Journal Article

What is neo-liberalism?

Stephanie Lee Mudge

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 6, issue 4, pages 703-731
Published in print October 2008 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwn016
What is neo-liberalism?

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Neo-liberalism is an oft-invoked but ill-defined concept in the social sciences. This article conceptualizes neo-liberalism as a sui generis ideological system born of struggle and collaboration in three worlds: intellectual, bureaucratic and political. Emphasizing neo-liberalism's third ‘face’, it argues that a failure to grasp neo-liberalism as a political form imposes two limitations on understanding its effects: (i) fostering an implicit assumption that European political elites are ‘naturally’ opposed to the implementation of neo-liberal policies; and (ii) tending to pre-empt inquiry into an unsettling fact—namely, that the most effective advocates of policies understood as neo-liberal in Western Europe (and beyond) have often been elites who are sympathetic to, or are representatives of, the left and centre-left. Given that social democratic politics were uniquely powerful in Western Europe for much of the post-war period, neo-liberalism within the mainstream parties of the European left deserves particular attention.

Keywords: liberalism; neo-liberalism; economic thought; institutionalism; political economy; A14 sociology of economics; B2 history of economic thought since 1925; F59 international relations and international political economy

Journal Article.  10347 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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