Neoliberalism - Expanded Definition - Philosophical Neoliberalism

Philosophical Neoliberalism

The definition of economic neoliberalism which has been presented focuses heavily on economic policies and has little to say about non-economic policy (other than that they should not be allowed to interfere with the running of the free market). A more extreme form of economic neoliberalism advocates the use of free market techniques outside of commerce and business, by the creation of new markets in health, education, energy and so on. David Harvey sums up this definition in a very clear and concise way:

Neoliberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. The state has to guarantee, for example, the quality and integrity of money. It must also set up those military, defence, police and legal structures and functions required to secure private property rights and to guarantee, by force if need be, the proper functioning of markets. Furthermore, if markets do not exist (in areas such as land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution) then they must be created, by state action if necessary. But beyond these tasks the state should not venture. State interventions in markets (once created) must be kept to a bare minimum because, according to the theory, the state cannot possibly possess enough information to second-guess market signals (prices) and because powerful interest groups will inevitably distort and bias state interventions (particularly in democracies) for their own benefit.

This point of view takes the belief, that the only important freedoms are market freedoms, to its logical conclusion. In doing so, however, this took neoliberalism into a more philosophical direction where it came to resemble more of a religion or culture than an economic theory. As Paul Treanor explains:

"As you would expect from a complete philosophy, neoliberalism has answers to stereotypical philosophical questions such as "Why are we here" and "What should I do?". We are here for the market, and you should compete. Neo-liberals tend to believe that humans exist for the market, and not the other way around: certainly in the sense that it is good to participate in the market, and that those who do not participate have failed in some way. In personal ethics, the general neoliberal vision is that every human being is an entrepreneur managing their own life, and should act as such. Moral philosophers call this is a virtue ethic, where human beings compare their actions to the way an ideal type would act – in this case the ideal entrepreneur. Individuals who choose their friends, hobbies, sports, and partners, to maximise their status with future employers, are ethically neoliberal. This attitude – not unusual among ambitious students – is unknown in any pre-existing moral philosophy, and is absent from early liberalism. Such social actions are not necessarily monetarised, but they represent an extension of the market principle into non-economic area of life – again typical for neoliberalism"

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Neoliberalism/Archive 1 - Expanded Definition - Philosophical Neoliberalism
... The definition of economic neoliberalism which has been presented focuses heavily on economic policies and has little to say about non-economic policy (other than that they should ... A more extreme form of economic neoliberalism advocates the use of free market techniques outside of commerce and business, by the creation of new markets in health ... In doing so, however, this took neoliberalism into a more philosophical direction where it came to resemble more of a religion or culture than an economic theory ...