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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 frequency and scale of the spectacular fires that consumed much of the South Bronx and other areas of New York City throughout the 1970s can in large part be blamed on the recommendations for fire service reduction made by the New York City-RAND Institute and HUD between 1969 and 1976. In 1973, urban epidemiologists Deborah Wallace and Rodrick Wallace got access to Rand's fire service reports. Immediately recognizing the flimsy pseudoscience that undergirded their claims, they began to write and campaign against the station closures and the other policies based on Rand recommendations.

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    In the excerpt below, Wallace and Wallace situate the development of Rand's recommendations in the context of the deliberate de-industrialization of New York undertaken by federal and state officials.  
       


    John Fekner, Charlotte Street Stencils, South Bronx, NY 1980. via Wikimedia Commons.

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    This essay by George Ciccariello-Maher was written for arranca! issue #51 (forthcoming), to provide an overview for a German-speaking audience on the dynamics behind Trump's election and the resistance to his presidency.  



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    How did we get here? The debates are seemingly interminable and inevitably self-serving.

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