Damien Cahill, Lindy Edwards and Frank Stilwell (eds.): Neoliberalism: Beyond the Free Market.

Author:Burrows, Scott
Position::Book review
 
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Damien Cahill, Lindy Edwards and Frank Stilwell (eds.) Neoliberalism: Beyond the Free Market, Edward Elgar Publishing: Cheltenham, 2012; 288 pp: 978-1781002346, 67.50 [pounds sterling] (hbk)

Neoliberalism: Beyond the Free Market comes at a time of major economic crisis. This very timely book addresses the nature of neoliberalism as part of, and a consequence of, the global financial crisis. The book is structured in four parts, each exploring neoliberalism from the perspectives of a range of inter-disciplinary schools. These include historical institutionalists, regulation theorists, Foucauldians, Marxists, Polanyi-inspired scholars, and experts on the history of ideas. These approaches provide a useful contextual framework for understanding the concept of neoliberalism.

The book commences with important discussions concerning the ascent of neoliberalism as a particular ideological resumption of classical liberalism. By definition, as scholars of neoliberalism are well aware, the priority of markets and their associated practices of individualism, laissez-faire competition, private property rights and a belief that free capitalist expansion improves the prosperity of everyone, form part of these assumptions. The book makes careful note of the simplicity of such approaches by positioning a strong argument upfront that economic markets remain, and are always, socially embedded. In other words, transactions in the economy are shaped and constructed by their particular cultural, political and social contexts. The book conceptualises these across the perspectives outlined above. Using these conceptual and thematic frameworks also gives a greater appreciation of the uneven nature of neoliberal practice because, as the authors argue, neoliberalism diverges as its ideological and terminological assumptions are operationalised in practice. This often leads to contradictory impacts and outcomes across a wide range of political and policy contexts. The authors note some of the characteristics of the nature of neoliberal practice. These include: (1) a collection of political ideas; (2) a political movement; (3) a set of policy practices; and (4) a way of organising the capitalist economy (Edwards et al. 2012: 6). This is a schematically appropriate framework and approach because, as the book argues, neoliberalism can be seen in a variety of ways through various dimensions. Given that many governments both in Australia and overseas embarked on such...

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