Dieter Plehwe on the past, present, and future of neoliberalism

Dieter Plehwe is a senior research fellow at the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB), and a Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Kassel. His research areas include international and comparative political economy; the history of neoliberalism; think tank networks; and environmental, energy, and climate politics. His co-edited volumes include Market Civilizations: Neoliberals East and South and The Road from Mont Pèlerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective.

In Dieter's reading, the origins of the neoliberal movement stretch back to the 1930s. It emerged in opposition to not only fascism and socialism, but also the failures of traditional liberalism. Fusing the ethos of economic freedom with social conservatism, neoliberalism may well be facing an existential threat today. But, as Dieter points out, organized neoliberalism has made a concerted effort to hold onto its power since the Global Financial Crisis. There's no reason to think it will go down without a fight.

You're one of the scholars who has consistently used the term neoliberalism, and you have contributed much to historicizing and contextualizing it. How do you define neoliberalism, and why do you think this term has proved so contentious?

Most people who think about neoliberalism have been schooled in the “varieties of capitalism” and “history of capitalism” traditions. They understand neoliberalism as arising in the 1980s, after the crisis of Fordism. If it was anywhere before that decade, it was in Chile, under Pinochet. Thatcher and Reagan are then seen as the shortcuts to the globalization of neoliberalism that followed the collapse of socialism.

But along with a few other people, including Bernhard Walpen in particular, I have suggested that we need to look much earlier to understand neoliberalism. We have to turn back to the 1930s, when the Great Depression brought the capitalist order close to collapse, and showed that laissez-faire understandings of liberalism had failed. Traditional liberals understood that the naturalization of markets was not workable anymore. It was clear that liberal political theory needed to be updated, in order to better deal with threats to the capitalist order.

This prompted a double confrontation: against socialism, in order to preserve capitalism; and against traditional liberalism, in order to stabilize capitalism. This double frontline has been missed by many people who think of neoliberalism as continuing liberalism’s long fight against socialism. But there was clearly a break that distinguishes neoliberalism from classical liberalism – a distinction that, years later, people who describe themselves as classic liberals are themselves overlooking.

So, neoliberalism historically emerged in the 1930s. Besides traditional liberals and socialists, neoliberals also wanted to build up their capacity to compete with fascists and with social democrats. They did want reform; they wanted to change the relationships between the state and the economy in a way that would guarantee what, from their perspective, was the good society.

So, I see neoliberalism as a worldview. It's a little-recognized worldview because there wasn’t a political party movement connected to it, unlike the other worldviews it was in competition with. But, for exactly that reason, in the postwar era, it managed to deeply infiltrate and profoundly transform both conservatism and social democracy. How neoliberal thinking managed to do so remains a research frontier.

Do you believe this process of neoliberal infiltration and transformation is now coming to an end? If so, how does that affect how we historicize neoliberalism?

Maybe. But that doesn't contradict the importance of recognizing the early beginnings of neoliberalism. I should also add that neoliberals were exerting their influence as early as the 1950s, in the aftermath of World War II. In Germany, former Chancellor Ludwig Erhard was one of many leaders under the influence of the Freiburg School and of Hayek himself. The same goes for the United States, where neoliberalism's social influence stretched back much earlier than Reagan.

There's another mistake made by people who only observe the ascent of an affirmative neoliberalism in the 1980s. In the earlier period, neoliberals frequently were on the defensive: they were defending against the buildup of welfare states and welfare state capitalism. The limited welfare state in the US is one result of this, as is the preservation of private health insurance in Germany, not to mention the narrow monetary policy mandate of the Bundesbank. It was only after the fiscal crisis of the state – after the crisis of Fordism – that there was this "roll-out" neoliberalism, as Peck and Tickell have called it. That’s when we enter this period of a neoliberalized order, both at the global and national levels. 

