Seminar 7: Mirowski (2 March)

In this seminar will study two chapters of Mirowski’s book Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste.  Copies were sent to you.

You will find it helpful to recall the basics of the financial crisis 2007-2009. This will help you contextualize chapter 5 in particular. There is a decent briefing in The Economist, see eg The EUI has an institutional subscription to The Economist.


6 comments on “Seminar 7: Mirowski (2 March)

  1. What a disappointment Mirkowski ended up being–disappointment precisely in the sense that he gave so many reasons to have high expectations, and then failed to meet them. It is especially disappointing that the deep critique–his political economy–is so weak, given how powerful, sharp and nuanced he is in the details when it comes to his critique of the economic thought.

    I have a long-running argument with a friend about the nature of the neoliberal ascendance in certain places, whose basic parameters can be reduced to whether the proper explanatory grid should be labelled “ideology” or “conspiracy.” My friend reads the evidence in arithmetic terms: if you add up Hayek, the Mont Pelerin Society, the Koch Brothers, the Republican Party, Fox News, and the economic mainstream, it is hard to ignore the impression of a purposeful and clandestine effort to convince the public to operate in accordance with a social theory which suborns massive inequality, the curtailment of democracy, and recurrent crisis. This accords with David Harvey’s explanation for political-economic trends over the last 35 years. For him, neoliberalism is simply a class project implemented by capital to seize a greater portion of wealth to themselves. The entire academic output of the Chicago school (or perhaps, of the neoclassical mainstream economics) is by these lights simply a distraction from the reality of how capitalism works. The market society, the 13 commandments, are a Big Lie, a veil laid over the public’s eyes while capital filches the family jewels.

    My “it’s the ideology” position errs on the side of attributing actions and behaviours to incompetence rather than malice. The efforts of the Mont Pelerin society to remake the world notwithstanding, I place an emphasis on two trends that belie the conspiracy hypothesis. First, the ideas developed and propounded by Mont Pelerin Society members (and by the first and second generation financial economists, the monetarists and various other experts) did much more than generate a smoke screen that allowed for a redistribution of benefits at the “level of politics.” Their ideas were effective in a much deeper sense. They worked to reorder economic institutions, from central banks to financial markets, from public administration to the firm. Second, the actors at almost every layer of Mirkowski’s “Russian doll” seem to be operating in good faith. They believe in what they are doing, not only in the ideological sense that they are motivated by a political fervor that their actions will bring about beneficial results, but in the more mundane sense that they think their claims are based in truth, or at least, in knowledge that is the best approximation of truth on offer. Is there self-interest involved? The “market design” episode at the end of chapter five suggests that the desire to get paid plays some role, but we can’t forget that we’re dealing with an ideology that defines value by reference to how much someone will pay for it, and that “happens to benefit me” can play second fiddle to a desire to see the products of one’s life work vindicated through high-level adoption.

    So which version does Mirkowski believe? From the two chapters that we read, it seems that he wants it both ways.

    For Mirkowski, the 2008 crisis should have demonstrated the falsehood of the neoliberal commandments and/or the neoclassical orthodoxy. If the high priests of the neoclassical establishment nonetheless refuse to admit that their doctrine has been refuted, it is evidence that they are acting in bad faith. Or, he sometimes seems to be saying (especially in chapter 2), it is evidence that they are suffering from cognitive dissonance, forcing the Krugmans, Shleifers and Stiglitzes to spin their wheels, looking fruitlessly for new models that can fit the radically divergent data without giving up on the basic coordinates of the neoclassical consensus–rationality, maximization, and (unique) equilibrium.

    But which is it? Mirkowski’s answer relies on moving up a level in the global Russian doll. The real agent of driving the perpetuation of ultimately meaningless discussion that distracts from the root causes? The real villain is identified on page 298: it’s the Neoliberal Thought Collective. Krugman may be confused, but he isn’t the real agent here; his confusion, in fact is “useful for the historical agent pulling the strings: “As long as [the orthodox economics profession]…keeps people distracted…then the NTC is getting value for money.”

