“Neoliberalism” is always an unsatisfying category, but as it does broadly designate a cluster of policies and institutional logics, it tends to stick around as an ideal type. David Harvey puts it like this:
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.
I usually prefer to talk about “New Public Management” instead of “neoliberalism,” though, because it more directly picks out a set of governing techniques (audits/markets/contracts + incentives) and leaves aside the question of the “philosophy” (if any) that lies beneath.
One of the papers that made a major impression on me in thinking about neoliberalism/NPM, in any event, was Alexander Mitterle’s excellent “Un socialisme académique?” Mitterle shows that many of the institutional governance mechanisms that we call “academic capitalist” were already found in socialist East Germany. As I summarized his findings in my review of the edited collection where he published: Continue reading “Self-governing schools in Tanzania”