Neoliberalism Primer II

Mirowski sees the 1938 “Colloquium Walter Lippman” (CWL) in Paris as neoliberalism’s starting point, and the Mont Pelerin Societ (1947- present) as its institutional embodiment. The CWL was meant to be the first of a series of meetings, but WWII intervened, and in 1947 the MPS picked up were the CWL had left off. Both groups had been hand-picked for their loyalty to market beral principles, but other than that there was a considerable range of opinion. The majority of the participants were academics, but there was no restriction as to academic department and many journalists, statesmen, and public intellectuals were included. However, economists tended to be dominant, and economists from the Austrian school, the German ordoliberal school, the Chicago school, and (later) the Virginia school were all represented. Some participants were active in government, but the MPS did not endorse candidates or parties, and while the MPS did believe that propaganda suppose for free market principles was absolutely necessary, it kept a low profile and did not do public outreach directly.


However, tthe interest of neoliberalism lies in its differences from little-government, laissez-faire liberalism, rather then in what the two tendencies hold in common. Neoliberals accepted the need for a strong state which would enforce liberal principles, by authoritarian methods if necessary. In some respects this just authorized practices (e.g., as the violent repression of unions) which the old laissez liberals had supported, even though it didn’t fit into their little-government philosophy. In a broader historical sense, neoliberals realized that market liberalism is not the inevitable natural state of society once oppressive government has been eliminated, but something that must be constructed and defended. They still claimed that the market liberal society is the natural, best state of mankind, but just denied that it would automatically be achieved once government interference was lifted, holding that it must be achieved and maintained by political action and a strong state.


It has long been a cliche to say that the Calvinist interpretation of Christianity was of central importance in the development of capitalism, and whether or not this is historically true, many Calvinist doctrines are convenient for capitalism. Conservative, politically active evangelical churches of mostly Calvinist theology are key players in American and world politics of today. To Mirowski the need for a religious foundation is a difficulty for neoliberals, but evangelicals (especially preachers of the “prosperity gospel”) have already done much of the work toward providing that foundation.

Neoliberalism Primer I

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Author: John Emerson

An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur.

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