The Strange Non-Death of NeoLiberalism
Reviewer: Jaroslav Dvorak (Klaipeda University)
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In his book. The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism, Crouch analyses the desperate causes and consequences of the neoliberalism doctrine. The discussion begins with the explanation of the origin of neoliberalism by providing political and economic explanations of neoliberalism: the application of market principles in economical life, the engagement of human rights and the right to live above the poverty level are the features common to the liberalism ideologeme. The author notes that the reincarnation of liberalism took place in the US, where liberalism gained a totally different meaning.
The case of neoliberal legitimisation is developed in the analysis of the crisis of oil prices in 1973. As the idea of full employment was rejected, attention focused on the stabilisation of prices and management of inflation. Mistrust in governments appeared because of their risky interventions. Legitimisation occurred nominating the scholars who propagated neoliberalism. There were some states that experimented with the neoliberal economic regime; international organisations encouraged the diffusion of New Public Management implementation. Despite earlier criticism, it is accepted that neoliberalism had positive consequences, decreased the dominance of government, raised the problem of centralisation while emphasising that the new paradigm may be flexible and adapt to the different ideologies and political approaches dominating in different countries.
The book provides a comprehensive, consistent and reader-friendly analysis of market limitations; though does not provide any original ideas. The author provides for the standard limitations of neoliberalism and, in fact, agrees with Clein. Reader will likely be interested in the author’s position about the entry and exit from market barriers. Crouch attempts to defend big barriers of entry and exit from market and maintains that high exit costs became important taking into consideration the world financial crisis. In order to protect society, the author suggests the application of stricter regulations for big banks because the society lacks ideal information about the operation of markets.
Crouch fears giant enterprises; entire markets depend on them. In order to curb the activity of such enterprises, the author analyses the antimonopoly law; in this case, in the US rather than Great Britain. Additionally, the book criticises the free choice of the consumer because, as it is claimed, the consequences of antimonopoly law have to be the welfare of the consumer rather than choices.
Furthermore, the power of technocrats is acknowledged in taking care of the consumers’ welfare; lawyers and economists decide what is better for the consumer, while value orientations are not so important. The remarks on national banks system are shrewd and purposeful, as a small number of banks dominate in them. Crouch continues a principled fight with the Chicago school and states that banks operate while using informal, virtual and invisible signals of regulation for institutions. Crouch views banks as actors, which are rational and seek profit, even though the need for a vegetative governmental intervention is questioned.
Even though Crouch is a fierce enemy of neoliberalism, while reading the book one can find many achievements of the ideology. Citizens may not trust the state and force the market to produce alternative choices for public services. Likewise, the privatisation of former public sector enterprises and the strengthening of the public sector, new regulation agencies are created and regulations increase.
Accepting the dominance of enterprises, lobbyist roles are analysed as they impact decision-making processes. Corporations act inside the political process, set standards, create private regulation systems and consult governments. Crouch criticises the responsibility (or lack of) of social enterprises and opposes the idea that the firm can be at least a little responsible because the cases of externality indicate the opposite. Only after a number of questions the author clarifies that the social responsibility of an enterprise can be a commodity because it creates trust between the enterprise and interested parties.
Furthermore, an attempt is made to relate the achievements of neoliberalism with the deconstruction of political society; however, after reading the text, it is not clear how all this is related to neoliberalism. Crouch laconically allows the readers to understand that we all are cheaters and live in the imitation world because we cheat each other, even though we expect morality from others. Accordingly, political societies are formed of five groups: political parties, the church, agitation groups (e.g. the group of patient families), voluntary and charity sector and professions. Crouch blames these for hypocrisy and subservience for neoliberals.
Finally, it is claimed that neoliberalism is in crisis and the international environment are returning to the patronage of the state. However, the question of how much government is actually needed still remains unanswered.