2017, Vol. 43(4-5) 685 –706
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Thirteen Things You Need to
Know About Neoliberalism
SOAS University of London, UK; Rhodes University, South Africa
SOAS University of London, UK
This article examines the theories and practices of neoliberalism across 13 aspects of (‘things
you need to know about’) neoliberalism. They include the argument that neoliberalism is not
reducible to a cogent ideology or a change in economic or social policies, nor is it primarily
about a shift in the relationship between the state and the market or between workers and
capital in general, or finance in particular. Instead, neoliberalism is a stage in the development
of capitalism underpinned by financialization. Neoliberalism by its nature is highly diversified
in its features, impact and outcomes, reflecting specific combinations of scholarship, ideology,
policy and practice. In turn, these are attached to distinctive material cultures giving rise to the
(variegated) neoliberalization of everyday life and, at a further remove, to specific modalities of
economic growth, volatility and crisis. Finally, this paper argues that there are alternatives, both
within and beyond neoliberalism itself.
neoliberalism, capitalism, crisis, Keynesianism, Marxism
Oh no, not another piece on neoliberalism, synthesizing what has gone before, adding its own par-
ticular angle, and thereby compounding the confusion as much as clarifying what has gone before.1
And, what’s more, written with a popular title along the lines of Ha-Joon Chang’s (2011) 23 Things
They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. But appearances can be deceptive. For, whilst this is a stock-
taking exercise, delivered to some degree in popular and stark form, it gains depth from three
sources. One is longstanding scholarship on neoliberalism itself.2 Another is being able to view,
and to present, neoliberalism in light of the global crisis. The third is to have illustrated the nature
Alfredo Saad-Filho, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, Russell Square, London,
WC1H 0XG, UK.
655387CRS0010.1177/0896920516655387Critical SociologyFine and Saad-Filho
686 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
of neoliberalism through comparative case studies around housing, health, pensions and water,
themselves situated in the broader context of study of the impact of financialization on economic
and social functioning.3
This intellectual exercise is both significant and timely because the current ‘age of neoliberal-
ism’ has already lasted beyond one generation – exceeding the lifetime of the preceding Keynesian
‘golden age’ – and there are no signs that it is about to give way. The solidity of neoliberalism, its
continuing ability to renew itself and intensify its hold on governments and societies despite eco-
nomic volatility and the depth of the current crisis, warrants recognition and detailed investigation.
We offer our contribution in what follows.
The first thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it represents a new stage in the devel-
opment of capitalism emerging in the wake of the post-war boom.
In the social sciences literature, neoliberalism has generally been understood in four closely-
related and not always easily separable ways: (a) as a set of economic and political ideas
inspired, unevenly and often inconsistently, by the (neo-)Austrian School and monetarism
(Dardot and Laval, 2013; Mirowski and Plehwe, 2009; Stedman Jones, 2012); (b) as a set of
policies, institutions and practices inspired and/or validated by those ideas;4 (c) as a class
offensive against the workers and the poor led by the state on behalf of capital in general and
finance in particular (this attack is normally justified by recourse to neoliberal ideas and carried
out through so-called economic ‘adjustment’, especially in developing but increasingly in
developed countries in crisis),5 and (d) as a material structure of social, economic and political
reproduction underpinned by financialization, in which case neoliberalism is the current phase,
stage, or mode of existence of capitalism. Each conceptualization of neoliberalism necessarily
involves a further issue: does this concept offer anything of substance or coherence in under-
standing the contemporary world as opposed to ‘free market’ capitalism, post-Fordism (under-
pinning postmodernism), the ‘knowledge economy’, the ever popular consumer society, or
Our own starting point is to characterize neoliberalism in light of approach (d). This immedi-
ately raises three further questions. First is how do we define a stage of capitalism. This is done
through the distinctive ways in which economic reproduction (the accumulation, distribution and
exchange of value) is organized and reorganized and its implications for social reproduction (the
structures, relations, processes and agents that are not directly or predominantly economic, includ-
ing the political and the ideological). As Dardot and Laval (2013: 14) rightly put it, ‘the originality
of neoliberalism is precisely its creation of a new set of rules defining not only a different “regime
of accumulation”, but, more broadly, a different society’.
Second is how do we characterize previous stages of capitalism. This is to some degree aca-
demic as there tends to be uniformity over the periodization of capitalism into separate stages even
if slightly different criteria from ours are used to do so.7 Some sort of laissez-faire period in the
19th century is presumed to give way to a more monopolistic stage in the first half of the 20th
century which then passes to a stage in which state intervention is significant, conventionally
termed the Keynesian or Fordist period.8 More significantly, stages of capitalism are distinguished
by global and not merely a collection of national conditions, so it would be inappropriate to start
inductively from the classification of countries into those that are more or less (neo)liberal,
Keynesian or whatever. Rather, different countries exist within, and influence, the dominant stages
of global capitalism in different ways, and the same is true of the economic, the political and the
ideological more generally at different levels and in different arenas.
