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Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The "Neoliberalism" is a term that denotes several political and economic policies that have strongly shaped the global economy over the past thirty years. It has its intellectual roots in the in classical liberalism and the opposition to Keynesian economics. However, as a governing policy it is most closely associated with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. These two figures had more or less managed to put into practice a political philosophy that had been almost completely relegated to the realm of obscure think-tank thinking. Their success in this regard has been so thorough that almost all economic and political institutions, from all sides of the political spectrum, have been operating within some form of neoliberal paradigm ever since. Neoliberalism is usually associated with the political right, but there are several more or less important aspects of it that distinguish it from other right-leaning philosophies, and this book does a very good job at explaining the differences between them. In particular, it contrasts neoliberalism with economic nationalism that time and time again resurfaces in it various manifestations in right-wing political movements throughout the World.

One of the book's strong points is that it provides a global context for neoliberalism. It shows how it has been implemented on all six continents, and it discusses particular local circumstances that give neoliberalism a distinct flavor in various countries. The book, however, is a bit too quick to point out all the limitations of the neoliberal policies, and I feel it sometimes uses unnecessarily harsh language to characterize certain political actions that are deemed contrary to neoliberal principles. The final chapter deals with the current global economic crisis. Here one almost gets a sense that the authors are engaging in a form of schadenfreude at the apparent failings of neoliberalism. Whether neoliberalism has really run its course or not, or whether it really is a sustainable political philosophy in a long run, the history will still have to decide.

Overall, this is a very interesting and informative book. It is great introduction to main salient points of what neoliberalism, and well worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 August 2013
This little book is a powerhouse of information and analysis.The writing style is jargon free and there are copious and easy to digest data tables.In addition there are little coloured 'boxes' that provide handy little definitions and background context, so that the reader never has to flounder around wondering what is meant by Keynesian macroeconomics might mean, for instance.

The authors successfully plot the way that neo-liberalism has gone from the backwoods of intellectual theorizing and policy think-tanks into mainstream political thought and action. So much so that economic liberalism as an idea and agenda was for many politicians of left and right, not to mention their constituencies,seen as the 'only option',especially in the West.Even formerly closed off economies such as China,Russia and India by the late 80's ,early 1990's started to throw off the shackles of autarky, state controls and egalitarian thinking (in so far as it ever existed)in order to engage with the global market place. Proof of the power of simple ideas!

Neo-liberalism is essentially about 'small' government, trade and competition coupled with a focus on individual enterprise. Its early form arrived in the shape of rampant deregulation, privatisation and attempts at substantial welfare reform whilst balancing government budgets. This is the stuff of the Thatcher /Reagan era-circa the 1980's.This often went hand in a political conservatism that espoused open markets, personal responsibility,democracy for all and markets being left to get on with generating economic growth. Government would only intervene in the 'supply side' - mainly through the provision of incentives such as lower taxes, the so -called 'trickle-down' effect,but also through removing market 'blockages' such as over-powerful trade unions or an overgenerous welfare system. The idea was that costs and prices could fall, demand could rise, especially in export markets and wealth would follow.

As time went on,electorates in many western countries could see the benefits of Neo-Liberalism but sensed that a less doctrinaire approach might be more to their taste. Hence the arrival of the 'Third Way' in the guise of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. So free markets had to be tempered with welfare provision and helping people into work rather then dependency. This optimism was linked to a political idealism in trying to improve the lot of developing countries through the encouragement of trade and good financial stewardship through the organs of the WTO and the World Bank using what was called 'soft power'.

The 90's was a period of growth, optimism for many economies, especially with particular countries in the East. The Asian 'Tigers',not to mention the 'Celtic' tiger came from nowhere to show that economic reform could bring stunning growth in output, employment and incomes for their citizens.The benefits of free -trade agenda although open to much criticism has been considerable. But then the costs start to mount...

