Jessica Whyte, Neoliberal Freedom as Stoic Resignation, LSE Events, podcast, 10 Feb 2022
In this talk, Jessica Whyte will trace the development of neoliberal attitudes to the subjective comportment required for a functioning competitive market. Her focus is on the irony by which a neoliberal movement that emerged as a critique of the stoic resignation of previous liberals in the face of poverty, mass unemployment and economic misery, ultimately came to counsel what Friedrich Hayek termed “submission” to our market-dispensed fates.
Neoliberalism is commonly understood as a philosophy embracing free trade or laissez-faire. And yet, a key impetus for its development was the rejection of the earlier liberal idea that markets operated in a realm of natural freedom. Walter Lippman, the American journalist who inspired the early neoliberals, believed that liberals had become simple apologists for the miseries of the existing legal order because they neglected the role of law and the state in consolidating the liberal capitalist order. By doing so, he argued, they were reduced to preaching “stoic resignation” in the face of the human suffering that resulted from the market.