But it was already coming under pressure in the 1990s, because of the recurrence of financial crises in Argentina and Southeast Asia. Then, in the 2000s, there was the Enron scandal, and finally the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). All this clarifies that the instability of capitalism has continued even under the strong influence of neoliberal ideas, and has arguably been exacerbated by their role in deregulating financial markets. It’s also why, after the GFC, we see new reflections on what is actually needed to stabilize the global economic order – albeit with little consensus. 

There were many hints at the constellation we have today amid the interrelated climate and pandemic crisis. Some of the neoliberal strongholds like economic constitutionalism gave way to neo-nationalist varieties, progressive ideas of individualization gave way to communitarian and meritocratic ideas, and post-democratic parliamentarian neoliberalism gave way to more authoritarian visions of control. But we don't quite see the end of neoliberalism immediately after the GFC. The program of austerity helped capitalism come back very quickly from the crisis.

Yet, if one looks at the connections this way, recognizing that neoliberalism is already 75 or 80 years old, we are able to look at neoliberalism as a longer arc. Just as Ralf Dahrendorf called the 20th century the social democratic century – from how early social democrats formed opposition parties, to the welfare state’s ascent to power, through to the crisis of social democracy – we could look at our age as the century of neoliberalism. We have traced its origins in opposition and reform, to its ascendancy and universalization after the collapse of socialism.

It's an interesting analogy because it gets the focus away from what the Regulation School tradition does, which is periodize capitalism according to its accumulation cycles. But these cycles have been getting shorter and shorter, and now cover only two or three decades. That’s one major ambivalence people have with close-reading periods of capitalist history in this way. The alternative is a broader reading of hegemonic constellations, across society and politics, which complete the package around accumulation strategies.

As a framework, neoliberalism is capacious. It spans everything from a worldview to an institutional theory to an economic order. But how exactly does neoliberalism relate to this last point, in particular? Is it related to the imperialism of economics? Or is there a different tradition that should be kept in mind?

By actually historicizing neoliberalism, and making it accessible to theoretical and empirical research, we go against the grain that makes neoliberalism reducible to any one of those things. We suggest that neoliberalism is, in the first place, itself part of the spectrum of social forces. It's not identical to economics; it's not identical to capitalism. It's a bourgeois ideology that emerged on the right of the liberal conservative spectrum.

If anything, neoliberalism should be seen in relation to right-wing liberalism. It’s one of the least understood elements of political theory. Neoliberalism studies revisits the history of right-wing liberalism: it emerges in the late-19th century, exerts influence during the Weimar Republic in Germany, becomes marginalized in the postwar period, and finally picks up power again following the crisis of Fordism. We see it as a major ideology and political theory, but at the same time recognize that it's not the only game in town.

There are still research gaps in understanding how the standard-bearers of the neoliberal worldview have been able to exert their political influence. It has also waxed and waned, but what people don't grasp is the long-term strategic impact of this thinking – which placed economic freedom atop the hierarchy of all the other freedoms. It reversed the hierarchy that liberalism and social democracy had come up with, where democratic rights and social rights were considered at least equal to economic rights, if not above them.

Neoliberals reversed this perspective. This has produced normative guidelines for looking at policy and at development outcomes, and then claiming that neoliberalism is in the long run beneficial not only economically, but also socially and politically. Which, in actuality, is completely false. But that's their belief. Ideologies are strong on belief and short on facts. And when enough facts run against the beliefs of ideologies, as in the case of real-world communism, ideology also crumbles.

If we historicize neoliberalism as you say, finding that it appears in the 1930s with socialism and fascism as its most important Others, why not announce the end of neoliberalism in 1989? Is the end of the Cold War not a missed opportunity to bookend the legacies of neoliberalism that you have described?