Fine and Saad-Filho 687
The third issue is why should neoliberalism be considered a new and separate stage of capital-
ism. Our answer is to be found throughout what follows but is fundamentally based upon the
insight that the most salient feature of neoliberalism is financialization. As is shown in the fifth
thing, the rise of financialization over the past 30 years, defined as the intensive and extensive
accumulation of interest-bearing capital, has transformed profoundly the organization of economic
and social reproduction. These transformations include not only outcomes but the structures, pro-
cesses, agencies and relations through which those outcomes are determined across production,
employment, international integration, the state and ideology. The term financialization, then,
encapsulates the increasing role of globalized finance in ever more areas of economic and social
life. In turn, financialization underpins a neoliberal system of accumulation that is articulated
through the power of the state to impose, drive, underwrite and manage the internationalization of
production and finance in each territory, often under the perverse ideological veil of promoting
Our favoured approach, then, not only claims that neoliberalism is the current stage, phase or
mode of existence of capitalism but also explains how it should be understood as such. It also
implies that the starting point in specifying neoliberalism must have both logical and historical
content. The former concerns the nature of economic reproduction under neoliberalism, while the
latter focuses on the (uneven) ways in which neoliberalism exists across different countries includ-
ing both social and economic reproduction. For, as will be seen under the tenth thing, neoliberalism
is distinctive but not homogenizing. Instead, it fosters diversity and differentiation underpinned by
common aspects. It is the latter that have to be identified in the first instance, together with their
internal contradictions, tensions and sources of dynamics and, consequently, potential to realize
uneven outcomes and the mechanisms and determinants through which they do so in specific
instances. In contrast, the commonly held presumption that neoliberalism is homogenizing is
grounded at an excessively concrete level and in a selective manner, either missing out on the
diverse consequences of the common drivers of neoliberalism, or inevitably concluding that it is an
incoherent specification of contemporary capitalism in light of this diversity.9
This approach to neoliberalism informs a specific understanding of two key features of the con-
temporary political economy. These are, first, that financialization has transformed the global pat-
terns of growth. The rates of investment and GDP growth in the advanced economies have tended
to decline since the crisis of the so-called Keynesian, Fordist and social democratic ‘golden age’,
regardless of the unprecedentedly favourable conditions for capital accumulation, in part imposed
through neoliberalism itself. These conditions include the West’s victory in the Cold War and the
collapse of most nationalist movements in the Global South, and the closely related liberalization
of trade, finance and capital movements, the provision of unparalleled support to accumulation by
competing states, the containing of taxation, transfers and welfare provision in most countries, the
secular decline in the power of trade unions, peasant movements, left parties and social movements
(the traditional sources of resistance within previous forms of capitalism), and the unprecedented
ideological hegemony of a bogus but vociferous ‘free market’ capitalism. Finally, the unprece-
dented availability of new technologies serves as a potential source of productivity increase, along-
side significant increases in the global capitalist labour force, not least with China’s integration into
the capitalist world economy. Instead of thriving on the basis of these conditions, global accumula-
tion in the core countries has been hampered by continuing instability and, since 2007, by the
deepest and longest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The second key feature is that neoliberal patterns of production, employment, finance and con-
sumption have simultaneously sustained impressive rates of investment and GDP growth in par-
ticular regions, with Northeast and Southeast Asia to the fore and, more recently, the transformation
of China into the assembly hub of the world (Bellamy Foster and McChesney, 2012). This is far
688 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
from suggesting that neoliberalism fosters an unproblematic ‘global convergence’. Rather, it cre-
ates new patterns of uneven and combined development, in which unparalleled prosperity within
and across countries and regions, and for specific social strata (possibly identified as financial or
other elites or oligarchs, the top 1%, the top 0.01% or whatever), coexist with new patterns of
poverty as well as its reproduction in areas where it already prevailed.
The second thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it is not reducible to a cogent ideol-
ogy, but it is attached to a wide spectrum of ideas. These ideas display a changing relevance in
rationalizing current conditions and selected policies, quite apart from their leverage over state
policy and in confining and steering the political and other contestations.
Neoliberalism draws heavily, if at times indirectly, upon the Austrian tradition of Ludwig von
Mises, Friedrich von Hayek and their neo-Austrian successors, and the US monetarist school asso-
ciated with the Department of Economics, University of Chicago in general and with Milton
Friedman in particular. They argue, albeit in sharply dissimilar and logically incompatible ways,
that differently endowed property-owning individuals exchanging goods, services and information
in minimally regulated markets constitute the most desirable form for allocating resources and
should prevail over an interventionist role of the state and, even if less apparent in popular dis-
course, democratic processes: the neoliberal ideology of free markets can never entirely part com-
pany with its antithesis in some respects, the authoritarian state.10
Despite their shared purposes and conclusions, even casual examination reveals considera-
ble tensions between these scholarly underpinnings of neoliberalism. For example, while the
(neo-)Austrians emphasize the inventive and transformative subjectivity of the individual and
the spontaneous emergence of an increasingly efficient order through market processes, neo-
classical economics focuses on the efficiency properties of a static equilibrium achieved entirely
in the logical domain on the basis of unchanging individuals, resources and technologies and,
possibly, mediated by the semi-divine intervention of the ‘auctioneer’. Nor does either capture
the political economy and moral philosophy associated with Adam Smith, despite their obses-
sive rhetorical recourse to the ‘invisible hand’, with its meaning and rationale subject to varie-
ties of (mis)interpretations.11
The analytical inconsistencies and policy failures of monetarism have been exposed in merci-
less detail by Keynesian and heterodox economists, but these shortcomings have been largely
ignored by mainstream economists, policymakers and the media.12 They promoted, instead, a pop-
ulist understanding of ‘competitiveness’, ‘individual freedom’ and ‘democracy’ that has validated
neoliberal policy reforms and repression of opposition in country after country, while also provid-
ing reassurance that the neoliberal reforms spawn the best of all possible worlds.
