages of the Manosphere have been shaped by logics of neoliberalism, postfeminism and individualism. I use Nina Papacharassi’s (2015) concept of affective publics to explore how both sentiment and technology are reshaping online gender-political subjectivities in polarizing, essentialist and ultimately regressive directions.
Jamie Hakim is a Lecturer in Media Studies in the School of Art, Media and American Studies at the University of East Anglia. His monograph the Male Body in Digital Culture will be published as part of Rowman and Littlefield’s Radical Cultural Studies series in 2019. It explores the ways that the male body has been represented by, constructed in and experienced through digital media during the age of neoliberal austerity.
Chemsex and the city: queering intimacy in neoliberal London
Since 2011, chemsex has been on the rise in London amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) (Bourne et al., 2015). The term chemsex refers to the use of one or a combination of recreational drugs (GHB/GBL, mephedrone and crystal methamphetamine) to facilitate sexual sessions, often in groups, that can last hours or days (McCall et al. 2015). This paper attempts to account for this rise.
It does this by contesting the prevailing view advanced by sexual health experts that the rise of chemsex can be located in the hook-up app use of vulnerable gay men who have problems with sex and intimacy. To counter this technologically deterministic view of MSM digital media use, this paper performs a conjunctural analysis (Grossberg, 2010) to argue that this new sexual practice has risen in popularity in response to the material effects of neoliberal austerity on London’s gay male community and commercial ‘scene’ since 2008.
It concludes by arguing that chemsex is an intense, albeit transient, way for MSM to form collective bonds within historical conditions in which neoliberalism’s insistence on autonomous, competitive individualism makes any formation of collectivity as difficult as possible (Gilbert, 2014).
Jacob Hamburger is a graduate student in contemporary philosophy at the École normale supérieure. His work focuses on the intersection of American neoconservatism and the French revival of liberal thought. In addition to his academic work, he writes on American and French politics for a variety of journalistic publications.
Irving Kristol’s Conservative Liberalism: When the Neocons were Critics of Neoliberalism
For the past two decades, neoliberalism and neoconservatism have served as catch-all labels for everything that has gone wrong under the so-called “Washington Consensus.” On the one hand, there is the move towards deregulation and privatization that helped bring about the global financial crisis; on the other hand, there is America’s ill-fated quest to “spread democracy” that has caused a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and emboldened jihadist groups like Daech. Today, after Donald Trump’s populist upset in the 2016 presidential race and its emboldening effect on European nationalist parties, there is a surprising agreement between the left and the far right on the evils of both neoliberalism and neoconservatism. Under these circumstances, it is worth raising the question of how united these two political phenomena really are, or have been.
Looking at the intellectual career of Irving Kristol, the “Godfather of Neoconservatism,” it becomes clear that the affinity between neoconservatism and neoliberalism less stable than it often appears today. Of course, despite a brief socialist phase in his youth, Kristol was a stalwart defender of capitalism for nearly six decades. But his understanding of capitalism and why it was worth defending differed drastically from that of the intellectual founders of neoliberalism such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Kristol’s formative years as a thinker occurred during his involvement with the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), an international anticommunist organization devoted to a defense of political liberalism, and a rival to Hayek’s Mont Pèlerin Society (MPS). Like many of his CCF colleagues, Kristol rejected merely economistic defenses of liberal democracy, but was no less convinced than members of the MPS that the Western model needed a bold defense, particularly after the student revolts of the 1960s. Neoconservatism was a result of efforts like his to articulate this defense primarily in political and cultural terms, which often differed radically from the abstract economic thinking of Hayek and Friedman.
Our claim is that both neoliberalism and neoconservatism arose out of alternative conservative understandings of liberalism in the second half of the twentieth century. This paper will explore the differences between them primarily through Kristol’s work in the 1960s and 1970s, the period in which these differences were most pronounced. We believe it is crucial to understand these differences, as well as the political alternatives within American conservatism they reveal, before understanding the institutional and political conditions that brought the two movements together beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The intellectual conflicts between neoliberalism and neoconservatism did not prevent them from working together over many years, primarily in and around the Republican Party. But these conflicts were nonetheless part of a larger redefinition of both liberalism and conservatism in the United States and worldwide. By all accounts, today’s political turmoil is a continuation of this same political process of transformation.
Sławomir Kozioł holds a PhD from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, and is presently a lecturer at the University of Rzeszów, Poland. He has published a number of papers and a monograph on representations of social space in the twentieth-century British novel, as well as papers dealing with pop culture, art and representations of art in fiction. His recent academic interests also include science fiction and post-humanism.
Legitimation Crisis in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy
According to Ned O’Gorman, a common theme running through most of the analyses of the phenomenon of neoliberalism is the idea of “legitimation crisis,” introduced into social theory by German social philosopher Jürgen Habermas (O’Gorman 27). In Habermas’s view, the modern democratic state, whose primary function is to ensure continuous development of the capitalist economy, also has to serve the needs of the citizens, as the whole system, in order to function properly, needs legitimation in the form of what Habermas calls “an input of mass loyalty” (Legitimation 46). Problems with securing legitimation, which result in a legitimation crisis, may appear in the time of an economic crisis, when there is not enough money earmarked for welfare programmes supposed to deal with the effects of capitalist exploitation through the redistribution of some of the wealth generated by the economy.
The paper is going to discuss methods that might be used by the state to deal with a legitimation crisis as they are represented in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, which is a work of speculative fiction describing developments that could take place in the near future in the United States facing a severe economic crisis caused by a series of environmental disasters. It will be also argued that Atwood’s representation of a legitimation crisis inscribes itself in the long tradition of utopia/dystopia dialectic that has been present in the literature of science-fiction since the 19th century.
In the universe of the trilogy, a legitimation crisis among the members of the rich professional middle class is fended off by interventions in what Habermas calls the socio-cultural sphere, where the authorities try to distract the attention of citizens from important economic and political problems (Legitimation 37). The dissatisfaction of the poor masses, however, is dealt with in an authoritarian manner, which is also one of the developments indicated by Habermas (Lifeworld 384) and other critics of neoliberalism (Bruff). In this way the need for legitimation among the poorer members of society is virtually eliminated.
The resulting social division represented in the trilogy in the form of small eutopian enclaves surrounded by the dystopian world is a motif that has a long history in the tradition of science fiction literature. As Brian Stableford points out, the motif originated in the nineteenth-century reality of laissez-faire capitalism with its savage exploitation of the poor (263). It will be argued that this similarity between Atwood’s vision and the early science-fiction may be seen as reflecting similarity between modern neoliberalism and the classic liberal capitalism of the nineteenth century.