One has to recognize that neoliberalism, like every other ideology, changes. Of course the neoliberalism of the 1930s is not the same as the neoliberalism of the 1970s. But the problem is that many people read the neoliberalism of the 1970s as a pure market argument. Because the neoliberal attack on regulation and the welfare state was so controversial, it looked like a free market movement – and it even called itself that – but this is a very superficial framing. Even at that time, neoliberals were not asking for a return to laissez-faire. If you look carefully at their proposals for what should replace the welfare state, they only wanted a marketized version of welfare, not a pure market. 

So, it was with the collapse of socialism that neoliberalism became more radical. It was a victorious moment when they had free rein. During this moment, neoliberals also became careless. They had an easy path to transforming society with an eye towards economic freedom. They went ahead with many privatizations without securing some regulatory oversight, which, as we know, later resulted in crisis. 

One could argue that the deregulation of financial markets – with Larry Summers saying they're like big kids playing in the sandbox, in no need of oversight – did hark back to traditional laissez-faire liberalism. But that sort of statement is technically not neoliberal, because it suggests market actors don't need anything to secure them. I think all the volatility in this period of time is due to the neglect of neoliberals, who forgot their own insight.

But the established ways of reasoning about market freedom, property rights, the rule of law, anti-interventionism, and so forth haven't disappeared. These general guidelines remain in place. I was recently curious about the economic freedom indices, which are meant to observe the extent to which societies conform to neoliberal visions. Their data is very problematic, of course, but we can use it to observe how they themselves think of recent developments. The Fraser Institute's index, for instance, describes a recent decline in economic freedom due to Covid measures; but it still shows that in their reading there was more economic freedom in 2020 than there was in 2000. Contrary to what many people believe, neoliberal organizations themselves don't think neoliberalism is in trouble.

Early neoliberalism can seem like neoclassical economics only with a political theory thrown in on top. Neoclassical economics offers little normative resources to generate a political theory on its own, but neoliberalism seemed to gain one as a result of the Cold War. Does this perspective clash with your own?

Well, I would try to keep neoliberalism and neoclassical economics a bit more separate than that. Neoclassical economics was also the basis for market socialist thinking. Mises and Hayek considered neoclassical economics to be possibly more dangerous than Keynesianism, because it provided the theoretical basis for proponents of a planned society. And this, of course, was anathema to them.

The sources of neoliberalism are also much broader than just neoclassical economic theory. People like Wilhelm Eucken, who went on to develop ordoliberalism, were in a milieu in Germany that treated economics as a part of Staatswissenschaft. In the 1930s, neoliberal theorists took a markedly different view on the organization of society and state compared to their reflections after World War II. If one examines their stance towards the Weimar Republic, particularly their critique of the subordination of organized interests to the general welfare of the state, a broader picture emerges than if one focuses solely on the Cold War period.

Early neoliberalism is very reactionary, but it’s also pragmatic in its recognition that capitalism is a market system that cannot function by itself. In this sense, early neoliberalism is also relatively progressive when compared to traditional liberalism, which was developed in order to liberate the market from feudalism. If feudal powers first needed to be pushed back to create space for the rising bourgeoisie, the state then needed to be activated to stabilize the social order in ways that limited the influence of other groups seeking state power. Neoliberalism sees how interventionism was needed for liberalism to do so. (Alexander Rüstow called this liberal interventionism, for example.)

Granting those differences, there are still important consistencies: namely their understandings of private property, and their methodological individualism when it comes to economic action in the free market. That’s why rhetoric from the Chicago School strand of neoliberalism ends up resembling the neoclassicals, perhaps even more than the Austrians.

People like Rüstow and Wilhelm Röpke would disagree with that. Their way of reasoning has been labeled “sociological neoliberalism.” It’s one of the unfortunate contributions of Foucault's reading of neoliberalism: he overstated the relevance of neoclassical economics. Several neoliberals emphasized that the market had its limits, but the Foucauldian approach seizes on the imperialism of economics – anticipating that neoliberalism would move to economize religion, in order to take over the moral sphere. But that's not what happens.