Despite, or because of, its impressive strengths, neoliberal ideology remains too fragmented to
provide a coherent representation of society. It offers, instead, an individualist, formally egalitar-
ian, meliorist and universalist conception of self and society. This worldview justifies a set of
loosely articulated finance-friendly state policies and practices giving neoliberalism a semblance
of coherence in the realm of ideas, and considerable resilience in practice: these policies cannot be
contested easily, for the neoliberal restructuring of the economy and society not only narrows dras-
tically the scope for, and directions of, debate, but also hollows out the institutional channels from
which alternatives could emerge. These limitations are notable, for example, in stridently defended
privatizations that are habitually awarded to, or create, monopolies, and in decentralization of state
provision, in which a leading thrust is to ‘devolve’ responsibility for delivery to lower levels of
administration (claiming also to democratize), whilst not providing sufficient resources to allow
Fine and Saad-Filho 689
for provision to meet requirements, whether formal or otherwise, and imposing the requirement to
rely on private suppliers (see ninth thing).
The third thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it is not fully nor appropriately under-
stood as the mirror image of, or a reaction against, Keynesianism, itself often inadequately seen as
the explanation for the post-war boom.
Although almost every area of economic and social reproduction has been reconfigured under
neoliberalism (see first and second things), neoliberal ideology tends to induce a shallow opposi-
tion between neoliberalism and Keynesianism, as if the former could be reduced to the rollback of
the latter. In turn, Keynesianism is often described through ‘state intervention’ and collectivized
forms of provision, including the short-run macroeconomic manipulation of effective demand, the
welfare state, nationalized industries, and some measure of planning and social contracts, which
might progress to socialism through incremental reform.
It may be appealing to see neoliberalism as the counterpart to this conception of Keynesianism,
offering a swing in the balance between market and state provision (see fourth thing). Even
acknowledging that Keynesianism is associated with more or less progressive forms of state
expenditure and intervention, the post-war boom was not driven by a bland and presumably
incremental socialism but by economic and social restructuring with internationalization of all
forms of capital to the fore, especially that of productive capital, supported by (mainly
US-dominated) finance, with a heavy role for the state in promoting such restructuring through
both national and international corporate champions.13 In turn, Keynesianism was driven to
collapse because of the economic and social transformations that it engendered and supported,
and the contradictions embodied in its own policies (Gowan, 1999; Saad-Filho, 2007). The
simplistic dualism between Keynesianism and neoliberalism fails to acknowledge the broadly
spread and deeply rooted transformations in economic and social reproduction and their reflec-
tion in the profound changes across each of scholarship, ideology and policy in practice (Fine
and Milonakis, 2009, 2011).
This failure to recognize the complex relationship between neoliberalism and Keynesianism has
fed two additional illusions. One strand of thought, especially within Marxism, sees the emergence
of neoliberalism in general and financialization in particular as either the epiphenomenal conse-
quence of, or the functionalist response to, the still unresolved crisis of Keynesianism.14 Such
reductionism is insufficient because it simply sets aside three decades of global restructuring of
production, employment, trade, finance, ideology, state and society, and overlooks the role of
financialization (see fifth thing) in promoting and supporting the contemporary (neoliberal) forms
of accumulation and the social reproduction that accompanies it.15
The antithetical illusion, associated with social democracy, is that a return to Keynesianism
can restore more favourable economic and social conditions today. Even though higher taxes,
controls on trade, domestic finance and capital flows, expanded social provision and the fine-
tuning of aggregate demand can help to address competing short-term macroeconomic objec-
tives and promote short-term improvements in economic performance and social welfare, these
policies would have only limited bearing on the long-term performance and underlying dynam-
ics of the global economy and, even if achievable today, would remain hostages to neoliberal
imperatives. Highlighting the contradictions of neoliberalism by contrast with (the strengths
and virtues of) what existed before is an important analytical task in its own right, but it will
neither reveal alternatives to neoliberalism nor make the limitations of Keynesianism disappear
690 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
It follows that neoliberalism and the potential for overcoming it cannot be encapsulated in con-
ventional debates in macroeconomics, which express the rivalry between more or less sophisti-
cated versions of monetarism and Keynesianism over whether and how to manipulate effective
demand and other macroeconomic variables in order to deliver rapid and stable accumulation.16
This bypasses almost entirely the problems of economic and social restructuring and reproduction.
Even if alternative policies are appropriately identified, the means to secure them against neolib-
eral imperatives remains unaddressed as neoliberals themselves would suggest in terms of the
imperatives of the market, globalization and so on.
