4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The term "neoliberal" crept into mainstream journalism over the past two decades without being clearly defined. In the first and for me most effective chapters, Daniel Stedman Jones sets about redressing this omission by exploring Popper's focus on individualism, Von Mises's attack on state bureaucracy, and Hayek's rejection of government intervention and central planning, not merely in "collectivist" Communist states but also in Roosevelt's "New Deal" and the Keynesian demand management of the US and the UK post-war up to the 1970s. Although very repetitive, this approach serves both to reinforce points and to assist students using this as a reference book.
After a dry chapter on the growth of "think tanks" as a means of embedding neoliberal belief in the free market for adoption by governments when the time is ripe, Stedman Jones moves on to compare Keynesianism with the monetarism favoured by neoliberals. He relies heavily on quotations from the neoliberal Friedmann without supplying basic explanations of say, the relationship between the money supply and interest rates, or the quantity theory of money, all necessary for readers with a rudimentary or rusty grasp of economics. The author is described as a barrister and PhD in history. This does not preclude a grasp of economics and a multi-disciplinary approach may give breadth and balance, but I found his economic analysis either lacking or unclear.
The "Neoliberal breakthrough of 1971-84", describing how even the left-wing governments of Callaghan and Carter introduced attempts to control the money supply, is more readable, but here again there are too many lengthy quotations and not enough definitions e.g. of the Federal Reserve's options to "target either interest rates or the quantity of money - in the lingo of the trade, the federal funds rate or the `monetary aggregates'". I wish that the author had developed the insights which shine abruptly out of the conclusion: that some of the interpretations of neoliberal theory "brought a whole new set of problems...The obsession with the market corroded the idea of the public realm" and bred "a culture that led to the financial disaster in 2007-10". These comments would have meant more if they followed examples of neoliberalism in practice!
The next chapter "Neoliberalism applied, 1945-2000", therefore disappointed me with its narrow concentration on housing policy e.g. the Tory "Right to buy Scheme" to sell off council housing .
The concluding "Legacy of transatlantic neoliberalism" provides a useful overview, but the "financial crisis of 2007-8" is again mentioned only in passing. Stedman Jones returns, again with insufficient analysis to the neoliberal risk of "pushing the ideological case too far" e.g. by trusting that the "self-interest of financial institutions would effectively substitute for the rigorous external regulation of financial markets".
Less repetition and more paraphrasing of quotations to highlight their meaning, would have created scope to explore the final stated aim to learn from past errors and develop more flexible, "reason-based policy-making" - but surely that is exactly what Hayek and Friedmann thought neoliberalism was!
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2012
This is a wonderful book. It is a thoughtful, well written and (most importantly) balanced view of the history of neo-liberalism. Stedman Jones has a thorough grasp of the underlying economic theory and sets it out clearly - but he goes further than that and is at his most acute when analysing how that theory translated into politics and policy making. This book is a timely intervention and is likely to remain indispensible for anyone with an interest in this area for some time to come.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 November 2012
It is a very well written and informative book. Unfortunately it does not deal with the old objections raised by the Bank of England on the manipulation of the data allowing the "correlations" of Friedman and Co. . The name of N. Kaldor is never mentioned. Read this book after having red Kardor. The scourge of monetarism.Of course Kaldor and his respect for facts was not worth a "Nobel" in economics. The cisis goes on.