¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 A friend recently blogged about someone who started a row at a party by arguing that neoliberalism is dead. I’m that someone, and since I start this chapter by claiming that open source romanticism has helped unravel neoliberalism, I should admit right up front that there are many smart people who would respond, “who said neoliberalism is unraveled (or dead)? Seems like its going strong to me!”
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 I started thinking about the issues that would become The Net Effect in the 1990s, and at the time I thought of the idea as a study of the internal politics of neoliberalism. Back then, cultural studies people did not often use the term; they were more focused on postcolonialism, the subaltern, and other sites of resistence. I learned about neoliberalism from development experts and political economists, who were looking for terms to describe the way the World Bank and governments around the world seemed to be falling all over themselves to ape the free market theories that dominated Reaganite U.S. and Thatcherite Britain in the 1980s. It was kind of astonishing how taken-for-granted the market fundamentalism of the time was, as it spread uncontested into international agreements, intellectual property law, and so forth. It wasn’t that bureaucrats and politicians argued for the market; it was that if you raised any questions at all about the benefits of self-regulating markets, you were treated as if you were talking gibberish. People just walked on by.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 It’s that sense of absolute taken-for-grantedness that’s gone, I think. There are plenty of people in power who still reflexively turn towards market fundamentalism — e.g., the British Tories right now — but unless you use neoliberalism (incorrectly) to mean simply capitalism, there’s no longer a single global hegemonic set of principles about how to best negotiate the relations between markets and democratic institutions. There’s a bunch of different ideas: various flavors of Keynesianism, the “Beijing consensus,” and others. The recent economic collapse clearly finished off that earlier consensus, but I think it was pretty well unraveled after the collapse of the dotcom stock bubble, and I think the open source movement actually opened up an important chink in its armor even before that.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 P.S. Terry Flew has an excellent essay up on the neoliberalism debates, particularly on what Foucault’s place in them is and isn’t.