Here is where a potential solution to the puzzle comes in: there is also a very strong conservative dimension to neoliberalism. In many ways, neoliberalism sticks to the conservatism of the Scottish Enlightenment. That's where they get their source of stability in society. Neoliberalism is more committed to a conservative humanist tradition, with its moral order, than to an individualistic, pure market tradition. But even conservative neoliberals differed from traditional conservatives by embracing meritocratic social mobility. (As Hayek says, he is not a conservative because traditional conservatism failed to recognize that it needs to change.) These neoliberals were a bit to the left of traditional conservatism, only to then be outflanked in the postwar era by modern conservatism, with its endorsement of conservative varieties of welfare regimes and social programs that neoliberals would not support.

So, there's always a process of negotiation. But all the same, many people think neoliberalism is just about allowing the market to take over everything, and this view misses the important conservative affiliations of leading neoliberals, one of the strongest points in several chapters of our latest collection.

Let's synthesize what we're both saying, and then reframe the question. Behind neoliberalism, at the start of the 1930s, there was a group of experts who seemed to have an almost existential disposition about saving civilization, whether from mass culture – in the case of Röpke, who, as you have pointed out, was influenced by Walter Lippmann – or from fascism or communism.

The early neoliberals added these ethical, moral, and political concerns to their economic and legal thought. But, after this early fusion, it still seems that Cold War hysteria was key for replenishing neoliberalism's existential drive. So, what provides this drive in the 1990s and 2000s? Is there anything still propelling neoliberalism forward today? Is it fears of globalization unraveling? Or Silicon Valley failing to innovate as it should?

It's a fascinating question. But, while ideologies do respond to these external challenges, once they're in place, they're not entirely constituted by the external threat. They build up an internal normative regime, which people quickly become loath to give up. And from a neoliberal perspective, challenges to the normative order are a serious challenge to power. 

Think of Chile just last year, with the mobilization against the progressive referendum. The core opposition to a progressive Chilean constitution were organized neoliberals from both within Chile and without. When there was a threat from the left, as a new socialist perspective was gaining ground, the prevailing neoliberal constellation was very quick to remobilize and protect itself. I have long suggested that we should not speak about global hegemony, but about hegemonic constellations. We need to carefully chart developments that can be quite different across regions and countries. 

Our perspective calls for attention to organized neoliberalism and how it evolved across different camps, beyond the big names. Milton Friedman famously believed neoliberalism had won as early as the 1970s, but many people didn't share his cheerful expectations – and they're the ones who worked to maintain the influence of their worldview on the public debate. There are hundreds of other members of the Mont Pèlerin Society, not to mention the many committed neoliberals in other kinds of circles, across organizational structures like think tanks but also university departments. 

It's very clear that there has been a constant remobilization in response to a perceived need to continue upholding neoliberalism. Otherwise, neoliberals could have simply let all their institutions lapse. But what we see instead – particularly after the GFC, when there was suddenly a loud conversation about the need to re-regulate finance – was an expansion of neoliberal institutions. The Atlas Network, which consists of neoliberal and conservative think tanks, has grown from about 120 organizations before the GFC to over 500. The average money spent by these types of organizations has quadrupled in the United States. The defense of the neoliberal hierarchy of values and perspectives has clearly continued since the end of the Cold War.

How else is this neoliberal hierarchy of values being challenged today?

The big challenge is climate policy, which on the one hand is extremely neoliberalized, but on the other hand does threaten fossil capital. That's actually my two cents on the end of neoliberalism. The basic principle held by all neoliberals is the universality of property rights. In religious, Catholic, neoliberal spheres, property is declared sacred, thus constituting a divine right to property. But regardless of such efforts to fortify property rights, this neoliberal orthodoxy cannot be upheld in the face of the climate crisis.

