Against neoliberalism as a concept

Dunn, Bill (2017) Against neoliberalism as a concept. Capital & Class, 41(3), pp. 435-454. ISSN (print) 0309-8168


Neoliberalism is a slippery concept, neither intellectually precise nor political useful. It is used so widely, to mean such different things, that it becomes almost impossibly vague, while dissimilar international experiences of social change undermine the sweeping designation provided by most presentations of neoliberalism. The term is too often used as a catch-all category or as a category that catches selectively whatever a particular author chooses and disapproves. It is a word of the academic ‘left’, accepted neither by our opponents, the supposed neoliberals, nor in popular discourse, and its use perpetuates a self-referential world of our own. There is little new or liberal in the ideas or practices of ‘neoliberalism’. The term is politically unhelpful, little use in identifying strategic priorities. A tendency to reproduce a binary, which posits the state as good and market as bad, is particularly unhelpful.

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