The who and the how of the neoliberal revolution
September 5, 2019 12:12 PM   Subscribe

What are the best current articles out there describing the underlying strategies, organizational and networking efforts, and related movement-building practices that went into effecting the neoliberal revolution?

I'm designing a seminar this coming semester to a group of bright young undergrads on activism, organizing, and social change.

While nearly all of the case studies I've selected so far are focused on broadly progressive and radical left examples, I decided kind of last-minute to dedicate a unit toward the end of class looking at how what we now call the neoliberal revolution was envisioned and enacted.

Arguably, the achievement of neoliberal hegemony was won at least in part as a result of some pretty clearly outlined strategies and accompanying understandings of power, political economy, and social struggle, combined with coordinated efforts informed by these assumptions. I am curious about these strategies, efforts, and the people who led them (e.g. key figures spanning the Mont Pelerin Society, certain business groups, influential politicians and political operatives).

Although I do have a lot of books in my office outlining aspects of these histories in gory detail, I was wondering if folks had any favourite / well-written article-length pieces that synthesize these histories and which might be compelling to assign to my students?

posted by eagle-bear to Law & Government (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Response by poster: Ha, thanks -- yeah that's precisely the one I've got sitting on my desk now and which prompted my question. While certainly authoritative, it is a bit ponderous and, like a lot of history books in its genre, it's rather dense on details and less forthcoming on synthesizing lessons.

Naomi Klein's chapters from The Shock Doctrine are tempting and written in accessible popular prose. But it's getting a bit old now (2007) and it might be too much of a pendulum swing in the other direction stylistically, particularly if I'm hoping to challenge my students intellectually.
posted by eagle-bear at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2019

This episode of the Dig is one of my favorite recent media on the subject.
posted by ropeladder at 1:42 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Neoliberalism: The Idea that Changed the World is long-ish but it is a pretty good overview of how neoliberal economic theory was slowly transformed from corporate-friendly propaganda into an "objective" hard science
posted by joechip at 5:10 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Currently listening to Jacob Hacker's American Amnesia which chronicles the decline of the consensus around what he calls the "mixed economy" (government + business) to anti-government orthodoxy that pervades the elite class today.

Note this is not an impartial account; he explicitly argues that this view is not ineffective but (as the title implies) factually wrong about the roots of American success.
posted by mark k at 11:09 PM on September 5, 2019

Best answer: The Road from Mont Pelerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective edited by Philip Mirowski & Dieter Plehwe

The last article--Defining Neoliberalism by Mirowski--is what first came to mind when you asked for a more synthetic look at neoliberalism presented in a compelling way.
posted by davedave at 5:46 AM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lisa Duggan's Twilight of Equality
posted by Morpeth at 10:40 AM on September 6, 2019

Response by poster: Thanks all. I was also considering assigning the historical context chapter from Philip Mirowski's book, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste. However, davedave's suggestion includes a hilariously detailed dissection of how the Wikipedia entry for "neoliberalism" was composed, which is very meta for students who are usually prohibited from citing Wikipedia. I kind of love it.
posted by eagle-bear at 9:11 PM on September 6, 2019

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