If I uphold the principle of property rights for fossil capital, I accept the destruction of many other property rights. So, property rights need to be regulated according to some criteria. And therein lies a fierce conflict that, I believe, neoliberals cannot enter without giving up their fundamental principle. Maybe they can protect it by arguing for the full compensation of property rights, but they would run into practical problems: you would need a lot of tax money to bail out the fossil fuel corporations. There is limited space for the orthodoxy to navigate.

Couldn't you find in Catholic thought some justification for property redistribution? This is something Röpke himself partly endorsed.

Only on a very limited scale via taxation. Limited redistribution by way of progressive taxation to provide for social minimum standards not inimical to the market, as the founding statement of the Mont Pèlerin Society has it, is not a problem to the fundamental principle of property rights. As Eucken also acknowledged in his (very neoliberal) concept of the social market economy, the redistribution function is about providing the necessary space to secure capitalism. It doesn't challenge the fundamental principle of property rights in the least bit.

Can you walk us through why the struggle to fight climate change is different, and does constitute an existential threat?

Consider what it means for a company like Exxon to own its fossil fuel resources. They have acquired the property rights to that oil, rights that are worth billions. In order to keep it in the ground, you would have to compensate Exxon to not exploit this oil. The fight within climate policy has to do with allowing fossil interests to realize their property rights, while still recognizing the catastrophic consequences of climate change. 

But the effort to do the second part, which means limiting the use of fossil fuels, is not compatible with the maintenance of property rights in the fossil sphere. We could leave it to the market, as some are saying. Maybe property rights in fossil fuel will eventually be destroyed, because the market devalues them. But as we all know, this would be when the Earth is already cooking at 4 or 5ºC above preindustrial levels. Managing the problem of global warming requires infringing on property rights in the fossil fuel sector – so far, the neoliberals are out there defending that sector on principle instead.

At the same time, neoliberals will also defend every other property right. This is exactly where it becomes a contradiction for them. If you accept the burning of fossil fuels, you accept the destruction of houses and other property on the coastlines; you accept the destruction of property in agriculture, everywhere that no longer receives enough water. It's a huge confrontation, which begs the question of which property rights are privileged. This will play out through politics. I don't see a way for neoliberals to maintain the universality of property rights under these conditions.

The usual Coasian answer of private arbitration won't cut it, because of the nature of the problem? His best-known example has to do with private interests polluting the land and air where other people were living.

For one, Coase was himself surprised to see how far this logic was taken. In his classic example, the railway and the farmer were literally next door to each other; it was a much narrower scale. Global warming pits property right interests in the faraway Philippines against property rights in the United States. Where is the jurisdiction? Where is the room in which they meet to negotiate? It would take the creation of arbitration boards and other kinds of institutional support for the different agents to even possibly interact.

Are property rights more important to focus on than, say, massive fiscal or industrial policy? Don’t these other developments – which we see in Covid-related economic measures and programs like the Green New Deal – also pose an existential contradiction to neoliberal thought?

Besides property rights, neoliberals have two other core principles: freedom in economic transactions, and the rule of law as protection from discriminatory government policy. That's their holy trinity. These developments you name – which go beyond market mechanisms and expand the fiscal space of the public sector beyond austerity capitalism – do threaten all three principles.

That's exactly why neoliberalism can now be considered to be under much greater pressure than ever before. In many policy areas, we're seeing movements that clearly go against the hierarchy of freedoms with the economic on top. We're seeing other social forces advance in the Gramscian trenches; the neoliberal fortifications are crumbling here and there. But it's still a little bit too early to assess the outcome. Neoliberals are not just running away.

Do any other battle lines stand out?

I have actually been amazed to see how discussions around monopolies are once again being framed in political terms. One of neoliberalism's greatest postwar successes was to completely depoliticize competition policy; antitrust was turned purely into a problem of the market and prices. Now, with the Digital Services Act in the EU – which was propelled by the use of big data for political influencing campaigns like Cambridge Analytica – we see political reasons being cited as justification for increasing regulation. That's another battle line that the neoliberals are unhappy about; they patrol the border between economy and politics, but it's starting to crumble.

