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Not to be confused with neoconservatism
on 16 August 2011
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.