    The problem with this premise of “social theory as global conspiracy” is not only that his evidence for it is so thin as to border on the non-sequitur (economists get paid a lot, so the parroting of neoclassical orthodoxy post-crisis is driven the neoliberal project). It’s also that the NTC is an entity so diffuse that attributing it agency is equivalent to blaming ‘history’ itself. Mirkowski suggested in chapter 2 that, by 2000, the Mont Pelerin Society had been rendered headless, its intellectual bonified hollowed out by status-seeking capitalists. But if there is no one pulling the strings, then this is an explanation without real elucidation. Public debate over irrelevant aspects of the problem, politicized identification of “incorrect” causes, novel models which retain “insupportable” premises–all these help to maintain the basic coordinates of a social organization that has much in common with the ideals set out by the Mont Pelerin society in the 1960s. So what? The hard question is, which ideas stick, and when, and how, in light of evidence to the contrary. Vague reference to anonymous patrons just doesn’t cut it as answer.

    • Fabrizio says:

      Contrary to Liam, I am quite satisfied by the readings.
      First, I think that the Russian doll-intentional agnotological stratey of the NTC has some value. At least it explains better than Harcourt why “diverse” people could work together in Chicago. They are all part of the Russian doll. The gravitational power of the network keeps them together.
      Second, I quite disagree with Liam’s motivational analysis. At least in law and economics, I often have the feeling that the arguments are so negligent that they are likely to be consciously fllawed – which is reinforced by the fact they they always point in the same direction (lowering regulation). Besides, the relation of economists to “truth” is quite weak: if they committ to Friedman (1953) but do not test hypothesis with predictions (“sufficiency bias”), the descritive claim associated to modeling is unclear.
      Finally and sadly, in Mirkowski’s narrative the NCT network behaves on the market for ideas in exactly the same way of firms according to behavioural researches. They confuse the public opinion and drive it in the desired direction. This means that people denying preference manipulation manipulate preferences. The best way for doing something in plain sight is denying that it can be made.

  2. Ola Innset says:

    I think Philip Mirowski is one of the most interesting intellectuals alive and working today. That doesn’t mean that I think he can’t be wrong, but I do think his work should be taken very seriously. There is A LOT going on in what we read for today. Chapter 2 is basically a theory of what neoliberalism is, based on previous work he has done on the Mont Pelerin Society. It includes controversial concepts like ”the neoliberal thought collective” with its ”russian doll structure” and ”double truths”. Chapter 5 follows a detailed chapter on the various immediate responses from the economics profession to the 2008 crisis, and looks specifically at some of the ”this is what we have learned from the crisis and now economics are fixed”-narratives that emerged a little after, such as the critique of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and something called the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium model. It concludes by introducing the term “agnotology” – the conscious spread of doubt in the general public, and says that this was the main goal of the neoliberal thought collective in the aftermath of the crisis. This is because “they” believe that no matter what the cause of the crisis was, knowledge about financial markets/society/the world cannot lie with individual actors, groups, regulators etc., but only in the market mechanism itself. Hence the only way out of it is through the operations of the market itself, and neoliberals needed to buy time in the wake of the crisis, and discourage public opinion and politicians from making rash, uninformed decisions about how to save the market/the economy.

    This is a position largely derived from Hayekian epistemology, and it is fraught with contradictions, something Mirowski exposes with great pleasure. What we should ask, of course, is who this “they”, the neoliberal thought collective, really are, and if it makes any sense to talk about neoliberalism in this way. The idea of a thought collective is a rather novel way of doing a combination of intellectual history and political history that owes a lot to science studies/Bruno Latour et al’s work on how scientists “create” the world they study. It allows someone like Mirowski to talk about the Mont Pèlerin Society not in terms of biographical accounts of individuals reaching ever higher planes of intellectual sophistication, but as a group simultaneously involved in the production of new knowledge and in the organization of various political lobby-groups. The ATLAS-foundation, which was set up by Anthony Fischer in the 80s as a sort of co-ordinating think tank, apparently now has 400 think tanks in over 70 countries connected to it, and they actively try to influnce the world based on the ideas of the neoliberal thought collective. Does that mean it’s a conspiracy? Well, if working together to change things, getting quite a bit of funding, and being quite successful at it means you’re a conspiracy, then that’s what the Mont Pèlerin Society is, and Mirowski’s theories about them are effectively conspiracy theories. But I don’t think it’s very helpful to discard Mirowski’s work in the same way one would discard ramblings about secret societies ruling the world through chemtrails – this is not what this is.

