The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism, Polity, Cambridge, 2011; 199 pp; 97807456052214 15 [pounds sterling] (pbk)
Henk Overbeek and Bastiaan van Apeldoorn (eds.)
Neoliberalism in Crisis, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2012; 268 pp; 9780230301634 57 [pounds sterling] (hbk)
As the focus of study has shifted from the causes of the 2007-8 global crisis to its consequences, the future of neoliberalism has become one of the main preoccupations of left scholarship. The crisis has revealed fundamental weaknesses in the new policy architecture of globalisation, privatisation and deregulation, and many critics looked forward to a reassertion of alternatives that would reverse these processes, or at least rein them in.
Colin Crouchs book is deliberately aimed at a non-specialist audience, and seeks to explain the yawning gap in neoliberalism between the simplistic ideology of freedom and enterprise, and the reality of giant corporations that dominate markets and states alike. The opening chapter provides a concise history of neoliberalism, focusing on how it came to the fore with the crisis of Keynesianism and social democracy in the 1970s. The following five chapters analyse what the author sees as the major elements of neoliberalism. Chapter 2 provides the liberal auto-critique of'market failures', the most significant of which is monopoly, or more precisely the excessive power of large corporations. This is then explored directly in Chapter 3, in which Crouch shows how the Chicago School argued that the greater overall efficiency of the large firm more than outweighed the welfare loss attributed to market power, thereby undermining traditional US and UK antitrust policy. This demonstrates that corporate power is political as well as economic, contradicting the liberal insistence that they can and must be separated.
Chapter 4 then examines the related claim that the public sector is innately inefficient as a service provider, requiring reforms that either transfer provision directly to the private sector, or subject public provision to simulated market discipline. However, monopoly and other classic forms of market failure ensure that any gains in 'productive efficiency' accrue very largely to private providers, not to service users; they also create a web of mutual promotion between private interests and state managers. Chapter 5 traces the origins of the 2008-9 financial crisis directly to the neoliberal transformation of global...