The problem with unfettered markets , especially in the financial sector as this book details in unflinching detail, is that they are no respecters of national boundaries, tradition or what might be termed social welfare. Like an untrained Bull Terrier they can turn on their owners or indeed ,innocent bystanders. Neo-liberalism is and was about the interlinking of markets. So if one market turns 'bad' through the over -exuberance of a credit binge or confidence seeps away from a currency or asset class then expect problems. Speculators who can smell a profit through can start off financial crisis's which end up being an global economic melt-down not through any particular ill-will but because it is a natural consequence of their dealings.Witness the collapse of Argentina, Mexico, Britain's ignominious ejection from the ERM and the Asian collapse of the 1990's. To put the final cap on things, the global calamity of 2007 onwards,whose effects we are still all living through.The result is requirement for governments to bail out banks, face higher welfare bills and face unending years of low or no growth. Citizens have lost their savings, jobs and their homes. Businesses have gone under through lack of customers and lack of credit.The costs have been enormous. What is worse is that unlike the days of Keynesian demand management, western governments are unsure as to how to resuscitate their respective economies.

Neo-liberalism as the book suggests is far from a spent force. It is an amorphous concept capable of being re-invented to match the times. Globalisation however global or regional it is in its manifestations is here to stay. Unfettered markets have proved to be too volatile and unpredictable. So what is required is a movement towards greater global cooperation , transparency and an acceptance that steering markets in order to minimise their negative propensities is both a thankless and costly task, but one that needs doing. That is the underlying message of this book.

'Neo-Liberalism' is an excellent primer. My only criticism is that it is a little too willing to
play down the benefits of free-market thinking and a little too hasty to expose its short comings. Otherwise, recommended.
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on 29 August 2012
I was very impressed with this book. I believe that everyone alive today who wishes to be aware of the economic/political world that they live in should have an understanding of what exactly is neoliberalism. This book is a detailed introduction with enough information to gain some real understanding without being overwhelming to those new to subject matter.

I could write more but it's as simple as that if your fairly new to the subject but would like more then a definition from a search on the internet and something to give you a decent overview that is well written then read this and I'd doubt you'd be disappointed.
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on 26 January 2013
i used this book while doing my uni work, it outlines cleraly issues regarding neoliberalism, explains its assumptions, critics, links to defferent areas like education, names people, who intruduced, followed and critisised the notion. it's also really short, so not overtalked, just main concrete point, thus very usefull and doesn't take much time to read. i was very pleased with it. came right on time and was cheap. i would recommend for students and anyone, who wants to find out about liberalism and recent movements in politics.
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on 26 April 2013
This 'Very Short Introductions' on neoliberalism is an excellent and concise overview of the current economic system under which we live. Importantly, it dispells the commonly held euro-centric perception that neoliberalism is the key to development. Exploring the models origins, its legacy in the Anglo-American market place, East Asia, Latin America and Africa, Steger concludes with the low-down of the current crisis and what future there is. If you want to get some perspective on our modern world, then READ THIS!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2013
I read the 138 pages of this book in a little over 36 hours. That was a relief to me as I'm not majoring in neoliberalism or anything like that. The term 'neoliberalism' is often branded around like condiments and before I started doing the same I just wanted to be sure I knew something about it and so was happy to not have been detained here. The book is an easy read and refers to little outside of itself save some basic simple recent historical events; though once or twice the authors fail to explicitly or even clearly demonstrate the link between events like the Western intervention in Kosovo and a Western desire to see the neoliberal economic model appear there.

Rather than offer any criticism of this book I would suggest that the book needs a companion: 'a very short introduction to liberalism'. Although the authors quite nicely explain that neoliberalism should be considered as the ideological archrival to marxism in that they both put production and exchange of material goods at the heart of human experience {p12}, liberalism as briefly presented here itself could easily be understood as something also reduced to the 'market' - served with or without keynesian economics. Steger and Ravi show how neoliberalism and neoconservitism often align themselves but they choose not to suggest that the reason for this is that both are discourses of late capitalism rather than it just being a mere coincidence. The authors quite clearly expose the economic disparity between rich and poor that opens up under neoliberalism; liberalism with its historic suspicions of capital and its concerns for civil society would itself oppose neoliberalism.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2010
A really good overview and very readable - I read it on the bus to work over a few weeks and I think it has given me a really good context to fit other things (politics; spending reviews etc.) into.
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on 13 May 2015
Good brief introduction to subject
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on 22 February 2015
Reliable service. Excellent book.
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