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Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown

After the financial apocalypse, neoliberalism rose from the dead—stronger than ever
At the onset of the Great Recession, as house prices sank and joblessness soared, many commentators concluded that the economic convictions behind the disaster would now be consigned to history. And yet, in the harsh light of a new day, we’ve awoken to a second nightmare more ghastly than the first: a political class still blaming government intervention, a global drive for austerity, stagflation, and an international sovereign debt crisis.

Philip Mirowski finds an apt comparison to this situation in classic studies of cognitive dissonance. He concludes that neoliberal thought has become so pervasive that any countervailing evidence serves only to further convince disciples of its ultimate truth. Once neoliberalism became a Theory of Everything, providing a revolutionary account of self, knowledge, information, markets, and government, it could no longer be falsified by anything as trifling as data from the “real” economy.

In this sharp, witty and deeply informed account, Mirowski—taking no prisoners in his pursuit of “zombie” economists—surveys the wreckage of what passes for economic thought, finally providing the basis for an anti-neoliberal assessment of the current crisis and our future prospects.

Reviews

  • “A fascinating account.”
  • “The best and most thorough treatment of the financial crisis’s impact upon the economics profession.”
  • “A study guide for those who saw Inside Job and want more… Anyone who reads it will recognize the author’s enormous energy and originality.”
  • “Raucous, irreverent and highly perceptive.”
  • “It is hard to imagine a historian who was not an economist (as Mirowski is) being able to encompass the economics of the second half of the 20th century in its diversity and technicality.”
  • “Mirowski is the most imaginative and provocative writer at work today on the recent history of economics.”
  • “A powerful critique of neoclassical economics.”
  • “An important demolition of neoliberal dogmas.”
  • “Well worth reading.”
  • “Mirowski exposes the neoliberal takeover of minds and culture with an erudition, style and—dare I say it?—vocabulary that makes deep digging in this Great Bog of Repression almost a pleasure. This book shows how economic ideas caused the crisis. And it demonstrates their enduring triumph, which is that nothing has changed or will change, as we careen from the last disaster to the next one.”

Blog

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    First up, Wolfgang Streeck's analysis of the 2008 financial crisis, Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism.
    Placing the crisis in the context of the neoliberal transformation of society that began in the 1970s, Streeck's focus is on the tensions that this has produced between states, voters and capitalist enterprises. Buying Time asks fundamental questions about the compatibility between democracy and contemporary forms of capitalism. 
    Read Streeck's excellent article on the end of capitalism at the New Left Review website.

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  • Philip Mirowski interviewed on This is Hell! and reviewed in Jacobin

    In an interview last weekend with This is Hell's Chuck Mertz, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown author Phiip Mirowski discussed the insidious way in which neoliberalism thought has seeped into every area of our lives, including the discipline of economics, environmental denialism, economic policies, and even social media. For example, Mirowski cites Ilana Gershon on how Facebook turns individuals into "neoliberal agents:"

    It takes your information for free, and sells it to others for a profit ... I construct a profile on Facebook with stereotypical material and then try to measure my worth by attracting fake friends with an artificial metric. Subtle algorithms force me to continually update my profile, teaching me that there's no stable, coherent self that I must return to. Indeed, I can be anything I want to be on Facebook.


    In response to whether or not the lack of criticism of neoliberalism has to do with a fear of being labeled a socialist, Mirowski responds:

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