+ 2 (,1 1/,1( Citation: Dag Einar Thorsen, The Neoliberal Challenge - What is Neoliberalism, 2 Contemp. Readings L. & Soc. Just. 188 (2010) Content downloaded/printed from HeinOnline Thu May 23 03:09:00 2019 -- Your use of this HeinOnline PDF indicates your acceptance of HeinOnline's Terms and Conditions of the license agreement available at -- The search text of this PDF is generated from uncorrected OCR text. -- To obtain permission to use this article beyond the scope of your HeinOnline license, please use: Copyright Information Use QR Code reader to send PDF to your smartphone or tablet device
Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice Volume 2(2), 2010, pp. 188-214, ISSN 1948-9137 THE NEOLIBERAL CHALLENGE 0 WHAT IS NEOLIBERALISM? DAG EINAR THORSEN [email protected] University of Oslo ABSTRACT. The term 'neoliberalism' has since around 1980 become a quite widely used exhortation in some political and academic debates. Prolific employment of a term does not signify, however, that it is clearly defined. In this article it is suggested that while the concept itself has become an imprecise buzzword in much of the literature, it might still be given a more precise definition. If this is done, then the term could become a useful analytical device in order to describe some recent trends in economic thought and political theory, even if it would be an obvious overstatement to say that we live in a neoliberal age or a neoliberal world. Keywords: neoliberalism, economic thought, political theory, age, world Introduction The word 'neoliberalism' has during the past thirty years become a quite widely used exhortation in many political and academic de- bates. Several authors have even suggested that neoliberalism is 'the dominant ideology shaping our world today', and that we live in an 'age of neoliberalism'. This has especially been the case among authors who use the concept pejoratively, and one could frequently suspect that they use the word as a catch-all term of abuse. The word describes what many perceive of as the lamentable spread of capi- talism and consumerism, as well as the equally deplorable demo- lition of the proactive welfare state (Bourdieu 1998; 1998a; 2001; Chomsky 1999; Touraine 2001; Harvey 2005; Hermansen 2005; Saad-Filho and Johnston 2005; Hagen 2006; Plehwe et al. 2006). 188
The immense importance accorded by some to the phenomenon of neoliberalism does not signify, however, that the word represents a clearly defined concept. It is, also, relatively uncommon to use the word in a positive sense, or as a form of self-identification (cf. though Moslet 1984; Fogh Rasmussen 1993; Norberg and Bejke 1994; cf. also Norberg 2001). I believe, however, that it is a useful concept which might be used to describe some recent demands for market deregulation, as well as the public sector reforms which aim at making government agencies more similar to private companies, even if it is not particularly clear how and in what sense the concept describes a trend which is both 'new' and 'liberal' (cf. Garbo 2008).
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