Terry Flew, Six Theories of Neoliberalism, Paper presented to Emerging and Enduring Inequalities, the Annual Conference of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) 2012, held at the University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, Australia, 26-29 November, 2012.
This paper takes as its starting point the observation that neoliberalism is a concept that is ‘oft-invoked but ill-defined’ (Mudge 2008: 703). It provides a taxonomy of uses of the term neoliberalism to include: (1) an all-purpose denunciatory category; (2) ‘the way things are’; (3) a particular institutional framework characterizing Anglo-American forms of national capitalism; (4) a dominant ideology of global capitalism; (5) a form of governmentality and hegemony; and (6) a variant within the broad framework of liberalism as both theory and policy discourse. It is argued that this sprawling set of definitions are not mutually compatible, and that uses of the term need to be dramatically narrowed from its current association with anything and everything that a particular author may find objectionable. In particular, it is argued that the uses of the term by Michel Foucault in his 1978-79 lectures, found in The Birth of Biopolitics (Foucault, 2008) are not particularly compatible with its more recent status as a variant of dominant ideology or hegemony theories.