    One of the places where it does get problematic, however, is when considering the degree of coordination between what is referred to as the different layers of the Russian doll. Are there some philosopher-kings in the middle who have the whole Hayekian picture of a modern world owing its existence to an organically developed market order which must be protected from the earthlings, but can be tinkered with by them and only them? And then the average think-tank-Joe is just churning out position papers defending business interests while Tea Party members are marching on Washington for FREEDOM FROM THE GOVERNMENT! and top economists are paid huge fees by investment banks before advicing congress? And they are all, somehow unconsciously, working together?

    This is tricky, but there’s no point in making caricatures either. One of Mirowski’s “13 commandments” is that neoliberals see the market as a super-human information processor. Information and knowledge is put at the centre of economic analysis, making it a theory of knowledge, or as chapter 3 on “Everyday neoliberalism” puts it: A theory of everything. This is key to Mirowski’s “Foucaldian” analysis of neoliberalism, and it could also go some way in explaining how a Neoliberal Thought Collective can somehow work as a collective effort with divergent strands working differently and some times even separately, inspired by various versions of the same fundamental belief in The Market as supreme coordinating mechanism and knower of all truths. Some of these people actively work together to shape the world, (why is that so hard to believe?) Others are just trying to get rich or don’t know any better – but there can be many ways in which these “unconsciously neoliberal” decisions have been influenced by the neoliberal thought collective. In many ways these are the things Mirowski are trying to show – for instance how talented young economists get recruited by institutes and networks connected to all of this, or how the post-crash debate has been actively hi-jacked and derailed. I struggle to understand finance, but as far as i can see he is pointing to a succesful, concerted effort and showing quite precisely how it happened. Is this just beyond our imagination because we ourselves are so politically impotent?

  3. stavros says:

    Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their naked conditions of existence and it has a material existence (Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses). In addition, roughly any ideology has a triple function: it attempts to understand the real world, predict the outcome of certain acts or patterns of behavior and achieve a change towards a certain objective or value. In this setting, Mirowski’s project first calls for demonstrating what kind of social imagination is constructed and advocated by neoliberalism (i), second seeks to show the material existence of this constellation of ideas (namely that neoliberalism is deeply rooted into everyday life and connected to the existing crisis) (ii) and, third aims at demonstrating in what sense neoliberalism, while failing to achieve the abovementioned triple task, continues being unscathed (iii) (p. 30). In this post I will argue that point (iii) is slightly overstated, while the failure to establish point (ii) derives from a methodological problem concerning point (i).

    To start with point (iii), according to Mirowski neoliberalism managed to come through the crisis relatively unscathed because of a cognitive dissonance, it’s approach to knowledge and its “double truth” element. I find the knowledge-based argument sound (p. 78-83), thereby I will comment only on the remaining two in turn. Cognitive dissonance describes the state of affairs where, once a falsification of people’s strong beliefs occurs, they react by adjusting their understanding of the dogma to the new contrary evidence (p. 33-36). Nonetheless, this is a general characteristic of ideological paradigms. If we look closely the interpretation of the Bible or of the main Marxist literature, we will find that kind of adjustment procedure on the part of the successors via reading the original sources. Thus, cognitive dissonance alone does not explain the alleged domination of neoliberal orthodoxy. In addition, cognitive dissonance takes place as long as the core elements of a certain ideology have been disproven or falsified. Hence, the content of neoliberalism should be first determined and then it should be investigated to what extent they have been falsified.

