As other contributors to this symposium have noted, Mutant Neoliberalism effectively illustrates that neoliberalism cannot be reduced to neoclassical economics or the Washington Consensus, but instead must be understood as a constantly mutating cultural and political formation. What I want to address in this piece is the methodological lessons this volume offers those working in LPE.
There is a tension at the heart of the neoliberal state, between the ambition to install the market as a legally-mandated universal norm, and the ambition to nurture the most innovative, competitive and powerful firms and territories.
In an interview, Michel Foucault said that when “actually existing” socialism was put in scare quotes, as if it were not exactly “real,” the only thing the scare quotes revealed was the strength of an abstract ideal that theorists invariably used as a measuring stick to evaluate, and theoretically marginalize, whatever was actually happening on the ground. What if we were to apply such an ironic qualification to neoliberalism?
As I noted in my first post, it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic will force a reckoning with the democratic deficit in the European Union and prompt a renewal of left-wing politics across the continent. However, the existing constitutional machinery of the five presidencies that make up the EU is both complex and considerably resistant to change, even (perhaps especially) in a crisis.
Ken Loach’s 2016 film I Am Daniel Blake (2016) depicts post-crash austerity in all of its bleak barbarity. The plot revolves around the film’s protagonist, a middle-aged carpenter, who attempts to navigate the British welfare system after a heart attack makes it hard for him to work. The message the system sends to our unlucky hero is that he is not worthy: of the state’s resources, of an employer’s goodwill, of anyone’s sympathy, of his own basic humanity. On Michel Feher’s assessment, we might add another shortcoming: he isn’t creditworthy, either.
Mutant Neoliberalism is an excellent collection of essays canvassing what editors William Callison and Zachary Manfredi rightly diagnose as the changing face of neoliberalism – really, the multiplicity of national, transnational and post-national neoliberalisms – evolving in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Instead of a mortal wounding, the crisis generated the paradox, as several authors in the collection note, that neoliberalism’s failures led to more, not less, neoliberalism.
Will the rise of new political forces and the explosion of global crises sound neoliberalism’s death knell? Or will ostensible challenges to existing political and economic orders instead catalyze new mutations in neoliberalism’s dynamic development? Mutant Neoliberalism, a recent edited collection, brings together leading scholars of neoliberalism—political theorists, historians, philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists—to rethink transformations…