In the 2017 Guardian long-read article “Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world” by Stephen Metcalf, Metcalf discusses the birth, the journey and over all the impacts of neoliberalism. Metcalf illustrates neoliberalism extremely effectively and how it has gone from one man’s idea to “the reigning ideology of our era”. In this article review, I will first provide an overview on the topic of neoliberalism, then give a synopsis of the article and explore its main points. In addition, I will also critique the article, then recommend what I believe are the positives and negatives and finally explain what I would’ve added if I were to write such an article.
In order to give a detailed analysis of this article I must first explore the key topic which is neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is an old term and originates from a Viennese man by the name of Friedrich Hayek, (now thought of as the grandfather of neoliberalism as we know it today) who decided to solve the problem of modernity in 1936. Hayek wrote, “How can the combination of fragments of knowledge existing in different minds, bring about results which, if they were to be brought about deliberately, would require a knowledge on the part of the directing mind which no single person can possess?”, this shows that Hayek fundamentally disagreed with the welfare state and his answer was exploring the market as a type of mind. Another key thing to remember is that the article showcases neoliberalism as a style of thought which consisted of economics. Furthermore, Oxford Dictionary cites neoliberalism as a modified form of liberalism which supports free-market capitalism. In addition, early neoliberals desired to divorce liberalism(the autonomy of individuals to contest the marketplace) from laissez-faire (free of state intervention or involvement) (Taylor C. Boas 2009). In today’s word, the language of neoliberalism continues to dominate control over government, bureaucratic and institutional life.
The article covers an array of information from the International Monetary Fund’s declaration of neoliberalism’s existence and three senior economists from the IMF itself produced a paper examining the benefits of neoliberalism. Additionally, I found the article to specify that the idea is not just attached to pro-market policies but also clandestinely regulates everything from what we believe to what we practise. Moreover the article highlights how this idea which has developed both radically and aggressively into our world since the 1930’s has shown that competition is the only authentic and valid organising standard for human activity. It also captures Hayek’s struggle to surpass Keyne’s merit (and his renowned masterpiece ‘General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ which was published in 1936) and ultimately losing in a rout despite conclusively being victorious later on in life as his ideas were applied via Thatcher and Reagan. The literature indicates what classical liberalism is and how exactly neoliberalism is an important modification to the belief of a free market and a minimal state. Furthermore, it goes on to explore how academics and intellectuals alike such as Lawrence Summers stated that Hayek’s interpretation of the price system as a mind is “as penetrating and original an idea as microeconomics produced in the 20th century” and “the single most important thing to learn from an economics course today”.
Notably, the first main point brought to the reader’s attention covers the origins of neoliberalism, and how it has been revived. The article reveals how the most prominent proponent of neoliberalism was Friedrich Hayek and how his idea was challenged by the most senior and accredited economists of his time. In addition, the article discusses the idea’s beginnings in microscopic depth and explores the finer details such as the ideology’s core concepts (i.e. weakening the welfare state and asserting market dominance in society so that it controls every action of every being).
Secondly, another point that is explored by Metcalf is the development or ‘journey’ of neoliberalism and its applications in today’s world. The term can reflect back on past politics, i.e. Thatcher in Britain and Reagan in the USA, what’s more is that it also mirrors politics currently, i.e. Brexit in Britain and Trump in the US. With this in mind, Metcalf examines the correlation between the militant parochialism of Brexit Britain and Trumpist America with neoliberal rationale. Furthermore, Metcalf accentuates how Hayek’s ‘Big Idea’ was integral and appropriate for the postwar academic culture. The article also depicts how the ‘Big Idea’ of neoliberalism acts as the lost connection among our subjective human nature, and nature itself.