However, apart from authoritarian rule, Atwood indicates another way of dealing with the problem of legitimation crisis – use of genetic technology to produce citizens with desired characteristics. This is a development indicated by Habermas as well (“Debate” 92), and, it will be argued, it echoes the arrangement of the society described in Aldous Huxley’s The Brave New World.
Atwood, Margaret. MaddAddam. 2013. London: Virago, 2014
—. Oryx and Crake. 2003. London: Virago, 2009.
—. The Year of the Flood. 2009. London: Virago, 2010.
Bruff, Ian. “Neoliberalism and authoritarianism.” The Handbook of Neoliberalism. Ed. Simon Springer, Kean Birch and Julie MacLeavy. New York: Routledge, 2016. 107-117.
Habermas, Jürgen. “The Debate on the Ethical Self-Understanding of the Species.” Trans. Hella Beister and Max Pensky. The Future of Human Nature. Cambridge: Polity P, 2003. 16-100.
—. Legitimation Crisis. Trans. Thomas McCarthy. Cambridge: Polity P, 1988.
—. Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. Trans. Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon P, 1987.
O’Gorman, Ned. The Iconoclastic Imagination: Image, Catastrophe, and Economy in America from the Kennedy Assassination to September 11. Chicago: University of Chicago P, 2016.
Stableford, Brian. “Ecology and dystopia.” The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature. Ed. Gregory Claeys. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. 259-281.
Thierry Labica is a senior lecturer in British Studies at the University of Nanterre Paris Ouest. His research interests are in contemporary Marxist critical theory and contemporary British social and political history. He has also been working on a “history of decency” as a long term, more inclusive research project.
Late neoliberalism or, the transition to nowhere.
The inflation of the reference to neoliberalism is such that the signifier itself – “neoliberalism” – may be presumed to have become, by now, a privileged site of a variety of political affects of the generally depressive sort. This contribution wishes to offer an interpretation of this inflation as signaling a dual sense of political and intellectual impasse. (i) Impasse to the extent that the social sciences appear to have been struggling to actually name and conceptualize the state of affairs obtaining under “neoliberalism” whose inflation happens to come along with a corresponding proliferation of the attempts at coinages of the “mot juste” of/for our own period. And this will further be the occasion to note the currency of various non-theoretical categories now commonly mobilized to try and describe contemporary conditions (most notably of work); (ii) and impasse, in the sense that the historical experience that commonly goes under the name of “neoliberalism” has seen the profound crisis of what was once a cherished concept and agenda, ie., Transition: in a still recent, and yet apparently far distant past now, emphases on transition to capitalism and from capitalism to socialism were pivotal to a number of debates and agendas. This paper will then want to suggest that part of our contemporary problems with “neoliberalism” may require critical explorations of some of our own persisting, if silent, (Marxian) intuitions as to transitions, and the assumptions and expectations that have shaped these intuitions, and in particular the visions of work and production that have been so central to them. One preliminary to any such exploration, however, will consist in the very recognition itself of this crisis of transition both as concept and as expectation.
Marc Lenormand is Senior Lecturer in British Studies at the Paul-Valéry University in Montpellier, France. In 2012, he completed a doctoral thesis on “British trade unions in a context of crisis of Labour, extension of industrial disputes and rise of the New Right: a critical history of the 1978-1979 ‘Winter of Discontent’”. He has published articles about the history of the British trade union movement, women in trade unions, trade union democracy, labour politics, and the Conservative anti-union agenda. He was on the editorial board of the interdisciplinary social science journal Tracés for nearly a decade, and co-edited special issues devoted to education, minority rights, political violence and animal rights.
Jacopo Marchetti is currently doing his PhD. program in Philosophy, under the supervision of professor Raimondo Cubeddu, at University of Florence and University of Pisa, where he is also Assistant Chair of Political Philosophy. Among his interests are contemporary political philosophy and epistemology, with particular attention to the Austrian Economic School’s philosophy of social sciences. He was scholar at ‘IISF’ (Italian Institute of Philosophical studies) of Rome and at ‘Magna Carta’ Foundation; he took part in the events of Eranos School Foundation (Ascona, CH), ‘PHPN’ (Association of Political History, University of Warwick, UK) and ECPR (European Consortium for Political Research), of which he is also a following member. Among his works, a book about F. A. Hayek and Michel Foucault, coming out in 2017.
Neo-Liberalism and its relationship with social sciences. In and Out of the ‘myth’ of Free-Market
In this paper I intend to analyze the idea of ‘neo-liberalism’, exploring its relationship with theoretical social sciences and analyzing its conceptual transformation.
Assuming that is impossibile to describe a unique concept of ‘neoliberalism’, because we have firstly to recognize the existence of different historical phases inside of it, i.e. 1938’s Lippmann Colloque, the founding of Mont Pélerin Society by F. A. Hayek in 1947 and the advent of American hegemony in the liberal intellectual community from the 1960’s, I want to show that the emerging breakage that had caused these different phases was built on different interpretations of the role of social sciences.
On one side, the division between the early exponent of neoliberalism, which have prevented the creation of a unified program, only concerned the diversity of political, or sometimes economical proposals, but not a difference in terms of political philosophy of social sciences. While in contrast, the position of Austrian School Economic’s exponents, and in particular the role that Hayek played, has its strength in the connection between political arguments and social sciences premises, developing a theory of human action’s unintentional consequences and showing how the possibility to planning society necessary remains outside the control of us. On the other side, instead, the central focus of neoliberal second generation, based on Milton Friedman’s Methodology of Positive Economics and on Chicago School’s analysis on economic behaviors, was the trust in economic science that became central elements of theoretical social sciences. Such consequences are, in fact, result of the possibility to interpret human action as an economic action not considering that economic science is impossibile to dissociate from the wider perspective of social science.
In this way I argue that in this perspective the free-market advocacy is based on the opinion that economics processes can be used in different political and institutional contexts, not considering its develop in a close connection with the others social science. Therefore I want to demonstrate that the ‘myth’ of the free-market and the de-regulation of the economy are the real but erroneous consequences, arising from the gap between social sciences and economic sciences.
Kostas Maronitis is a political sociologist whose work focuses on the theory and politics of immigrant detention, fear, and diasporic cultural practices. His book Postnationalism and the Challenges to European Integration in Greece is published by Palgrave-Macmillan.
Neoliberalism and Racism in the “Brexit” Debate: The Precarious Subject and its Other.
