Categorized | Politics, Serious Commentary

“I, for one, am not an anti-Neoliberal”

“I, for one, am not an anti-Neoliberal”

On the one hand, people who claim neoliberalism exists say that Hayek thought capitalism and free markets could aid democracy, but if not, well too bad!

But on the other hand, people who claim neoliberalism exists say that Hayek was predicting an inevitable slide into servitude (rather than hypothesising about potential risks).

Which one is the true one?

The reason I don’t trust the usual lines of assertion and rhetoric regarding Hayek and Friedman is that people try to have it both ways. They want to associate Hayek and Friedman with the pernicious ‘Washington Consensus’ of crony capitalism, but they also want to be taken seriously as people acquainted with the writings of Hayek and Friedman.

But everyone who has read even a little Hayek and Friedman knows that they were at best deeply sceptical, and at worst pretty critical, of continental-level or global-level crony capitalist institutionalism.

As you can see already, I am not defending this or that element of what they have written; that’s not the point here. I am merely pointing out that any association of scholars sceptical of global-institutional/continental-institutional ‘crony capitalism’ with the very same objects of their scepticism, or even criticism, can only ever stem either from cynicism, a lack of intelligence, or a lack of serious acquaintance with their writings.

And this is really not a grey area at all. Have you read the chapter near the end of ‘The Road to Serfdom’ where Hayek lays this all out fairly neatly?

Ultimately, the myth of neoliberalism risks severely discrediting intelligent and rational critics of globalist crony-capitalism; just as 9/11 Truthers, anti-vaxxers, and Ickean lizard-hunters risk imperilling the cause of non-interventionism.

The Vast Neoliberal Conspiracy is a busted spunk, and it needs to be binned, if people have the merest whit of ethical seriousness about the substantial limitations of globalist crony capitalism.

Adapted from my comments at the Facebook Group: Zizek and the Slovenian School. Further adapted from a post at Jonathan Arts and Critique.

This post was written by

- who has written 174 posts on

PhD candidate, freelance journalist, indie author. @onetonguejohnny (Twitter)


2 Responses to ““I, for one, am not an anti-Neoliberal””

  1. Well, I hardly think the notion of neoliberalism, that is, of new liberalism (new as in different from the New Deal kind of socialism), rests on anything as dusty as the writings of Hayek or Friedman. I think a very useful concept of centrist (pro-“free” market, etc) liberalism goes back to the landslide election of Ronald Reagan, which caused Democrats to get serious about obtaining corporate funding. So the Democrats ditched the unions and the middle class and we entered the What’s-the-matter-with-Kansas? stage in which blue-collar folks started voting against their own economic interests–because they were betrayed by the so-called progressive, “liberal” party and had only the Republican wedge issues to peak their interest.

    Obama and Hillary Clinton are clearly new (i.e. centrist, non-progressive, technocratic, non-revolutionary and thus phony) liberals in this sense. See, for example, Obama’s bailing out of Wall Street and his war against whistle blowers, and the excerpts from Hillary’s Goldman Sachs speeches. Or see the DNC’s sabotaging of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Or see the writings of Thomas Frank. For a more scholarly example, see Philip Mirowski’s book, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown.

  2. Jonathan Ferguson says:

    Benjamin, sorry for the late reply! Open question…

    Just to be clear…

    Are you saying that David Harvey’s throwing together of various disparate elements in his book ‘An Introduction to Neoliberalism’ (OUP, I think) is not representative of all commentators? Harvey throws together Hayek, Friedman, Thatcher, Reagan, Deng Xiaoping, the IMF, the World Bank…

    Could it be that Harvey’s ‘everyone AND everything but the kitchen sink’ approach is a little atypical?


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