From Liberalism to Neoliberalism

A mini lecture series in 3 parts from July-September 2021 at Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle.

Presented by Associate Professor Ľubica Učník

Series Description 

‘BitClout collapses everything—art, humor, personhood—into money, laying bare just who, and what, we are willing to pay for.’

This unrevealed religion is the baroque excrescence of the Protestant ethic: hedonist, not ascetic, voluptuous, not austere, embellished, not plain, it devotes us to our own individual, inner-worldly authority, but with the loss of the inner as well as the outer mediator. This is an ethic without ethics, a religion without salvation (Rose, 2011, 127, italics in original).  

The COVID-19 coronavirus has forced many Western Governments to rethink their ideological commitment to private markets using the economic calculus as the only solution to human problems. The pandemic year of 2020 exposed the problematic nature of private corporations driven by profit as primary suppliers of public health provisions. Fiscal policies were introduced to support private industries as well as help the States’ citizens to withstand the worst consequences of closed economies, thereby, supposedly, increasing the role of the state in market economies. This shift in pecuniary ‘solutions’ has thus led some commentators to proclaim the end of ‘the small state’, which is the mantra of neoliberalism. As a result, various announcements regarding the death of neoliberalism now abound.  

In these three lectures, I will suggest that the obituary for neoliberalism’s death is not only highly exaggerated but dangerously premature. To explain my reasoning, I will trace the various historical trajectories of neoliberalism.  

Lecture One: Liberalism’s Intellectual History  

I would like to suggest that if we want to understand our political present, we need to revisit the ideas that have led us to where we are today. How can we think about the doctrine of liberalism that is supposedly predicated on the idea of defending the freedom of the individual? And what does the idea of the individual really mean? In the first lecture, I will address the difference between the development of the idea of the modern individual in the continental European intellectual tradition and the one we are familiar with, the Anglo-Saxon tradition, to show how the idea of the individual has been conceptualised differently, leading to a different understanding of the freedom of the individual.  

Lecture Schedule:

Lecture 1, 19 July 2021: Liberalism’s Intellectual History

Lecture 2, 16 August 2021: Freedoms

Lecture 3, 20 September 2021: Neoliberalism as an Intellectual Project