The Political Movement That Dared Not Speak its Own Name: The Neoliberal Thought Collective Under Erasure
Philip Mirowski [Institute for New Economic Thinking, August 2014]
….consider the question: how should we approach the construction of a reliable history of a group of intellectuals who have managed to turn their meditations into a political movement on a global scale? Of course this raises timeworn problems of the relationship between theory and practice; but the Neoliberal case sports a further thorny complication: while we can fairly comprehensively identify the roster of whom should be acknowledged as a part of the movement, at least from its beginnings in the 1930s until the recent past, we are confronted with the fact that, in public, they themselves roundly deny the existence of any such well-defined thought collective, and stridently denounce the label of Neoliberalism. Not only do they wash their hands of most of the documented activities of the Neoliberal Thought Collective – think of Hayek and Friedman and their denials concerning the Pinochet interlude in Chile— but their plaint is that their opponents the socialists have always gotten the better of them, and thus their political project has never enjoyed any real successes, ever, anywhere, contrary to all evidence brought to the table. They are forever the bridesmaid of conservative parties, never the bride, to hear them tell it. Given the sheer numbers of people involved, and the really astronomical sums of money, and the cultural dominance of the airwaves, this sad sack victimhood is really quite remarkable, and itself calls for serious examination. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that a political movement that dare not speak its own name has intellectual contradictions that it dare not air openly.