    In the same line the “double truth” element of neoliberalism is not inherent to it (p. 68-70). Many other ideologies tend to have an exoteric and an esoteric version; the first being appropriate for the masses and the second being associated with a small closed elite. Take, for instance, the Leninist idea of the vanguard party leading the political campaign, under the justification that the proletariat alone cannot successfully achieve a revolution. The vanguard consists of professional revolutionaries who have a deep understanding of the real conditions and a good grasp of the dogma, and, thus, they are able to create and popularize the political plan. This idea could be traced back to Plato and is heavily criticized (e.g R. Luxemburg, Organizational Questions of Russian Social Democracy), but it is plausible to argue that quite all current political parties and think tanks are organized in this simple form. Unequivocally, Mirowski is right criticizing neoliberalism for an internal contradiction since he shows that the Neoliberal Academy, the MPS preserved a hierarchical, Leninist-type organization, yet this mere fact does not explain the alleged persistence of neoliberalism in our days.

    My impression is that if neoliberalism is defined narrowly it becomes apparent that it is not at present the dominant ideology in international level. It remains tempting and influential, but as far as I am concerned there is not any pure neoliberal party in power in the West, neoliberal ideas are implemented in many occasions with “distortions” or caveats and numerous polls have shown that neoliberalism is favored solely by a minority of the population amongst western countries. Furthermore, after the current financial turmoil in both sides of the Atlantic many people have become skeptical about the neoliberal policy recipes, while the unqualified faith on markets’ efficiency has receded. In this respect, it seems that Mirowski overstates the problem.

    Now I will turn in point (i) for I think this is the main reason point (ii) is not fully demonstrated. In particular, it seems that a methodological flaw leads to an over-inclusive conceptual account of neoliberalism. Mirowski starts in a historical manner assembling evidence from numerous material sources and attempts to highlight the thirteen main elements of neoliberalism (p. 50-70). He is heavily based on the MPS thought collective but he seems to ignore that his thirteen-commandments definition could include roughly all market friends and qualified friends (e.g. what could be a non-neoliberal conception of markets?). Should his critique was focused to the Virginia School, the Chicago School as well as to the Austrians it would be much more plausible for he would be able to demonstrate more clearly the conceptual relations and the common denominator between these traditions. Nonetheless, following Foucault he includes Ordoliberals, and his definition confines him to consider neoclassical economists and welfarists as neoliberals.

    In particular, point (1) of his definition could be traced to many other thinkers who are definitely not neoliberals. For instance Sandel and E. Anderson adopt the constructivist thesis and ask what kind of market order is compatible with our societal values. With regards to point (2) it should be noted that ordoliberals adopt a strikingly different conception of the market compared to the one adopted by the Chicago school and as a result attribute different role to state intervention and competition law. Same with the point (3): treating market as natural should be mainly attributed to the Austrian and the Chicago School. Likewise, regarding state intervention the Freiburg School accepted the classical liberal notion that competition drives economic prosperity, but it argued that a laissez-faire state policy stifles competition as the strong devour the weak since monopolies and cartels could pose a threat to freedom of competition. Thus, they coined the term “social market economy”. Another example is point (9): Hayek’s thesis that “the market order does not bring about any correspondence between subjective merit or individual needs” is also shared by non-neoliberals who advocate in favor of egalitarian principles (e.g. Fleishacker, A short history of distributive justice).

    Adopting such an over-inclusive definition of neoliberalism may advance a “theory of everything” (p. 59), but it could be a limited use. This methodological problem becomes apparent if we pose a rather simple question: under which criteria should we taxonomize these intellectuals under the neoliberal rubric? This is also the reason why Mirowski has to highlight that the neoliberal doctrine is “mutable”, it is “omnipresent, yet complex, mediated and heterogeneous,” does not lead to a “fixed static utopia” and that the neoliberals do not agree on basic terms such as market and freedom (p. 52-53). Hence, his categorization is made more on historical and political terms and less in conceptual. Furthermore, to my understanding, if he intended to make such a sweeping claim, he should have phrased it in more bold and radical terms. For example, Pashukanis attacking the very notion of the market and the relevant legal superstructure argues that the commodity exchange in conjunction with the money as the general equivalence within capitalist society create the subjectivity, the legal personality and the economic rationality (The General Theory of Law and Marxism).

