Thursday, September 13, 2018

Adam Kotsko's "Neoliberalism’s Demons"

Adam Kotsko is on the faculty of the Shimer Great Books School at North Central College, where he teaches widely in the humanities and social sciences. His research on political theology, continental philosophy, and the history of Christian thought. He is the author of The Prince of This World, a study of the political legacy of pre-modern Christian ideas about the devil, and the newly released Neoliberalism’s Demons, which argues that the contemporary political-economic order functions on the basis of a logic of moral entrapment that echoes the theological concept of demonization.

Kotsko applied the “Page 99 Test” to Neoliberalism’s Demons and reported the following:
On page 99 of Neoliberalism’s Demons, I am discussing Will Davies’ periodization of the neoliberal era, as laid out in his New Left Review article “The New Neoliberalism.” He characterizes the late 70s and 80s as the era of “combative neoliberalism,” when Reagan, Thatcher, and others were implementing the profound political and economic changes—most notably, the dismantling of the welfare state and the reduction in taxation and regulation—that would mark the shift from the postwar economic model to neoliberalism. By the 90s and early 2000s, the neoliberal mantra of “there is no alternative” shifted from being an aspiration (or a threat) to a reality: essentially all developed nations had adopted neoliberal reforms and the general ethos of endless competition. At this stage, which Davies calls “normative,” more progressive parties took the lead and aimed to ensure that the competition was fair. Finally, though, in the wake of the financial crisis, neoliberalism enters into a “punitive” stage characterized by endless austerity, justified by public debt.

This page exemplifies my approach in a few ways. First, it highlights the importance of the development and transformation of the neoliberal regime over time, and the shift to “punitive” neoliberalism lays the groundwork for my account of how the right-wing reaction (represented by Trump and Brexit) grew out of the neoliberal model. It also obviously illustrates my debt to Will Davies, whose Limits of Neoliberalism is one of the few books prior to my own to ask about the sources of the legitimacy of neoliberalism. Many books can tell you where neoliberalism came from, how it developed, and what (mostly negative) effects it has had on people around the world—but very few have asked the question of why people would go along with the neoliberal system. That is the core question of my book and, though he approaches it from a very different disciplinary background, of Davies’ as well.
Visit Adam Kotsko's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Prince of This World.

--Marshal Zeringue