This paper focuses on the relationship between neoliberalism, xenophobia, and the political debates around Britain’s place in the EU. Although neoliberal theories are not themselves xenophobic, the paper illustrates how generalised competition advocated by neoliberal policies resort to state power and ethnic hierarchies for the defence of sovereignty and national identity. For Wendy Brown (2013) neoliberalism is a specific global rationality that compels populations to engage in an economic struggle against each other. Fiscal consolidation programmes and control of the flow of migrant labour demonstrate that contrary to popular perceptions neoliberalism does not denounce state intervention as a hindrance to private interests but instead encourages the state to provide the necessary conditions for positioning competition at the centre of all socio-political activities (Hayek; Foucault; Roberts). Drawing on the communicative practices of Leave (Vote Leave; leave.eu) and Remain (Britain Stronger in Europe) campaigns respectively in conjunction with the political discourses of immigration, cultural homogeneity, and economic growth the paper argues that contemporary manifestations of neoliberalism produce two subjectivities. First, the campaigns and the debate about “Brexit” made clear that the contemporary neoliberal subject is no longer a subject attached to power but a subject living in precarity illustrated by job insecurity, the waning of the welfare state, and demands for labour flexibility. Second, neoliberalism actively incorporates a xenophobic rhetoric in order to construct an Other to citizens. The construction of this Otherness can be detected in the rhetoric against immigrants depicted as individuals dependent on the welfare state and at the same time as an imminent danger to national security and social cohesion. The paper concludes by arguing that the EU referendum debate re-invented the state as the guardian of neoliberal economy by acknowledging the precarious position of its subjects and by redeploying historical understandings of racism and cultural categorisation in order to appear effective and legitimate.
Marian Mayer (SFHEA, BU Learning & Teaching Fellow) is a Senior Lecturer in Learning Development in the Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University. Marian’s doctoral research explores Transformative Education in the context of the Neoliberal Agenda within the UK HE sector.
Is transformative education in a neoliberal HE context possible? Challenging the dismantling of public sector education.
This paper explores the ways in which students experience transformative learning (Mezirow 1978a, b, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2000) in the contemporary social and political context. The paper is drawn from ongoing doctoral research. Transformative learning has become a buzzword in HE, however as Inglis (1998) argues, for transformational learning to be an agent of change, it is essential to understand political, economic and institutional structures, in order to effect the radical, life changing, emancipation Mezirow (ibid) contends is possible. Inglis (1998) posits that power cannot be challenged without first understanding the ways in which it is controlled and implemented.
Importantly, education research frequently relies heavily on signature theories such as those of Mezirow (ibid), and Bourdieu (1983; 1984; 1985; 1998), who offer understandings of class, power and social space: concepts through which to examine habitus as they impact on transformative learning and teaching. Problematically, and significantly, Bourdieu (ibid) fails to consider intersectionality in relation to engagement in HE. This lacuna of understanding impacts on both educators and learners, militating against transformative learning. .
Thus it is essential that the neoliberal agenda pursued by successive UK governments is both exposed and challenged. As McGettigan (2014, 2015) notes, the rapid expansion and increasing marketisation of the sector is a core function of a neoliberal economic policy (Regan 2009). I argue that this is the ‘DNA’of the dismantling of public sector HE. I develop this analysis – analogous with the double helix of DNA – in order to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of transformative learning. It is my contention that knowledge production should be pursued as a site of radical, emancipatory, transformative education and learning.
Through these understandings, I argue, it is possible to build on the work of Morley (2016), Holmwood, Hickey and Wallis (2016), Freedman (2016) and others to challenge and resist the neoliberal agenda in education, and expose increasing socio-economic inequalities. Neoliberal HE policies can and should be challenged through evidence-based research. As mine and extant research argues, the UK HE sector can be re-imagined and re-invigorated (Morely 2016).
Johnna Montgomerie joined Goldsmiths in October 2013 as part of the new Politics, Philosophy and Economics Degree programme. Her research interests are in all forms of household debt (mortgage, student loans, consumer credit, payday lending) and its relationship to Anglo-American financialisation, especially in the context of never-ending crisis and the new Age of Austerity. She is also interested in exploring innovative methods for exploring the political economy of everyday life. She is the co-author (with William Davies and Sara Wallin) of Financial Melancholia: Mental Health and Indebtedness (London: Political Economy Research Centre 2015), and editor of Forging Economic Discovery in 21st Century Britain (London: Political Economy Research Centre, 2015).
Anglo-Liberal Austerity as economic storytelling about debt
Austerity is an experiment in economic storytelling that seeks to cope with the post-crash British economy by trying to revive and consolidate the Anglo-American financialised growth model and, by doing so, actively prevents the necessary structural economic reforms needed to achieve the desired revitalising of the economy. Framing Austerity as an experiment foregrounds that Austerity is in motion and in real-time, making its potential outcomes contingent and contested. Capturing this transformative dynamic is accomplished by developing an understanding of the practices of economic storytelling that rely on vivid images and simple metaphors to govern the political tensions caused by an historically unprecedented build-up of debt at the national, firm and household level. In this context, Austerity remains contingent and contested. In particular the focus is on how common place metaphors of the public and the private sphere that are used to explain neoliberal logic of Austerity signal to the deep seated gender dynamics and the norms that govern the household sector as a ‘private’ domestic sphere, and explain, in part, how Austerity remains politically powerful. Especially in the light of the obvious economic failings of prolonging economic malaise in the hope of re-animating the stagnating financialised growth model. This is achieved by first developing an analytical framework that draws together structural and everyday political economy accounts of Austerity and brings them into dialogue with established gender analyses of the unequal distributional outcomes that configure Austerity along axes of class, gender and race (MacLeavy 2011, Atkinson and Roberts 2012, Karamessini and Robery 2013, Montgomerie and Tepe-Belfrage 2016). Next, this framework is applied to unpack the debt story in terms of what is told, but also untold, about the nation’s debt crisis. Advancing feminist understandings of the household makes clear how Austerity crafts political states of intervention and exception that directly inhibit economic change or reform of financialisation. Finally, I conclude by considering what feminist-inspired analysis of household can reveal about the fundamental flaws of financialisation under the auspices of Austerity – that debts are both public and private at the same time, transforming the household sector into the ultimate guarantor of continued financialised expansion.
Jacob Mukherjee is a final year PhD student at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He runs a political education course for 16-25 year old working-class Londoners, as well as teaching at Goldsmiths. Prior to his PhD, his research on the Occupy movement in London was published in three journals. He has also been involved in various forms of political activism all his adult life.
