The Morals of the Market

The Morals of the Market:Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism

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The fatal embrace of human rights and neoliberalism

Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in neoliberal attempts to develop a moral framework for a market society. In the wake of the Second World War, neoliberals saw demands for new rights to social welfare and self-determination as threats to “civilisation”. Yet, rather than rejecting rights, they developed a distinctive account of human rights as tools to depoliticise civil society, protect private investments and shape liberal subjects.

Reviews

  • Among the most brilliant and implacable younger intellectuals working today, Jessica Whyte has turned in a masterful and thrilling account of how neoliberals faced down and helped remake human rights for our time. With its intrepid documentation of how Friedrich Hayek and his fellows engaged with the annunciation of human rights in the 1940s, and its fascinating wealth of evidence about how deeply neoliberal assumptions about markets and nations affected the rise of humanitarian advocacy in the 1970s, The Morals of the Market is a fundamental challenge that no one can avoid.

    Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World
  • We now know that neoliberals preached less the retreat of state and supranational institutions than their refashioning. What we did not know, and what Jessica Whyte teaches us in her propulsive and probing book, is how central a rethinking of human rights was to the neoliberal project. In her genealogy of market morality, Whyte offers the best history yet of how neoliberals put hierarchical ideas of civilization and race at the heart of their thought from its origins, and how they constructed their version of human rights as a barricade and battering ram against political projects premised on human equality and economic justice.

    Quinn Slobodian, Wellesley College
  • This beautifully written book combines historical inquiry, theoretical rigor, and archival research to explore the complicated relationship between neoliberal market morals, imperialism, and human rights politics in the twentieth-century. Whyte’s astonishingly original argument cuts through neoliberal deflection like a scythe offering us insights into human rights essential to imagining a better political future.

    Jeanne Morefield, University of Birmingham