The fourth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it is not primarily about a (possibly
pendular) shift in the relationship between the state (or the Polanyian social or collective) and the
Market-state dualism is insufficient because neoliberalism is not defined by the withdrawal of
the state from social and economic reproduction.17 As Wacquant (2009: 307) suggests:
A central ideological tenet of neoliberalism is that it entails the coming of ‘small government’: the
shrinking of the allegedly flaccid and overgrown Keynesian welfare state and its makeover into a lean and
nimble workfare state … stressing self-reliance, commitment to paid work, and managerialism … [But]
the neoliberal state turns out to be quite different in actuality.
Under neoliberalism state institutions intervene upon and through markets and other institutions
in specific ways that tend to extend and/or reproduce neoliberalism itself.18 Exactly the same is
true of other systems of accumulation, not least those attached to the Keynesian, developmental
or Soviet-type states that are presumed to have been more interventionist.19 In all these cases, the
roles of ‘the state’ and ‘the market’ (unduly undifferentiated) cannot be usefully identified through
their simplistic opposition. Instead, the relevant patterns of accumulation, restructuring and social
and economic reproduction can be understood only through relatively concrete and historically
specific analyses. These must include the interaction, contestation and co-operation among spe-
cific institutions within, across and beyond that putative divide. Those processes are themselves
heavily influenced and contested by, but not reducible to, the underlying economic, political and
ideological (class) interests that are formed and act upon and through such institutions.
In practice, then, first, much has been achieved through state provision in the past, and this has
itself become the basis for privatization, for example, in terms of availability of productive facili-
ties. The scope for such achievements can only have been enhanced over time through improved
technological capabilities and new management techniques. Yet, these successes are rarely if ever
recognized, while public provision is invariably and arbitrarily deemed to be inferior to private
provision, often on the basis of casual or flawed studies that rarely even consider firm and market
structure, finance, degree of monopoly and so on (Bayliss and Fine, 2008).
Second, state intervention has been transformed rather than simply ‘reduced’ under neoliberal-
ism (see sixth thing). Currently, while the overall logic of state policies and interventions remains
to promote economic and social reproduction and the restructuring of capital, the interests and
role of finance have increasingly come to the fore either directly or indirectly. Such is evident, for
example, from the policy responses to the global crisis and the continuing recession; but it is
equally characteristic of the policies implemented over the entire neoliberal period, as the inter-
ests of private capital in general and of finance in particular have been favoured by the state (see
Fine and Saad-Filho 691
The fifth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it is underpinned by, although not
reducible to, financialization.20
Whilst seeing neoliberalism as tied to financialization is pushing against an open door, espe-
cially in the wake of the current global crisis, financialization itself has often been imprecisely
defined and variously understood across a burgeoning literature. In much of this literature, finan-
cialization is merely a buzzword reflecting the greater significance of finance in economic and
social reproduction in recent decades, and the (closely related) growth and proliferation of finan-
cial assets. However, if financialization is defined as the increasing presence and influence of
finance, then, given its remarkable rise over the last 30 years, it is tautological to define neoliberal-
ism as attached to financialization. This leaves open the question of the drivers and contradictions
of financialization and neoliberalism, and how they should be addressed in terms of analytical
content and their effects.
Our more specific view of financialization focuses, instead, on the role of finance as (interest-
bearing) capital and not just as financial or credit relations in general. It is precisely in this respect
that financialization marks a departure from the past both in the scale and in the scope of financial
activity in pursuit of financial returns at the expense of production. In this sense, a mortgage, for
example, remains a simple (transhistoric) credit relation between borrower and lender. However, it
becomes embroiled in financialization once that mortgage obligation is sold on as part of some
other asset, which becomes routinized only under neoliberalism. With such financialization spread
more generally, so grows the influence of finance over the control of resource allocation – includ-
ing the flows of money, credit and foreign exchange and, correspondingly, the level and composi-
tion of output, employment, investment and trade, and the financing of the state – by money-capital
embodied in an array of (more or less esoteric) financial assets.21 Those assets are created, held,
traded and regulated by specialist institutions that, under neoliberalism, are integrated in a dis-
tinctly US-led global financial system (Panitch and Konings, 2008; Panitch and Gindin, 2012;
The creation and circulation of these financial assets is an intrinsically speculative activity that
tends to become unmoored from the constraints of production, even though this autonomy can
never be complete (Fine, 2013–14; Fine and Saad-Filho, 2010: ch. 12). The ensuing tensions and
limitations lead to a number of outcomes that characterize financialized accumulation. These
include the diffusion of a peculiar form of short-termism in economic decisions (e.g., not only
through purely speculative activities but also through securitizable long-term investment, with
pursuit of immediate profitability at the expense of productivity growth);22 the imperative for gen-
erating and appropriating surplus out of finance; and the explosive growth of rewards to high-
ranking capitalists and managers in every sector, especially finance itself, fuelling the concentration
of income under neoliberalism. These financialized forms of accumulation are mutually reinforc-
ing, but they can also dysfunctionally diverge (see twelfth thing).
