Debating the Uses and Abuses of “Neoliberalism”: Forum

Debating the Uses and Abuses of “Neoliberalism”: Forum

Does the term “neoliberalism” clarify our understanding of capitalism today, and efforts to overcome it? Or does it only bring more confusion?

Julia Ott, Mike Konczal, N. D. B. Connolly, and Timothy Shenk respond to Daniel Rodgers.

Does the term “neoliberalism” clarify or confuse our understanding of capitalism today—and efforts to overcome it? (Photo: R. Barraez D’Lucca)

“Neoliberalism,” argues Daniel Rodgers in our current issue, “is the linguistic omnivore of our times, a neologism that threatens to swallow up all the other words around it.” By “gluing too many phenomena together,” Rodgers continues, the term “may make it harder to see both the forces at loose in our times and where viable resistance can be found.”

Here, four Dissent editors and contributors respond.

Julia Ott: Words Can’t Do the Work for Us

“Neoliberalism” names a multifaceted configuration of power against which a diverse, democratic left could and should unite. We should welcome its ubiquity—not reject it.

Mike Konczal: How Ideology Works

Any successful political project binds together ideas, actors, and power. “Neoliberalism” helps us understand how these fit together.

N. D. B. Connolly: A White Story

In the standard narrative of neoliberalism’s rise, the demise of the white social contract gets cast as universal.

Timothy Shenk: Jargon or Clickbait?

Once an academic conceit, the term “neoliberalism” has long since gone viral, helping to faciliate a generational shift in popular discourse.

Daniel Rodgers replies: Fault Lines

Words gain political traction when they resonate with immediate experience. “Neoliberalism” does not.


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