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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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    The spectacle of representative democracy is fully underway in the UK, and what a ride it's been so far! Declaring low taxation at the heart of his political beliefs (no shocker there), David Cameron has come up trumps with his frankly laughable comments on high tax being “morally wrong” and there being “no such thing as public money”. Nigel Farage managed to up his campaign of hate and racism with his thoughts on "health tourism" and the NHS, centering his focus on HIV-positive migrants (killing two birds with one big hateful stone there, I suppose). Meanwhile, over in camp Labour, the jury's out on whether Ed Miliband can convince the public with his “Hell yes, I’m tough enough” routine. Perhaps that wasn’t his first choice of catchphrase, but that’s the magic of live TV. And all cower behind Nicola Sturgeon, maybe the most dangerous woman in Britain.

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    If everything goes well, then what has been happening before our eyes in the last few days is the beginning of the end of the European monetary union. ‘If the Euro collapses, then so does Europe,’ said Chancellor Merkel, when it was a question of selling to the electors one of the horrendous ‘rescue packages’ for the European banks. Now we have the very opposite. The Euro is in the process of destroying Europe. If the Euro collapses – and let it be soon! – it may be that Europe actually doesn’t collapse. The outcome is certainly not clear; the wounds that monetary union has inflicted are too deep. 

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