    In light of the above it becomes obvious that a more nuanced and narrow definition of neoliberalism (mainly focusing on Chicago and Austrian School) is required so as to avoid “apophenia”. Pursuant to this approach neoliberalism aims at limiting the state’s intervention to the most extensive possible degree, since laissez-faire and unfettered competition can guarantee freedom and achieve efficiency. In this sense neoliberalism is indeed connected to classical liberalism if the later is defined as set of ideas, which argues in favor of laissez-faire for markets and envisions the role of the state as watchdog (The confusion may lie in the notion of classical liberalism, which is much less coherent and narrow, yet this issue goes beyond the purposes of this post). In addition as Harcourt and Chang have demonstrated neoliberalism is confined to naturalize markets (p. 73, 74).

    Moreover, the neoliberal conception of liberty draws back to Benjamin Constant’s distinction between the Liberty of the Ancients and the Liberty of the Moderns: the former is a participatory, republican liberty, warranting citizens the right to directly influence politics and participate in public functions, while the latter was based on the possession of civil liberties, the rule of law, and freedom from excessive state interference. This negative freedom in Berlin’s terms, is defined as the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints and comprises individual’s natural ability to make choices. Yet the neoliberals, unlike Berlin, ignore that positive and negative liberty could clash or they are simply indifferent to the very notion of positive liberty. It should be also noted that neoliberals understand negative liberty in a Hobbesean manner, as a natural property and not as a constructive value, which derives from a certain institutional design. Three additional points compliment this narrow definition: a) liberty is considered as self-ownership and the individual is deemed as an entrepreneur, a bundle of investments in different market settings (p. 59-60); b) the market becomes the one and only source of truth and it is used to define and realize market and non-market values (Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics); c) state intervention should be minimal, is justified only in cases of market failure and as long as it restores the effective function of the market. These constituents could be found to Mirowski’s definition, yet Mirowski’s definition attempts to catch additional sets of ideas that go beyond this definition (p. 54-70). As broader and less coherent an ideology is, the more possible it becomes to be found to the real world, yet this may mean that it has stopped being an ideology.

  4. Elias says:

    I found the reading of the Mirowski partially interesting, but not very convincing or instructive.
    Mirowski states in the beginning, that his book purports to give a more sophisticated account and analysis of the Neoliberal paradigm which goes beyond “leftist” narratives and conspiracy doctrines putting the neo-liberal label on every idea/phenomenon they are politically opposed to. Nevertheless, Mirowski’s narrative of the genesis, rise and persistence of THE “Neoliberal Thought Collective” reads like a Dan Brown novel describing the rise of an obscure elitist sect which unnoticeably gained control over our society. The account starts with the foundation of the ominous “Mont Pèlerin Society” which becomes the headquater of a subversive, mafia-like, transnational and hierarchical network. This network spreads it tentacles via satellite institutions (universities, tax-avoiding foundations, think-tanks and publishing houses) over the globe and hitchhikes the control centers of our economies, polities and societies in order to spread its “right-wing” ideology.Thus, Hayek, Friedman and co. try to organize from the magic Pèllerin mountain the successful take-over of the world and succeed in “refabricating the society”.

    Admittedly, the reliance on the Mont Pèllerin Society and the “multilevel, multiphase, multisector” conspiracy-approach of the Neoliberal Thought Collective is a nice plot. Moreover, it allows Mirowski to avoid entering into a serious discussion about the (various) intellectual origins and the historical context of the emergence of the Neoliberal school of thought. Indeed, there is no single word in Mirowski’s account on the original “motivations” and underlying reasons for the renaissance of a new liberal paradigm after the Second World War. Contrary to Foucault’s analysis in the Birth of Biopolitics, Mirowski’s narrative lacks any serious analysis of the “neo-liberal” writings as initial reaction to Totalitarianism and Socialism (e.g. German Ordoliberals, Hayek: The road to serfdom; von Mises “Im Namen des Staates”) and the further rhetorical (ab-) use of this “founding myth” as justification of the Neoliberal paradigm.

