9/24 Brief (Neoliberalism)

Richard Swedberg explains how markets are at work in majority of contemporary societies. However, he points out that “markets have a ideological charge because capitalism has been surrounded by political struggle since its inception” (Swedberg 64). Thus creating a split in ideologies between those who favor free markets and those who favor government assistance within the market. Neoliberalists, the ones who prefer free markets, put faith in the “invisible hand” as the governing force allowing markets to set their own prices. However, what about those who can’t afford the price set on life necessities? Is it acceptable to put a price on a life?

Neoliberalism is “the assumption that governments cannot create economic growth or provide social welfare” (Bockman 14). In other words, neoliberalism is this ideology that everything in life has a monetary value, emphasizing the importance of markets. Therefore, if you can’t afford it, you are out of luck essentially. It’s important to note that this ideology is typically favored by affluent individuals who believe the government’s role should only be to “protect private property, maintain order, and provide some protection for the poor” (Bockman, 14).

A key idea to note is the fact that neoliberalism only works in favor of those who are eligible to play in the game of free trade. “Those who cannot compete — such as the homeless, the incarcerated, or the formerly incarcerated– are excluded from full citizenship, abandoned” (Bockman 15).  The exclusion of such a large group of people shows how the system is really at work. Our society is already hierarchical based on class due to markets. Neoliberalism is just an intensification of the hierarchy that already exists. However, by completely abandoning a large group of people, neoliberalism makes the system less fluid.

What role should governments play in our system? Is having some sort of overseer such as the government more beneficial than we like to think? How else might the system be different if the “invisible hand” was the primary driving force of our economy? If our system did abandon those who couldn’t compete, would those individuals be considered to be operating “outside the system?” If so, how could that be seen as a positive thing?


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