Our London: political organising in the neoliberal city
This paper presents my PhD research, which involves participant observation of a London-based activist group over the course of a year leading up to the 2016 city elections. The research focuses on the degree to which the group’s praxis (Gramsci / Smith and Hoare, 1971) produces a collective politics that challenges the neoliberal model of the self (Foucault 2004; Gilbert 2013) and attempts to build a critical consensus (Dussel 2008) out of London’s fragmented and unequal society (Massey 2007). My findings suggest that the group’s moves towards developing a populist politics (Laclau 2005) through counterhegemonic practices (Laclau and Mouffe 1985) are frustrated by some members’ arguably neoliberal approaches to activism, which centre the voice and autonomy of the individual (Dean 2009; 2016).
My main research method is participant observation of the activities of Our London (a pseudonym) over a 12 month period, including attendance at organising meetings, an interview panel to appoint a paid organiser, public events and private social gatherings. These observations are supplemented by hundreds of documents including emails and meeting minutes, as well as by around two thousand screenshots of activists’ Facebook posts. The data are being analysed manually, using an approach influenced by grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967).
Initial analysis suggests that the group struggles to form a common socio-political identity partly because of ambiguity over the basis for unity: are members brought together by a shared radical analysis, or due to their common membership of a social group? The social heterogeneity of the group – along with a tendency to emphasise identity and downplay interests – produces some confusion over the social category members constitute and seek to represent: is Our London for “the majority”, “the marginalised”, or simply “ordinary Londoners”?
An additional ambiguity concerns the group’s modus operandi. To employ a distinction suggested by Tormey (2005), at times Our London seems to pursue a “utopian world” in its pursuit of radical structural transformation, while at others it seeks to create “utopian spaces”: protected zones that subvert dominant norms and power relations. Furthermore, conflicting understandings of power can be observed – a Foulcauldian (1976) notion of power as dispersed throughout a variety of institutions and processes, and a Gramscian (1971) model of power as related to social groups and their interests.
Activists’ social identities and political dispositions – often overlooked in studies of activism and new media – also inform their communicative practices. For example, I found that Our London activists operating within a Foucauldian understanding of power and adopting a “utopian spaces” approach to organising tended to treat Facebook as a medium to assert and explore identities, while those with a more strategic orientation used the platform as a forum for political discussion. This affirms that the participatory affordances of different media cannot be understood outside of social context and the dispositions and intentions of social actors (Madianou and Miller 2013).
Rachel O’Neill is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of York, UK. Her research is concerned with dynamics of gender, subjectivity, intimacy and sexual politics. Her most recent project explored these themes through an ethnographic study of the ‘seduction community’ in London. A monograph based on this research, entitled The Work of Seduction, is forthcoming from Polity.
Enterprising Intimacy in the London ‘Seduction Community’
This paper examines how entrepreneurial imperatives to work on and invest in the sexual self reshape the meaning and experience of intimacy. My discussion is based in an ethnographic study of the so-called ‘seduction community’, a commercialised cultural formation in which the affective dynamics of attraction and desire are understood as part of a skill set that can be actively cultivated. Those who are drawn to and participate in this sphere — almost exclusively heterosexual men — hope to achieve greater control and choice in their relationships with women. Through research undertaken in the seduction community in London, a central locus within a wider transnational network, this paper attempts to shift attention away from the controversial figure of the ‘pickup artist’ and onto the lived experiences of those who participate in this sphere. It challenges the routine dismissal of such men as pathetic, pathological or perverse, and takes seriously the question of what makes the seduction community and the forms of expertise it promotes compelling for many men. In doing so I raise larger questions about the manner in which neoliberal rationalities pattern masculine subjectivities and heterosexual intimacies.
Charlotte Pelletan is a Ph.D student in Political Science at the Institute of Political Science of Bordeaux. Her Ph.D. research aims at re-thinking access to medicines through the reconnection of health systems, architecture of pharmaceutical industry and innovation dynamics. She has co-written with Palesa Sekhejane (HSRC) a book chapter entitled “HIV and AIDS Triumphs and Struggles: Developmental Gap for Biomedical Sciences and Healthcare Systems Innovation in South Africa”, [Busani Ngcaweni ed., Sizonqoba: Outliving AIDS in Southern Africa, (HSRC/AISA)].
The Welfare state into question: access to medicines and the neoliberal era. How to “talk left and walk right” in South Africa; the case of HIV/AIDS policy
This communication aims at questioning the mutations of the South African state in a neoliberal era. The growing commodification of medicines happens to put into question the scope of state prerogatives in the health sector. In such a context, collective action to enable access to medicines are channelled by critiques of neoliberalism in favour of a traditional vision of the “welfare state” as it has been modelled by Esping-Andersen, announcing the imminent collapse of neoliberalism (Wallerstein, Stiglitz, etc). On the contrary, this communication aims at showing, on the basis of the South African ARV sector, that medicines supply is organized according to a neoliberal rationality.
The ambiguities of neoliberalism in South Africa
The successful management of HIV/AIDS in South Africa has been praised by international organizations such as UNAIDS. In less than ten years, universal antiretroviral treatment coverage has been nearly achieved and the press headlines around the world claim that the South African government managed to get the cheapest antiretroviral medicines in the world. Nevertheless, the possibilities of/for developing a genuine “welfare state” in South Africa tackles a range of issues. The post-Apartheid era’s social goals have rapidly been overwhelmed by the macroeconomic agenda adopted in 1996. Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) rolled out a range of neoliberal instruments in order to align its economic agenda to world trade policies. The impacts of economic globalization, characterized by free trade policies and high unemployment rates, have challenged the basic requirements for the development of a welfare state. Nowadays, the pharmaceutical sector is undermined by the massive imports of highly competitive generic medicines from India, of Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredients from China and the flight of investments (Kudlinski, 2012). The dependence on multinational pharmaceutical companies challenges the implementation of a sound and sustainable health policy.
Several authors have emphasized the ANC government’s “talk left and walk right” (Patrick Bond 2014), to wits the gap between neoliberal macroeconomic policies on the one hand and the social discourses promoted by the ANC on the other hand. This incoherence is at the core of the communication. How can one understand the apparent disconnection between the neoliberal macroeconomic policy and the social discourse in politics?