The relations of mutual determination between finance and economic and social reproduction,
identified above, establish the material basis of neoliberalism as a system of accumulation,
described in the first thing (Albo, 2008; Saad-Filho and Johnston, 2005). In turn, financialization
has supported the global restructuring of production, that has become known as ‘globalization’,
and the reconstitution of US imperialism in the wake of the collapse of the Bretton Woods System,
the US defeat in the Vietnam War and the Iranian revolution.23
This understanding of financialization has four significant implications. First, financialization
underpins neoliberalism analytically, economically, politically and ideologically, and it has been
one of the main drivers of the restructuring of the global economy since the 1970s; financialization
692 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
is, then, the defining feature of the forms taken today by accumulation and economic and social
reproduction. Second, financialization has been buttressed by institutional transformations expand-
ing and intensifying the influence of finance over the economy, ideology, politics and the state.
Third, contemporary financialization derives both from the post-war boom and from its collapse
into the stagflation of the 1970s.24 Fourth, financialization has been closely associated with the
increasing role of speculative finance in economic and social reproduction, not least through pri-
vatization of public utilities and, more recently, public-private partnerships in provision of eco-
nomic and social infrastructure.
The sixth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it does not merely involve a change in
policies that, in principle, could be readily reversed.
The neoliberal ‘policy reforms’ implemented through Reaganism, Thatcherism and the (post-)
Washington Consensus are supported by five ontological planks.25 First is the dichotomy between
markets and the state, implying that these are rival and mutually exclusive institutions. Second is
the assumption that markets are effective if not efficient while state intervention is wasteful because
it distorts prices and misallocates resources in comparison with what an ideal market would have
done, induces rent-seeking behaviour and fosters technological backwardness. Third, the belief
that technological progress, the liberalization of finance and capital movements, the systematic
pursuit of ‘shareholder value’ and successive transitions to neoliberalism around the world have
created a global economy characterized by rapid capital mobility within and between countries and
(an ill-defined process of) ‘globalization’. Where they are embraced, rapid growth ensues through
the prosperity of local enterprise and the attraction of foreign capital; in contrast, reluctance or
‘excessive’ state intervention (however it may be determined) drives capital, employment and
economic growth elsewhere. Fourth, the presumption that allocative efficiency, macroeconomic
stability and output growth are conditional upon low inflation, which is best secured by monetary
policy at the expense of fiscal, exchange rate and industrial policy tools. Fifth, the realization that
the operation of key neoliberal macroeconomic policies, including ‘liberalized’ trade, financial and
labour markets, inflation targeting, central bank independence, floating exchange rates and tight
fiscal rules, is conditional upon the provision of potentially unlimited state guarantees to the finan-
cial system, since the latter remains structurally unable to support itself despite its escalating con-
trol of social resources under neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism has not only changed the policies adopted by governments but also the condi-
tions within which policy is conceived, formulated, implemented, monitored and responded to.
This has been recognized clearly, if partially, in the literatures that seek to distinguish different
types of capitalism.26 For example, the Varieties of Capitalism (VoC) approach perceives differ-
ences in the institutional construction of policy and, in the case of social policy, the Welfare
Regimes Approach (WRA) focuses on the balance of power and resources between capital and
labour and how they are mediated through (influence upon) the state. Presumably, each of these
approaches would emphasize the encroaching gains of neoliberal capitalism, although neither was
originally grounded upon the changing role of finance in specifying the varieties and regimes,
respectively, and their evolving fortunes.27 Instead, these approaches are caught on the intellectual
cusp between the post-war boom and neoliberalism, seeking to defend or promote what is per-
ceived to be the best of the past (boom) against the worst of what was yet to come, itself extrapo-
lated from the past as a less successful liberal form of post-war capitalism.
That neoliberalism is not reducible to changes in macroeconomic policy is not a novel insight, as
neoliberalism has, often, been defined instead by microeconomic shifts, not least through privatization
Fine and Saad-Filho 693
and commercialization as symptomatic of the presumed withdrawal of state intervention. However,
such distinctions between the microeconomic and the macroeconomic cannot generally be sustained
not least as, for example, the provision of economic and social infrastructure straddles both, as do
trade, industrial, commercial and, not least, financial policy. Our interpretation of neoliberalism as
grounded upon finance-driven economic and social restructuring can encompass both (admittedly
parodied) extremes of micro and macro shifts, integrate them and develop their insights further.
The seventh thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it represents more than a shift in
the balance of power, primarily against labour and in favour of capital in general and of finance
in particular, undoubtedly true though this is.
Neoliberalism invariably has a significant impact on class relations and the distributional
balance between them, for example, through financialization, globalization and neoliberal
reforms. This includes the ‘flexibilization’ and intensification of labour, the limitation of wage
growth, the rollback of collective bargaining and the adverse changes in the welfare regime,
and how each of them has affected workers, women, minorities, immigrants, and so on.
Neoliberalism has also affected social relations through privatization and the appropriation of
the ‘commons’ (i.e., areas where property rights were either absent or vested upon the state),28
and through the financialization of social reproduction (see eleventh thing). Finally, neoliberal-
ism has triggered macroeconomic crises that penalize the poor disproportionately (see twelfth
thing).29 In these ways, neoliberalism has both expanded the power of capital and created an
income-concentrating dynamics of accumulation that can be limited, but not reversed, by mar-
ginal (Keynesian) interventions.