    Moreover, by relying on an institutional criterion (the “Mont Pèllerin Society” and its ever growing and mutating network/entity) in order to define Neoliberalism as “Thought Collective”, Mirowski also does not provide any differentiated analysis of the inner tensions, divergences and pluralism within the Neoliberal paradigm. In the beginning, Mirowski acknowledges the divergent tendencies between the Austrian School, German Ordoliberalism and Neo-classical economics (Chicago School). Nevertheless, he does not hesitate to summarize all these different approaches under the category of “THE Neoliberal Though Collective”. Compared to Foucault’s analysis of the Neoliberal theory which clearly differentiates between “German Ordoliberalism” and “American Neoliberalism”, or Harcourt’s description of the inner tensions between the Hayekian and Utilitarian traditions, Mirowski’s account of THE NTC remains quite simplistic.

    This lack of a distinctive delimitation of the content of Neoliberal thought is also the reason why Mirowski falls in the same trap as other conspiracy-narratives of Neoliberalism. His concept of the Neoliberal Thought Collective becomes a label for a theory / ideology about everything and nothing. Suddenly, a huge variety of phenomena such as the “neutralization of the financial reform”, the denial of global warming, the Tea Party movement (p.52-53), “network sociology” and other “sciences” (p.56), the Internet and social networks (59), liberalization of the international capital markets after Bretton Woods (p. 62) socio-economic inequalities (p. 63), incarceration (p.65), etc. becomes part or even driving force of a gigantic Neoliberal “experiment”.

    The reader finally asks himself “What on earth is in this case not “Neoliberal”?”. If we belief Mirowski, there is nothing which is not Neoliberal since his narrative conveys as underlying message that Neoliberalism is a new form of totalitarian ideology and governance. This message is most obvious when Mirowski discusses the internal contradictions of the Neoliberal paradigm in chapter 2 and the debates of the orthodox economics in the aftermath of the crisis.
    Admittedly, the discussion of the inner tensions and contradictions of Neoliberalism (for instance also the impact of Carl Schmitt on Hayek’s “The Constitution of Liberty”) is one of the more interesting parts of his account. However, here again Mirowski does not enter in any in-depth discussion, but offers very simple answers: For instance, the author does not discuss the potential merits of the catchy Hayek quote according to which democracy can under certain circumstances turn into a totalitarian regime. In this regard, he simply oversees that every democratic constitution contains some “anti-democratic” limitations in order to avoid that democracy turns into a totalitarian and illiberal regime. Moreover, he does not mention that the legal and political writings of Carl Schmitt, despite his infamous role during the Nazi regime, are still referred to by numerous intellectuals and not only by Neoliberals. On the contrary, the only purpose of his reference to the role of Schmitt in Hayek’s work is to make a punchy, crucial point: Hayek’s thinking and Neoliberalism in general represent just a new form of totalitarianism, in which “the Führer was replaced by the figure of the entrepreneur” (p.85 f.). Apparently, Hayek and the Neoliberal Thought Collective have succeeded in what Hitler and Stalin failed: conquering the world and destroying democracy.

    Moreover, the inner contradictions and tensions within the Neoliberal school of thought as well as the alleged fake debate on the reasons and the consequences of the crisis serve for Mirowski as evidence that the success of Neoliberalism is based on skillful propaganda and sophisticated brainwashing. According to Mirowski’s account the contradictions within the Neoliberal theory and the failure of the economic discipline to provide clear responses in the aftermath of the crisis are not the potential consequence of inner diversity or caused by the complexity of the crisis. No, they are clear evidence for a purposive strategy of “double truth” as means of a political propaganda strategy aiming at spreading ignorance, doubts and “BIG LIES” “among the “populace” in order to shelter a capitalist elite from democratic accountability and control.