Dealing with neoliberalism is risky. As a doctrine, it promotes laissez-faire and the state’s rolling back (this description is purposely simplistic). Neoliberalism as a matter of politics designates an ideological domination project (Harvey, 2005) that has been namely implemented in Southern countries through the Washington Consensus and its liberal restructuring in the 80s. Its impact on African countries has been considerable: far from epitomizing some national trajectories based on a specific political doctrine as Thatcher’s government was, neoliberalism in Africa amounted to destroy postcolonial developmental states. As a social fact, it is far more complex. It more broadly embodies a new rationality where the state extends market rationality throughout all sphere of human existence (Dardot et Laval). It amounts to say that the market norm is omnipresent as the « framing » of social life (Goffman) even if markets themselves are not dramatically expanding.
Then, how to tackle the New Public Management governance style in South Africa? Our point is to mark a difference between neoliberal politics and neoliberal policies. The first one designates a hegemonic political project and the second one tackles government practices (Collier, 2005). This communication specifically focuses on the second meaning and suggests that these neoliberal practices amount less to the retreat of the state than to its redeployment through market mechanisms.
The goal of this communication is to explain that HIV/AIDS policy is not destroyed but (re)designed by neoliberal mechanisms. It is based on the postulates that the neoliberal state consists in the dissemination of market principles within society and that medicines are designed as market objects. A first part will show that the conflicts over the nature of medicines have to be read through the frame of historical capitalist dynamics which have been at the basis of state making in South Africa. It is critical to understand that negotiations around access to medicines in South Africa have been organized around capitalist framing. Even contestations emanating from civil society have continuously –and paradoxically- strengthened it by resorting to intellectual property legal frames, institutionalized policy arenas, etc. The second part will expatiate upon the reformulation of access to medicines as a key sector of neoliberal rationality. In short, this means that ANC social prerogatives on a highly politicized disease –HIV/AIDS- are fulfilled by what I call a “paradoxical commodification”: the resort to new public management tools enables the strengthening of state regulation of ARVs.
Theoretical lens: a political sociology of neoliberalism
Our postulate lies in the idea that neoliberalism has not to be studied as the retreat of the state but as a political production which carries specific social relationships (Boyer, 2015). Since the 90s in the US, political studies have emerged on capitalism but they are not specifically focused on neoliberalism and favour macro approach with typified models of state (see the Variety of Capitalisms [VOC] developed Soskice and Hall). Resorting to heterodox economics and sociology helps escape the Manichean distinction between strong (welfare) and weak (neoliberal) states developed by VOC. Indeed, some authors like Collier and Ferguson have paved the way for sociological studies of neoliberalism. This communication will explain that the neoliberal state is not dissolved by the market nor develops social policies autonomously from it. On the contrary, it gives its structure to the market by a set of frames which are external to the market (regulations, reputation, expertise, infrastructure and so on). The validity of the notion of neoliberalism will be affirmed.
This paper proposal is a part of my PhD thesis. It is based on an 11 months fieldwork in South Africa.
Bond Patrick, « Talk Left, Walk Right », in South Africa Social Policy: Tokenistic Extension of State Welfare, or Bottom-up Commoning of Services”. Communication au séminaire sur les politiques sociales à la School of Development Studies, University of Kwazulu Natal, 19 février 2014
Boyer Robert, Économie politique des capitalismes, Paris, La Découverte, 2015
Collier Stephen, Post-Soviet Social: Neoliberalism, Social Modernity, Biopolitics. Princeton 2011.
Dardot Pierre, Laval Chrisitan, La Nouvelle Raison du Monde, essai sur la société néolibérale, Paris, La Découverte, 2009
Esping-Andersen Gosta, The three worlds of welfare capitalism, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1990
Harvey David, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, 2005
Kudlinski Andre, Chapter 12 “Harmonizing national policies for healthcare, pharmaceutical industry and intellectual property: the South African experience”, in Emerging markets and the world patent order: the forces of change, F. Abbott, C. Correa & P. Drahos eds., Cheltenham, UK ; Northampton, MA, USA : Edward Elgar, 2013
Ancienne élève de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan et professeure agrégée d’anglais, je suis doctorante en Civilisation des Pays Anglophones à l’Ecole Doctorale Cultures et Sociétés de l’Université Paris-Est, Créteil et ATER à l’Université Paris-Est, Marne-la-Vallée où j’enseigne la civilisation américaine. J’ai réalisé deux mémoires de M2 sur l’Afrique du Sud, l’un en Civilisation des Pays Anglophones portant sur les liens entre le combat contre l’apartheid et le mouvement pour les Droits Civiques aux Etats-Unis (Université Paris 7, Diderot, 2010), l’autre en Etudes Africaines, option Sciences Politique, sur la sur-incarcération dans la communauté « Coloured » (« métisse ») au Cap (Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne, 2012). Mon sujet de thèse s’inscrit dans la continuité de ce dernier mémoire et traite des questions d’incarcération en lien avec la question raciale dans l’Afrique du Sud contemporaine.
Crime, race and the neoliberal society in contemporary South Africa.
When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, he made it clear that the economic policy of the African National Congress would be inspired by socialism and aim towards retribution for past economic injustices in South Africa. In 1996, 2 years only after the first democratic elections, however, the ANC launched the Growth, Employment And Redistribution Policy (GEAR), a document many commentators described as a self-imposed structural adjustment program (Marais, 2011). Although it was abandoned in 2006, GEAR marked a neoliberal moment in the economic policy and political philosophy of the ANC. While the shift to democracy foretold the end of structural inequalities, violence and mass incarceration, the increase in crime rates was perceived as a threat to the economic well-being of the country (Super, 2010a, 2010b, 2011, 2013). As a result, the curbing of crime was geared towards ‘0 tolerance’ methods and punishment, in keep with Loïc Wacquant’s image “the iron fist of the state”, meant to alleviate “the invisible hand of the market” and the maintaining of high incarceration rates appeared as the sole answer to crime (Wacquant, 2000, 2008, 2010).
In this presentation, I will therefore try to show in what way South Africa’s neoliberal policies (re)articulated notions of social instability around fears of crime and violence and how, in turn, the contours of race and social identities were redrawn to separate the grain from the bran; the deserving citizens from the anti-social criminal. We will dive into the world of the South African prison, where I gathered the life-stories of inmates between 2014 and 2015, to show in what sense the neoliberal philosophy also permeated its walls – namely through the rehabilitation discourse imposed on prisoners (Gillespie, 2008) – thus creating a renewed racialized discourse about crime and social harm.
Dr Guy Redden is a senior lecturer in cultural studies at the University of Sydney. His work concerns the connections between culture and economy. He is currently writing a book about performance measurement and one recent paper is titled ‘Is Reality TV Neoliberal?’ (spoiler – the answer is yes).
Neoliberalism with Australian Characteristics: From the Investor State to Austerity Lite.