These shifts in the balance of power are both symbolic of the establishment of neoliberalism and
fundamental to its reproduction, with the anti-labour policies and assaults of Reaganism and
Thatcherism to the fore. These are so significant that, especially in US political economy literature,
they are often taken to be the defining characteristic of neoliberalism, with financialization as its
consequence.30 This argument follows from an analysis of neoliberalism primarily in distributional
terms, suggesting that lower economic and social wages cause high inequality as well as deficient
demand, to which speculative finance is a corollary through both investment by the wealthy and
the expansion of credit to the poor (for consumption, mortgages, and other short-term responses to
wage compression). This is, however, to reduce economic and social restructuring in general, and
neoliberalism specifically, to the spheres of circulation (effective demand) and distribution
(between wages and profits). In the context of specifying both the balance and the nature of power
under neoliberalism, this is too limited, and it extrapolates unduly from US (and, to some extent,
This point can be made by reference to what might be termed the social compacting paradigm
(SCP), which has been deployed to characterize economic and social ‘settlements’ over the post-
war boom, typically in order to explain comparative national performance: for example, why did
West Germany and Japan grow faster than the USA or the UK?31 SCP suggests that formal and
institutionalized negotiation between capital and labour offered fuller and stronger labour repre-
sentation in policymaking, and that the social partnership agreement around wage restraint in
return for expanding social wages induced higher investment and faster productivity growth than
the Anglo-Saxon paradigm.
Irrespective of the extent to which differential performance across countries can be explained
primarily by industrial relations,32 however broadly conceived, the contrast with the neoliberal
period is striking. The weakening power of labour has led to, and been reflected by, its systematic
694 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
exclusion from policymaking. Consequently, social compacting has itself been widely dismantled
and, where it has survived, it has shrivelled into a tokenistic ritual or illusory role of legitimation
of neoliberal policies addressing the implications of faltering growth, rather than negotiating the
distribution of gains due to productivity, output and income growth. Most importantly, financial
policy and the functioning of the financial system invariably remain outside the scope of any social
Such considerations are well-illustrated by examples in Eastern Europe and South Africa
where, with the collapse of the Soviet regime and apartheid, respectively, in the early ’90s, neo-
liberalism both arrived late and sought to make up for lost time. Necessarily, the forms taken by
policymaking and the powers underpinning and exercised through the transition to neoliberalism
were subject to considerable variation across countries and over time, and were hardly reducible
to a shift from the state to the market (see fourth thing). For example, whilst forms of tripartism
flourished in post-Soviet Eastern Europe, their content was eviscerated as they were used to ease
the emergence of new elites and consolidate the old in new circumstances. Consequently, in these
neoliberal experiences reliance upon, or marginalization, of tripartism has been a matter of con-
venience, leading to an ‘illusory corporatism’ that bears little relationship either to the post-war
boom social corporatism in the West or to the influence of, and support for, labour characteristic
of the Soviet period.34
A similar account can be told of South Africa, where the form taken by social corporatism is the
Triple Alliance of the ANC, the South African Communist Party and COSATU, the confederation
of trade unions. Yet, the ANC Government is generally recognized as having taken a neoliberal
turn in the mid-1990s, not least with the adoption of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution
(GEAR) policy framework. As the economy was thoroughly restructured through financialization
during the post-apartheid period, the main forum for tripartite policymaking, the National Economic
Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), became increasingly ineffective because of the
non-participation of the most powerful businesses and lack of influence over major policies and
issues, especially those involving finance (see Webster et al., 2013). In short, social compacting
under neoliberalism, if and when it occurs, actually undermines the labour movement, and much
the same is liable to be so of new social movements, in and of themselves, in the absence of strong
and supportive left movements and organizations.
The eighth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it involves varied and shifting com-
binations of scholarship, ideology, policy and practice, with connections but not necessarily coher-
ence across and within these elements.35
The tensions across these domains can be illustrated at three levels. First, the meaning and sig-
nificance of neoliberal scholarship, the ensuing ideology and their policy implications have shifted
across time, place and issue, and there can be inconsistencies across their component parts. These
are, often, due to tensions between the rhetorical and policy worlds built by the advocates of neo-
liberalism, and the realities of social and economic reproduction. The most striking example is
provided by the shift from privatization to public-private partnerships, especially where large-scale
state support for private provision of economic and social infrastructure is concerned (see Bayliss
and Fine, 2008).
Second, even the most ardent supporter of freedom of the individual in general, and market
freedom in particular, concedes that those freedoms can only be guaranteed through state provision
of, and coercion for, a core set of functions and institutions, ranging over fiscal and monetary
policy to law and order and property rights, through to military intervention to secure the ‘market
Fine and Saad-Filho 695
economy’ when this becomes necessary. In practice, then, neoliberalism can be closely associated
with authoritarianism, while its attachment to classical liberalism and political democracy is
hedged and heavily conditional in practice (see second thing).36
Third, the tensions and inconsistencies across scholarship, ideology, policy and practice were
sharply revealed by the policy responses to the current crisis, with the ideology of free markets,
especially those of finance, smoothly giving way to heavy intervention on its behalf, what has
been dubbed socialism for the bankers and capitalism for the rest of us, followed by a bewildered
response from the discipline of economics to events that were not so much unpredicted as
deemed to be either impossible or subject to policy control. Paradoxically, while unlimited
resources have been made available to salvage finance, no concession has been offered at the
level of ideology or scholarship, where the intolerant hegemony of mainstream economics
remains virtually unscathed.