    To turn to some positive aspects of Mirowski’s analysis: The 13 points by which Mirowski tries to pin down the Neoliberal thinking raise some interesting points and contradictions which merit further discussion (e.g. the constructivist agenda of the Neoliberal thought, the naturalization of markets, the lack of a clear definition of markets, the issue of equality, the Neoliberal understanding of freedom as purely negative concept, the tension between democracy (political freedom) and markets (economic freedom) etc.). But again, Mirowski’s analysis remains quite superficial. Mirowski for instance employs Foucault’s description of individual “entrepreneurship” as synonym for the ambiguous Neoliberal understanding of freedom. However, Mirowski understands this concept of “entrepreneurship” as purely market-oriented self-realization (individuals become entrepreneurs investing in their capabilities in order to succeed in market exchanges). In this regard, he ignores the the potential “empowering” nature of the concept of “entrepreneurship”. He does not engage in any discussion on whether the alleged Neoliberal focus on self-realization entailed any substantive increase in opportunities of individuals to realize their individual ends and personal life-concepts. Mirowski does not discuss by any word to what extent the last four decades brought about new positive freedoms in terms of mobility, access to information, gender and racial emancipation, diversity in life plans, tolerance etc. which could arguably linked to the concept of enterpreneurial self-realization. Moreover, with regard to the changing attitude of the Neoliberal paradigm towards monopolistic concentration of market power, Mirowski does not differentiate between different forms (EU vs. US; Ordoliberal vs. Chicago) and generations of Neoliberalism.

    The major drawback of Mirowski’s account consists in the fact that it does not really provide any alternative account to the Neoliberal paradigm. Mirowski does not clarify by explaining his own point of views which assumptions of Neoliberalism are totally misconstrued. Furthermore, he does not provide any own explanation for the financial crisis neither, although all discussed explanations are apparently wrong and constitute a purposive attempt to spread BIG LIES in order to shelter Neoliberalism in the aftermath of the crisis. Above all, the alleged response to his “research question” concerning the reasons for the paradoxical survival and continuous success of Neoliberalism after the crisis boils down to the trendy concept of “cognitive dissonance”. Apparently, we are all like the “Seekers” developing an even stronger belief in Neoliberalism despite the fact that the Crisis confronted us with the contrary evidence that Neoliberal theories and neo-classical economics are just rubbish. This conclusion hinges upon the presumption that Neoliberalism would be rejected by the populace if it could fully understand its deceptive “double-thought” strategy. By contrast, a more balanced approach would perhaps also seriously discuss the potential “attractiveness” of Neoliberalism for instance in terms of self-realization. It would mention that different products of the Neoliberal ideology such as the liberalization of financial markets and increasing financialization of the economy did not only contribute to the current crisis, but also enabled innovations for instance in the internet sector by providing Silicon Valley start-ups such as Google or Facebook with capital. But it is perhaps simpler and more paying to explain the success of Neoliberalism by “double truth” and “cognitive dissonance” which fooled everybody. Everybody – except some very smart guys like Mirowski.

    In order to avoid any misunderstandings: This is not an attempt to defend “Neoliberalism”. On the contrary, it is important and interesting to discuss the “hegemony” of the Neoliberal thought and its inherent contradictions and shortcomings. But Mirowski’s narrative, even though it is an interesting reading, is from my perspective not compelling.

  5. Alice says:

    I really like Mirkowski’s concept of “double truth” that truly capture the current societal and political’s tensions. In particular, it seizes the relationship between the elite, which would be trying to repress democracy, and the masses, which would be lured into a democratic mirage. I think this really captures the new pattern of social domination.
    Both the elite and the mass would be directed by a global neoliberal organisation according to Mirkowski.
    It seems quite clear that the neoliberalism’s ideas have succeed to gain the political sphere and are now constituting the dominant ideology worldwide. However, I find more difficult buy the “conspiracy” argument underlined in Mirkowsky’s argumentation. His definition of a “though collective” and his attempt to define thirteen characteristics that unify neo-liberalism though are very interesting. Yet, he could be understood as presenting the neo-liberalists as a conspirators’ group that would try to impose its vision of social order to the rest of the world in a very organized and strategic way. While, it can be easily argued that neo-liberal ideas are influencing and shaping social orders throughout the world, it is less evident to say that it has been strategically built.

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