But neoliberals are not all that worried about tech monopolies themselves. They care about the increasing antitrust powers the European Commission is trying to claim for itself. If you look at how they actually defend their positions, neoliberals express a clear perspective on what is actually threatening to them. Those who make economic arguments about the dangers of tech companies' rent-seeking through proprietary markets are completely missing how tech companies saved the commercial internet. They did something that was very dear to neoliberals. The alternative to a commercial internet was to have it as a commons, which would truly be post-neoliberal.

What do you make of the new cohort rallying behind the idea of “radical markets,” like the collective RadicalxChange? They claim that we should strive to keep markets, only without traditional private property rights.

I haven't read their work in too much detail, but I do know about them. I was surprised to see that this group is funded by the same progressive capitalists who are funding post-neoliberalism research. There's even a personal connection between this movement and the original neoliberals. Eric Posner, a co-author of the book Radical Markets, is the son of the late Judge Richard Posner, who was a key Chicago School figure. And then, of course, the other author is Glen Weyl, who came out of Microsoft.

He also studied with Larry Summers and Eric Maskin at Harvard. Glen Weyl has an interesting pedigree.

It's strange that they claim to be relying on the traditions of both libertarianism and socialism. Because when you look at their proposal, it's basically Silicon Valley neoliberalism. They're suggesting we need to use mechanism design in order to save both markets and democracy. They believe democracy can be saved if we allot more voting rights to people who place more value on democratic voting. Go figure. It's really a crisp understanding of democracy they display here.

But their view on property, which is informed by Georgism, does challenge traditional neoliberal understandings. They want to apply the Georgist paradigm to all other types of property – not just land – on the assumption that whoever is not using their capital, in the neoclassical sense, should have it put up for auction.

But this position avoids two important questions. Firstly, how to get to such a system? And secondly, why not tax the rich and use the public sector to redistribute capital according to what needs to be done? In this regard, many of these very interesting proposals are simply thought experiments. But I find them intriguing because they do indicate that we are in a period of ambivalence about neoliberalism. There's a strong feeling that simply continuing as we did in the past is not going to be successful.

The best example of this is the NOUS network (the Network for Constitutional Economics and Social Philosophy), which remains predominantly German-speaking, but reaches into Switzerland and Austria, and certainly also across the pond into the United States. NOUS was formed after the neoliberals separated themselves from the German Hayek Society, due to its takeover by a neo-nationalist wing related to the AfD. The mainstream – less nationalist and less social conservative – neoliberals, including Karen Horn, then started building the NOUS network.

One of the first things the NOUS network did was organize a second Colloque Walter Lippmann. The first one took place in 1938, and was a pivotal moment in the history of early neoliberalism. This colloquium was the NOUS network’s own acknowledgement that we have entered a moment for reflection on how the old neoliberal convictions have failed us, and left us with the need to develop something different.

There was also the emergence of the Property and Freedom Society. It split off from the Mises Institute in 2006. It has also fed the search for these right-wing, authoritarian, populist spaces. So, there are many elements speaking to the larger battle over the proper understanding of neoliberalism, and over the future of the neoliberal project, to speak.

To push you into an almost Popperian corner, what would be the conditions under which we could talk about post-neoliberalism? Is it enough for neoliberalism to collapse under the weight of its contradictions, unable to find a place for universal private property in the age of climate change?

I welcome the discussion, but we should be warned: the last time we were talking about the end of neoliberalism was after Thatcher left office, and then came Blair. Then again, I am acutely aware that we only really started talking about neoliberalism in the 2000s. The era we're talking about as having been shaped by neoliberalism, we only recognized as neoliberal 30 years later. Future intellectual historians might call the period we're now entering by a very different name.