This paper takes its cue from geographical work that identifies the hybridized forms ‘neoliberalization’ takes in context while acknowledging the patterns that connect them. It traces Australian neoliberal reforms up to recent ‘budget repair’—centred upon cuts to welfare and social spending and selective reduction of taxes—which has much in common with austerity policies elsewhere. However, in the absence of an actual economic crisis in the country, the Australian case shows how such ‘neoliberalism 3.0’ that redoubles already-existing trends towards inequality can be constructed on contingent grounds.
I propose that reforms of the last two decades engendered a cultural shift that has made Australians amenable to the ratcheting up of neoliberal common sense. In particular, the Howard administration (1996-2007) not only cut taxes on capital and high income earners as per trickle-down doxa. It created the ‘investor state’—a uniquely generous (and expensive) system of state support for asset investors and consumers of private health and education. Through this Howard fulfilled the neoliberal imperative for state interventions supportive of markets in a locally adapted way.
But of particular note is how the investor state redirected the welfarist sentiments of Australians away from direct government social provision based on need towards welfare redefined as state support of ‘ordinary citizens’ electing to make private investment and consumption choices. Exploring Foucauldian and Marxist approaches to the legitimation of neoliberalism I argue that this has fostered popular sensibilities and rationalities that have allowed its Australian form to shape shift. I propose that the financial mechanisms of the investor state directly enrol citizens into economizing subjectivities of markets, while populist rhetoric stressing opportunity for all creates ideological cover for what is ultimately a powerful strategy of upwards redistribution of wealth. It is capital owners who gain the benefits of the investor state’s matching government funds—and strictly in proportion to the amount of capital they are able to commit to markets.
Chris Roberts is Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Media and Culture and the University of Roehampton, London. His research is usually oriented around media representation(s) of conflict, “business”, politics and capital. He is a Critical Discourse Analyst. His PhD research “The Appropriation of ‘the dramatic’ in contemporary British Current Affairs broadcasting: Narrative and Characterisation tropes, Critical Discourse Analysis [CDA] of Panorama’s coverage of the Iraq War” has just been completed (though not yet examined at time of writing)
Neoliberal Capitalism and the Global Financial Crisis a media discourse: Why are the architects of the crisis the self-same discursive actors called upon the solve it?
This paper is oriented around the notion that the crisis of capitalism [always disavowed as crisis of capitalism] (GFC 2008) has been effectively [re]framed in such a way as to render alternatives and alternative narrative almost impossible to produce. Normative assumptions – what Mark Fisher calls ‘Capitalist Realism’  – are dominant or almost the only frames of reference for narrating the crisis. The case will be made that, restricted as it is by various normative news values; aesthetics; source relations; resource and time pressures it is in fact not possible to effectively “tell the story” of the “crisis of capitalism” within the narrow discourses of media and journalism.
The paper develops a systemic and systematic frame and mode of analysis regarding the mainstream media’s – BBC in particular – narration and explanation of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC); the ways in which said reporting establishes a mode of address, and establishes a frame through which the crisis was and is understood. Most acute for this paper is the rhetoric, the discourse, the linguistic and lexical choices and the impact this has on the epistemology of the UK political economy. The paper will argue and demand that a wider range of sources, discursive features, and solutions are proposed, and that said solutions or proposals are beyond and not restricted to neoliberal “solutions” to the crisis of its (neoliberalism’s) own making.
Srila Roy is Associate Professor at University of the Witwatersand, Johannesburg, and Honorary Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham. She is an Editor of Feminist Theory, Associate Editor of the Journal of South Asian Development, on the editorial board of The Sociological Review, and the international advisory board of Feminist Dissent. Her long standing research interest is in the constitution of political subjectivity at the intersection of gender, caste-class, and sexuality in postcolonial contexts, especially India/South Asia. Her current project draws on an ethnography of women’s and sexual rights movements in economically liberalized India to consider feminist self-making in neoliberal times. She is the author of Remembering Revolution: Gender, Violence and Subjectivity in India’s Naxalbari Movement (Oxford University Press, 2012), and has edited volumes of essays on New South Asian Feminisms (Zed books) and New Subaltern Politics (OUP 2015), and co-edited special issues of Global Sociology and the postcolonial studies journal, Interventions.
Feminism in neoliberal India: subjects, ethics, politics
In prominent critiques of contemporary feminism across the North and the South, neoliberal governmentality is said to shape ‘technologies of the self’ that are perfectly congruent with the larger political and economic rationalities of neoliberalism. The question of how and why particular (neoliberal) subject positions are taken up – or not – is given less attention. The presiding assumption is that of the successful hailing of subjects by neoliberalism in ways that serve to eclipse from view the constitution of subjectivities by different political rationalities alongside or in resistance to neoliberal ones. Is it possible to conceive of and promote ways of being that are not simply and exclusively neoliberal?
To answer this question, I turn to the later Foucault not in order to read feminism as a form of governmentality but as a technology of the self, that is, as a set of ethical and aesthetic practices through which individuals fashion and transform themselves. The ‘care of the self’ shifts our analytic lens from domination to subjectification (the active process of the subject constituting herself) and demands an epistemic shift from feminism as an institutional form (politics) to feminism as a practice of creative self-fashioning (ethics). I turn to those everyday practices through which women and queers in India today constitute themselves as feminist subjects and how these can potentially give rise to non-normative ways of being with respect to the market and capital, and at the intersections of class, caste, gender and sexuality. An emphasis on technologies of the self might also offer, I argue, ways of resisting modern forms of subjection in a neoliberal moment where the gendered subject is a key site of the workings of governmental power. The subject thus constitutes a key point of departure for historicizing feminism in India, as well as a springboard for mapping alternative rationalities and practices through which we can govern ourselves than those available in neoliberalism.
Heather Savigny is Professor of Media Discourse, in the Media Discourse Group, Leicester Media School, de Montfort University. She writes broadly in the areas of media, gender and politics. Her most recent book Political Communication (2016) has just been published by Palgrave, and she is currently working on a monograph: Heavy Metal, Feminism and Politics. Her work has appeared in journals such as BJPIR, Political Studies, EPS, Feminist Media Studies, and most recently in Media, Culture and Society.
Sistah’s are doing it to themselves: The gendered neoliberal academic environment
As Gill (2015) argues, neoliberal academia contains hidden injuries. This paper argues that these injuries have a significantly gendered dimension, but this is one that occurs both for women, and has also enacted by women. As such, the experience of the neoliberal becomes complex, contradictory, and dynamic. In an analysis of women’s experiences in a postfeminist neoliberal context (cf. Gill, 2016), I argue that this neoliberal agenda has marginalised, isolated and ‘injured ‘ women. Simultaneously, the very existence of the conversation about these injuries has generated a backlash. And it is this backlash in particular, that I seek to make sense of.