The ninth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it has been subject to two phases,
loosely divided by the early 1990s.
The first phase of neoliberalism is aptly characterized as the transition or shock phase, in which
the promotion of private capital proceeded in country after country without regard to the conse-
quences. This phase requires forceful state intervention to contain labour, disorganize the left,
promote the transnational integration of domestic capital and finance and put in place new institu-
tional frameworks (see first and third things).
The second (mature) phase has been, if only in part, a reaction to the dysfunctions and adverse
social consequences of the first phase, not least in social welfare provision. This (‘third wayist’)
phase focuses on the stabilization of the social relations imposed in the earlier period, the consoli-
dation and continued expansion of the financial sector’s interventions in economic and social
reproduction, state management of the new modalities of international economic integration, and
the introduction of specifically neoliberal social policies both to manage the deprivations and dys-
functions created by neoliberalism and to consolidate and reconstitute social and individual agents
along neoliberal lines (see tenth thing).
Both phases require extensive (re-)regulation, despite the rhetorical insistence of all manner of
neoliberals on the need to ‘roll back’ the state, interpreted, in the first phase of neoliberalism, as
‘hollowing out’, followed by the ‘rolling out’ of new and, occasionally, more explicit forms of
intervention on that foundation in the second phase (see fourth thing). Inevitably, these phases are
more logical than chronological, as they can be sequenced, delayed, accelerated, or even overlain
in specific ways depending on country, region and economic and political circumstances.
The tenth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it is highly variegated in its features,
impact and outcomes.
Although neoliberalism has an identifiable material and ideational core (see first, second and
fifth things), and neoliberal policies share readily recognizable features, neoliberal experiences
take a wide variety of forms in different countries and over time (see ninth thing). There are three
reasons for this. First, despite its common core, neoliberalism can be associated with significant
differences in the forms, degrees and impact of financialization, the depth and modalities of inter-
nationalization of production and dependence on external trade, societal changes, ideology, struc-
tures of political representation, and so on.
696 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
Second, these variegated relationships interact among themselves and with specific aspects of
economic and social reproduction in historically contingent ways. Thus, for example, the more or
less universal expansion of mortgage markets has interacted with the pre-existing housing systems
in different ways across countries.
Third, whilst financialization is a core aspect of neoliberalism, it remains not only uneven but
also confined in its direct grasp over economic and social reproduction – not everything is finan-
cialized even where finance or even just the market is present. Thus, many public services are not
commercialized, let alone financialized. As a result, even though financial institutions may not
directly dictate how these services are provided, this does not mean that financialization exerts no
influence. The result is to create space for diversity in deviating not only from exclusive reliance
upon financial imperatives where they do apply (such as the extent and level of user charges, for
example) but also, and inevitably, where they do not.37
In sum, while the secular rise of financialization and its extended reach across both economic
and social reproduction is what motivates our understanding of neoliberalism as the current stage
of capitalism (see first and fifth things), the impact of financialization is variegated across indus-
trial production and other types of enterprise, and so on.38 Concretely, whilst financialization feeds
in part by transforming economic and social activity in ways in which the associated revenues can
be packaged into corresponding assets), the extent and influence of financialization across the vari-
ous elements of economic and social reproduction are highly contingent, reinforcing the variegated
nature of outcomes. In short, economic and social reproduction cannot be reduced to financializa-
tion, but nor is the latter entirely absent of influence where it is not present.39
With the increasing role of financialization, whether directly or indirectly, there will remain
dysfunctions and dissonances where the logic of the market does not prevail, most obviously with
the hard to employ, house, educate, provide for in old age, raise out of poverty, provide for health,
and so on. This is to raise the issue for neoliberalism of how to intervene where the market fails or
is absented and which, in practice, is necessarily contingent upon how markets and the non-market
are formed and contested. Such issues are obvious in case of social policy but by no means con-
fined to it where, for example, neoliberal ideology of (un)deserving poor dovetails with support for
those in or into work. Precisely because dysfunctions in the hard to serve through the market are
multi-dimensional and uneven in their incidence, individual anomalies are liable to be created
across them either in the form of ‘undue’ benefits (to be cut) or ‘undue’ harshness (to be alleviated).
In the context of chronic increases in inequality and the acute impact of crisis and recession,40 there
are inevitable pressures both to reduce individual and overall benefits and to protect the most vul-
nerable, even if this contest can be highly uneven. How these and other tensions within neoliberal-
ism are resolved is not pre-determined.
