Seminar on
Neoliberalism: Ideology, Economics, and Movements
April 5, 2013, 1:30 – 5:30 pm
Creative Arts (M064) Wright State University, Dayton, OH


John F. Henry, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Neoliberalism: History and Reality

The institutional foundations for neoliberalism emerged in the late 19th century with the transformation of the nature of the capitalist economy and the development of what may be called “corporate capitalism.” Along with this transformation we observe changes that undermined the older, “classical liberal” rationale for a capitalist order that was based on individualized property arrangements, competition, and a quite limited role for government. As well, the socialist challenge was quite strong in Europe, and this obviously required addressing those issues—unemployment, poverty, working conditions, etc.—that socialists charged capitalism with producing.

The presentation will begin with a brief introduction addressing the above, then turning to the work of John Stuart Mill, a classical liberal who modified his position in his unfinished “Chapters on Socialism, establishing something of a basis for the later development of neoliberalism. We then move to the period surrounding WWI and refer to noted economists Ludwig von Mises and Joseph Schumpeter who announced the “death” of liberalism. Events of the 1930’s saw the formal birth of neoliberalism as a response, in particular, to the arguments of John Maynard Keynes. Lionel Robbins and Friedrich von Hayek played instrumental roles in this development. A brief history follows, demonstrating the importance of the American Walter Lippman, and introduces various notables into the discussion. This section concludes with the formation of the Mont Pelerin Society.

The concluding portion of the presentation discusses several variations of the neoliberal program, emphasizing the differences between European and U.S. versions. The point here is that there is no single neoliberal program; rather, different institutional structures and conditions have historically warranted different approaches to the neoliberal end.

Charalampos Kostantinidis, University of Massachusetts – Boston
Environmental Conflicts in the Neoliberal Era

Neoliberalism is characterized as a 35-year long period of attack of capital against labor in an attempt to restore falling profit rates. This has come at the expense of increased inequality and uncertainty, leading to a crisis of legitimacy for the neoliberal model of capitalism. Environmental issues offer both an opportunity for accumulation and profits, by extending the reach of the market into areas that were not previously incorporated into the circuits of capital, as well as a chance to restore some of the waning legitimacy of the neoliberal model, to the extent that environmental problems occupy a central position in terms of the public's awareness of the limitations of the current economic model.
This talk examines two cases of changes to the organization of production in order to address environmental concerns during the neoliberal era. The first instance of a purported "greening of capitalism" is climate change, and especially the way that carbon credits and markets have generated profit opportunities for various segments of capital. The second case is the purported overcoming of the ramifications of industrial agriculture through support for organic farming. I trace the development of agricultural policy in support of organic farming in the European Union during the neoliberal era, and the ways in which it has assisted the centralization of agricultural capital at the expense of the small farmers which the policies claim to assist. Both cases share a blatant failure to rectify the underlying environmental problem, while at the same time they result in worsening the lives of the affected populations. Therefore, I offer a preliminary description of environmental resistance (what Joan Martinez-Alier calls "environmentalism of the poor") to simultaneously protect the environment and people's livelihoods.

Tae-Hee Jo, SUNY Buffalo State College
Heterodox Economics: The Alternative to Neoliberal Market-fundamentalist Economics

Mainstream-neoclassical economics is the theoretical foundation of neoliberal economic policy that promotes competition and commodification through markets. Increasing fragility of an economy, increasing income inequality, the scaled-back welfare system, and recurring financial crisis are prominent consequences of neoliberal restructuring of industries and the economy as a whole. Is the “law of supply and demand” the universal principle that governs all the economic activities under capitalism? Is there an alternative way of explaining and organizing the provisioning process of a capitalist economy? How can economics deal with such socio-economic problems beyond market-fundamentalist economic narratives? In my presentation, I will highlight heterodox economic approaches that enable us to think beyond market-fundamentalism, and the organizing efforts of heterodox economists to create communities and movements.