Postfeminist neoliberal authors have argued that women, in the contemporary socio/political/economic environment are now ‘empowered’ and have ‘choice’ (Sandberg, 2013). Yet the emptiness of these conceptual claims, as used in a postfeminist context (cf. Gill, 2016), have meant that under the surface, the hidden injuries occur in particular way, for some academic women. I say some academic women for 2 reasons. 1) because feminism reminds us that women are complex rather than homogenous (hooks, 1981) and 2) because some of the women I interviewed reject, with overt hostility, the research that I have conducted. And it is the reaction to the existence of the conversation/dialogue itself that is of particular interest within this paper. Theoretically this is underpinned by the tensions between two structural contexts. On the one hand, neoliberalism, individualises experience and, through this process renders invisible structures of oppression (Phipps, 2016) on the other hand, a feminist analysis renders sites of oppression explicit. And it is at the intersection of the site where the contemporary neoliberal, meets the postfeminist context, that my research is situated.
Through a number of interviews and other qualitative data drawn from women across a variety of UK universities, this paper explores: empirically, the range of women’s experiences in a neoliberal context; and theoretically, the contradictions and tensions that existence in an analysis of a postfeminist neoliberalism; finally, more widely I consider what a feminist response to a neoliberal backlash to feminism in a postfeminist context, looks like.
Bradley T. Smith, Institut français de géopolitique (IFG), Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis
Bradley T. Smith completed a PhD in American Studies at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 in 2015. His doctoral dissertation, entitled “The Dialectics of Neoliberalism in the United States: From the Origins of the ‘Conservative Revolution’ to the 2008 Financial Crisis,” explores the political, social, and economic transformations that characterized the rise of neoliberalism in the United States. He is currently an adjunct at the Institut français de géopolitique (IFG) at the Université Paris 8 Vincennes – Saint-Denis.
See Lucie de Carvalho abstract
Jérôme Viala-Gaudefroy recently submitted and successfully defended his doctoral thesis on “National Myths in post-Cold War presidential discourse”. His research focuses on political communication, particularly the interaction between American presidential discourse and national identity. He is a course lecturer of American studies at the Université of Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3 and the Webmaster of the French Association of American Studies.
Mythification of Market-Based Economics through Metaphors in Post-Cold War U.S. Presidential Discourse.
Neoliberalism has dominated the discourse of American presidents for the past 35 years. That same period has also seen an increased tendency to tie the two main tenets of neoliberalism, market-based economics and free trade, to a particular core value of American identity, freedom. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is largely credited with expanding the idea of freedom to include economic and social realms, but by the end of the Cold War and the Reagan presidency, freedom came to be defined primarily in economic terms. As the “free world” admitted authoritarian regimes in its ranks in the name of anti-communism, economic freedom rather than political liberty became the measure of goodness (Numberg, 2003). The collapse of the Soviet block only served to bolster the vision that free market and free trade alone could bring prosperity and political freedom. This philosophy became the dominant worldview at international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF and solidified its hold on republican and democratic presidents alike (McNaught, 2009).
This paper will examine how American presidents from George H. Bush to Barack Obama have made free market and free trade sacred features at the heart of the American model to be exported in the post-Cold War world. Drawing on the rhetorical and cognitive approaches developed by Lakoff and Johnson (1981), Chilton (2004) and Christ’l De Landtsheer and Beer (2004), we will focus on the conceptual metaphors that both reinforce and reveal this worldview shared by the last four American presidents. We will see how an abstract economic philosophy has been made comprehensible and sacred through metaphors of movement and journey, organic and machine metaphors, and game and health metaphors. We will argue that such metaphors contribute to creating a mythical vision of free trade and free market. We will conclude on a discussion about the possible influence of this consensual vision on more recent political developments, like the response to the financial meltdown of 2008 or the latest rise in populism both on the Right and the Left of the American political spectrum.
Beer, Francis (dir.), De Landtsheer, Christ’l (dir.), Metaphorical World Politics, Michigan State University Press, 2004.
Bourdieu Pierre, Thompson John B., Language and Symbolic Power, Harvard University Press, 1991.
Chilton, Paul, Analyzing Political Discourse, Routledge, 2004.
Coe Kevin, « The Language of Freedom in the American Presidency », Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 37, N° 3, 2007.
Foley, Michael, American Credo: the Place of Ideas in U.S. Politics, Oxford University Press, 2007.
Foner, Eric, « American Freedom in a Global Age », American Historical Review, Vol 106, N°1, February 2001.
Lakoff George, Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2006.
—, Johnson, Mark, Metaphors We Live By, University of Chicago Press, 1981.
Marienstras, Elise, Les mythes fondateurs de la nation américaine, François Maspero, 1976.
McGee Michael Calvin , « The ‘Ideograph’ : A Link Between Rhetoric and Ideology, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 66, N° 1, p. 1-16, 1980.
McNaught, Mark Bennet, La religion civile américaine de Reagan à Obama, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009.
Numberg, Geoffrey, « The Nation: Freedom vs. Liberty, More Than Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose », The New York Times, 23 mars 2003.
Pitkin, Hanna, « Are Freedoms and Liberty Twins? », Political Theory, Vol.16, N° 4, p.523-552, 1988.
Slotkin, Richard, Gunfighter Nation : the Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America, Harper Perennial, 1993.
Thurow, Lester, Dangerous Currents: The State of Economics, New York, Random, 1983.
Ben Whitham is Lecturer in International Relations at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK. He is currently developing publications from his PhD research, which explored post-Cold War British security policies and practices as elements of a wider ‘neoliberal way of war’. Ben previously held a professional policy role at a national charity, working on public services in England and Wales, and is currently a non-executive director at the Nuclear Information Service, an NGO working on safety issues around the manufacture and storage of the UK’s nuclear weapons.