It's perfectly fine to talk about post-neoliberalism in the present, especially on the international level. We are certainly witnessing increasing conflict over key elements of what we have come to consider the neoliberal order. We are moving away from the globalist project. The new militarized geopolitics between the US and China are not making neoliberals happy – unless you consider China a state socialist system that needs to be removed in order to have a complete capitalist system again.

But, on the national level, we may actually be swinging back towards some neoliberal policies again. Although there are conflicts over the priorities of austerity capitalism, we are returning to a reinforcement of austerity in Germany right now. In France, Macron has planned to slash budgets by 5 percent in addition to the pension reform. In the EU, yet another chance is currently being missed to increase European fiscal policy space on a permanent basis.

Overall, it's too early to tell what the overall economic transformations will be after this political conjuncture. So we have to talk about post-neoliberalism, given all these complications, but there's still no way for us to clearly see what the replacement is.

Looking back on Road from Mont Pèlerin, which was published in 2009, would you still have stuck with the term neoliberalism? Or opted for a label with a more narrow focus?

No, I would still use neoliberalism. There's this stubbornness on the part of some neoliberals who want to unname themselves. They want to leave behind an ideology without ideologues, or something. When people started to call themselves classical liberals, I felt that the neoliberal term was even more adequate, because it is so important to distinguish this brand of thinking from actual 19th-century liberal thinking.

The only point I often have to clarify about how I use neoliberalism is its right-wing dimension. Social liberalism is also a neoliberalism, in that it wants to stabilize the market economy and the capitalist order just as much as right-wing liberalism. But what differentiates neoliberalism is its conservative dimension, which often gets lost – partly because of a language problem. In the US, liberalism became equated with social democracy, with left-leaning liberalism. This meant that American right-wing liberals couldn't call themselves neoliberal. It's kind of funny how this has been negotiated. Ed Feulner, the founder of the Heritage Foundation, has lamented that what continental Europeans call liberalism, they have to call conservatism.

That said, I cannot see how we can lose the name of neoliberalism. It has been a key ideology of the bourgeoisie.

Your most recent collection, co-edited with Quinn Slobodian, has done an admirable job shifting away from a US- or EU-centric lens on neoliberalism. What do we gain by studying it this way?

We need to decolonize how neoliberalism is read. Trying to tackle the history of Mont Pèlerin was not exactly a small feat, so I will be leaving it to the next generation to paint the larger picture around neoliberalism. We have to expand the narrow understandings of neoliberalism, which make it out to be an American or European affair given the origins of the biggest names.

From the beginning, neoliberals were also in places like Brazil and Chile, and even Guatemala. Many people have recognized the Global South origins of neoliberalism in some capacity, but then they blame it all on the Chicago School. They ignore what Karin Fischer covers in one of the book's chapters: the local Guatemalan elements drew directly on Catholic traditions from Spain. Similar Catholic roots in Brazil are still little recognized today. Particularly in the sphere of religion, there is still some work to do.

Studying neoliberalism in this way changes narratives about cultural and economic imperialism. In my view, it is problematic to exclusively consider neoliberalism an ideology that came from the centers and moved to the peripheries. From early on, the participation and involvement of Global South intellectuals was more than marginal. If you think of neoliberalism as reducible to the work of Hayek, then of course everything else is a marginal contribution; but if you think of neoliberalism in terms of the efforts needed to activate it in many places – as in Japan, in India, in Turkey – then we must attend to the active labor of mediating conservative social and religious doctrines with neoliberalism's economic ideology. That’s how we start to properly understand the globalization of a worldview across many different kinds of societies.

Interviewed by Evgeny Morozov and Ekaitz Cancela

Edited by Marc Shkurovich

Further Readings
Philip Mirowski, Dieter Plehwe (eds.)
Harvard University Press
Quinn Slobodian, Dieter Plehwe (eds.)
Zone Books
Dieter Plehwe et al. (eds)
Dieter Plehwe et al.
The Climate Social Science Network
Karin Fischer
in "Market Civilizations," Zone Books