The Morals of the Market: Human rights and the rise of neoliberalism
by Jessica Whyte
Verso, $39.99 pb, 278 pp
Obituaries for neoliberalism have been coming thick and fast in recent years. Resurgent populist governments appealing to white, middle-class values, with rich subsidies for privileged sectors but austerity for others, might sound the death knell for the self-regulating markets, small government, and economising rationality commonly associated with contemporary neoliberalism. ‘That key voices on the right,’ economist Richard Denniss recently quipped regarding Australia, now ‘devote so much time to advocating the importance of Western culture and Australian values is proof that they have abandoned the fundamental neoliberal tenet that economic growth can solve all social and environmental problems’.
As Jessica Whyte shows in her brilliant new book, The Morals of the Market, such characterisations of neoliberalism are misplaced, and the obituaries premature. Whyte argues that we need to challenge the common view that neoliberalism is an amoral, economic rationality and treat seriously its compatibility with ideas of family, civilisation, and especially human rights – a concept with which neoliberalism has shared a parallel ascendancy over the past forty years – if we are to better appreciate how neoliberal ideas shape contemporary politics.