Ways of seeing, ways of being: Re-assessing neoliberalism as ideology and governmentality
‘Neoliberalism’, a term which exploded in academic usage in the 1990s and early 2000s, might have been expected to decline in popularity following the massive state interventions into financial markets after the 2008 crash. On the contrary, it continues to dominate critical scholarship in fields across the spectrum of the social sciences, from anthropology to international relations. One large and still expanding area of literature, cutting across many of these fields, seeks to either define or explain the utility and persistence of the concept of neoliberalism itself. This paper contributes to that discussion by proffering an original re-assessment of the dominant strands of critical conceptual and phenomenological scholarship on neoliberalism – the Marxian strand that considers neoliberalism as ideology, and the Foucauldian strand that designates it a form of governmentality. The paper first borrows John Berger’s translation of the Marxian concept of ideology into powerful “ways of seeing” the world, enriching this notion with other scholarship on ideology, especially Slavoj Žižek’s Lacanian approach, and illustrates what neoliberal ways of seeing might look like. The second part of the paper plugs this semiotically-oriented concept of ideologies as powerful ways of seeing into a practice-oriented appropriation of Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality. Taking seriously Foucault’s claim that neoliberalism represents “a whole way of being”, the paper explores how neoliberal ways of being are enabled and encouraged by pervasive neoliberal ways of seeing. This new conceptual framework poses a key challenge, running throughout the paper, to popular understandings of both ideology and governmentality. The author identifies and challenges in particular the “vertical metaphor” by which ideology is understood to be something imposed “top-down” upon societies and governmentality to be practices that emerge “bottom-up” within societies. The paper concludes by considering health policy and practice in England as an illustrative example of the play of neoliberal ways of seeing and being in practice.
Karen Wilkes is Lecturer in Sociology at Birmingham City University. Her interdisciplinary research on visual texts explores the formation and representation of gender, class, sexuality, and race in historical and contemporary visual culture and her book Whiteness, Weddings and Tourism in the Caribbean: Paradise for Sale, was published in September 2016. She has also published the following work; book chapters entitled, “From the Landscape to the White Female Body” in the edited collection Mediating the Tourist Experience edited by Jo-Anne Lester and Caroline Scarles, and “Whiteness and Postcolonial Luxury” in Unsettling Whiteness edited by Lucy Michael and Samantha Schultz. Her journal article entitled “Colluding with Neoliberalism: post-feminist subjectivities, whiteness and expressions of entitlement”, was published in Feminist Review in July 2015.
Signifying neoliberal practices: whiteness, postfeminist subjects and the ‘clean eating’ movement
The subject of ‘clean-eating’ is significant for the way in which it combines and articulates a range of overlapping contemporary social phenomena; neoliberalism, postfeminism, ‘wellness’, food, taste and class, celebrity and networked cultures. This new food movement, an extreme approach to healthy eating, draws attention to the ways in which gender, race and class intersect to promote neoliberal principles of hard work, meritocracy and the seemingly ‘natural’ allocation of economic and material rewards to the already privileged. This paper examines a selection of these popular media discourses, as signifying practices in their role in normalizing and legitimizing privilege and whiteness as the ideal. Integral to this discussion, is the way in which race and class work are being undertaken by postfeminist neoliberal subjects in the creation of lucrative new markets of ‘well-being’. This discussion draws on scholarship that critically discusses the way in which neoliberal discourses have become ‘common-sense’ and hegemonic (Hall et al. 2013); influencing and shaping western societies through popular media cultures (Gill, 2007; Ringrose and Walkerdine, 2008). The paper seeks to demonstrate how this seemingly innocuous fad, is insidious and is a tenant of neoliberalism, employed to deftly work its way into the intimate lives of individuals (Hall 2013). It “is therefore a powerful lens on the contemporary world” (Warde and Yates, 2016) where white postfeminist subjects exploit their “assumed and understood” (Bhattacharyya et al., 2001: 11) racial and class position as superior (Davison and Shire, 2014) and express their entitlement as social media entrepreneurs and wellness experts, clean eating bloggers, and become celebrities and beneficiaries of the market with lucrative book deals and television programmes.
As this paper aims to demonstrate, discourses that have positioned white female subjects as ideal neoliberal subjects, require images of the ability to produce “responsibilized and self-managed lives through self-application and self-transformation” (Scharff, 2016: 217), examples of this mantra are not only necessary, but imperative to maintain the ‘believability’ and viability of neoliberal regimes.
Professor Michael Wilmore’s academic career spans more than twenty-five years, several disciplines, and positions both in the UK and Australia. He has held posts as Associate Dean (Learning Innovation) at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, and Associate Dean (Education) at the University of Adelaide, initially in the Department of Anthropology, but for the majority of time in the Department of Media, including more than three years as Head of Department. Mike’s experience in university leadership encompasses extensive work on curriculum development, information and communication technology projects, collaborations with industry and other education providers, as well as finance and workload management. He has been an active researcher on a number of projects funded through competitive research grants. Each has involved extensive interdisciplinary and industry collaborations, ranging from media organisations in Nepal to the antenatal department of a large hospital. His research interests primarily concern development and health communication, but he has also completed educational research and a project on fieldwork practices in archaeology, which was his first area of study as an undergraduate at the University of Exeter.
Does Common Pool Resource Theory Suggest New Options for University Staff Professional Development in the Age of Neoliberal Higher Education Policy?
This paper considers the organisation of academic professional development in higher education in terms of common pool resource [CPR] theory (Ostrom 1990). It examines the maintenance, reinvigoration or transformation of established forms of collegiality and collective organisation in universities in terms of CPR theory, and whether approaches to professional development that emphasize collective action and responsibility can off-set current trends towards individualism, marketization and consumerism in higher education. This enables us to assess current trends in university support for academics’ professional development and the potential for CPR theory to contribute to new thinking about this important aspect of university life and academics’ experience of work. The paper examines whether CPR theory might serve as the foundation of systems of management and organisation that can ameliorate the worst side-effects of neoliberalism in higher education. The paper concludes by considering whether CPR theory can offer an alternative to neoliberal thinking as it is applied to the development of higher education policy in general.
Ostrom, E., 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective
 Sarah Gerry, Jones v. City of Los Angeles: A Moral Response to One City’s Attempt To Criminalize, Rather than Confront Its Homelessness Crisis, Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review;Winter2007, Vol. 42 Issue 1, p.241.
 Henry Weinstein, Cara Mia DiMassa, “Justices Hand L.A.’s Homeless a Victory: in a case with national import, a federal appeals court rules the LAPD cannot arrest people for sitting, lying or sleeping on skid row sidewalks” Los Angeles Times, 15th of April 2006.
 Neil Brenner, Nik Theodore, Cities And Geographies: ‘Actually Existing Neoliberalism’, Antipode, July 2002, Volume 34, Issue3, 349-404, Jamie Peck, ‘Neo liberalizing Space’, Antipode, Volume34, Issue3,380-404,Dec 2002.
 Don Mitchell, The Right to the City: Social Justice and the Fight for Public Space, New York and London: Guilford Press, 2003.