Somewhat different considerations apply where the forms taken by neoliberal economic and
social reproduction are of more direct interest to the various fractions of capital than moderating
social conflict and dysfunction in general. The state has long intervened to represent the interests
of particular capitals, against the interests of others and, in some respects, for capital as a whole
against the potentially destructive impact of competition between capitals. This remains the case
under neoliberalism and implies that the state does not privatize everything, does not rely exclu-
sively on private finance, and can even exclude such in order to pursue other interests and dynam-
ics, not least those of productive capital (on which financialization in other spheres may heavily
depend). Nonetheless, such interventions tend to be marked by the neoliberal condition, especially
where private and/or international finance is involved, whether directly or indirectly, or even where
it is absent because, for example, of continuing state provision (itself to be contingently explained
and related to the broader role of finance, not least in funding the state and influencing its
Fine and Saad-Filho 697
Whilst the current grip of neoliberalism raises doubts about the strength and viability of social
resistance against the commodification of ‘sacred’ types of provision (including public goods and
the environment), our perspective is distinctive in two respects. On the one hand, there is a social
content to all objects of provision, including commodities, and each is open to particular types of
reaction against market forms, as is evident, for example, in the differences between housing,
water, transport and health, and the wide variety of the targets of charity, from food banks to wood-
lands and opera. On the other hand, the dualism between neoliberal (re-)commodification and
decommodification under, despite or against neoliberalism, is too crude. In other words, simply
focusing on market forms is insufficient because these are far from homogeneous (see Fine, 2013a)
as they can reflect everything from production for profit to user charges with (more or less tar-
geted) subsidies, and obliterating the ways in which commodities serve provision along the chains
of activities that attach production to the market.
The eleventh thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that its economic and social reproduc-
tion is attached to particular material cultures that give rise to what might be termed the (varie-
gated) neoliberalization of everyday life.
It was consistently shown by the previous things that neoliberalism has redefined the relation-
ship between the economy, the state, society and individuals. It has constrained the latter to give
their lives an entrepreneurial form, subordinated social intercourse to economic criteria, and neu-
tered the previous structures and institutions of political representation. The ideology of self-
responsibility has been especially significant since it deprives the citizens of their collective
capacities, agency and culture, appears to value consumption above all else, places the merit of
success and the burden of failure on isolated individuals, and suggests that the resolution of every
social problem requires the further individualization and financialization of social provision and
The scholarly literature has pinpointed these features of neoliberalism in different ways, for
example, through the idea that finance ‘exploits us all’.41 This notion draws upon, first, the intui-
tion that low and stagnant wages, high unemployment, privatization of basic services and the
introduction of user charges have undermined the ability of many to sustain customary or desired
living standards in the absence of credit, so that exploitative indebtedness results by way of a
(strictly temporary) remedy. Second, it is seemingly validated by the proliferation of financial
relationships and institutions into daily life under neoliberalism. Such a perspective contains an
element of truth in that financialization has been associated with increasing inequalities of access
and with volatility and insecurity in the provision of many aspects of economic and social life, with
the potential for deprivation to be mutually compounding and multi-dimensional. But the nature
and incidence of such deprivations are far from uniform across different social strata, age groups
and areas of provision, and it is doubtful that the financialization of everyday life is primarily char-
acterized by exploitative indebtedness.
A broader approach suggests that the financialization of daily life is better understood in terms
of the subjection (which may or may not include relations of exploitation) of households to finan-
cial markets and processes. For example:42
[H]ouseholds have become a frontier of capital accumulation, not just as producers and consumers, but
also as financial traders … The requirements of this emergent financial citizenship for the house and
households extend beyond just honouring payments on a home purchase, it is requiring a culture of
financial calculation that becomes absorbed as part of the daily norms and dispositions of social being.
698 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
However, this framing immediately begs the question of which activities attached to the household
are subject to a culture of (financial) calculation, why and how, and whether (in the absence of
profit as the bottom line) they cohere into an integral system including both calculation and stable
trade-offs. In turn, the corresponding social norms of financial behaviour are highly contingent
upon the extent to which financialized forms of provision are prevalent, and what are the norms for
provision of what is not financialized.43 Inevitably, then, across commodity consumption, housing,
education, health, transport and so on, the impact of financialization will be highly uneven and
differentiated and far from reducible to, nor even primarily influenced by, an increasing presence
of financial calculation.
A more promising approach can be rooted in the work of Foucault in seeing the neoliberaliza-
tion of everyday life – including the financialization of social intercourse – as the subjective, if
resisted and reflexive, internalization of specifically neoliberal norms and dispositions.44 For
Dardot and Laval (2013: 8):
Neoliberalism is not merely destructive of rules, institutions and rights. It is also productive of certain
kinds of social relations, certain ways of living, certain subjectivities … This norm enjoins everyone to live
in a world of generalized competition; it calls upon wage-earning classes and populations to engage in
economic struggle against one another; it aligns social relations with the model of the market; it promotes
the justification of ever greater inequalities; it even transforms the individual, now called on to conceive
and conduct him- or herself as an enterprise. For more than a third of a century, this existential norm has
presided over public policy, governed global economic relations, transformed society, and reshaped
subjectivity. The circumstances of its triumph have often been described – in its political aspect (the
conquest of power by neoliberal forces), its economic aspect (the expansion of globalized financial
capitalism), its social aspect (the individualization of social relations to the detriment of collective
solidarities, the extreme polarization between rich and poor), and its subjective aspect.
Even though this is more than an agenda of what needs to be discovered than discovery itself it
suggests, once again, that the content of, and pathways to, neoliberalization and the responses to it
are highly diverse.
The twelfth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that it is associated with specific modali-
ties of economic growth, volatility and crisis.
The neoliberal restructuring of economic reproduction introduces mutually reinforcing policies
that dismantle the systems of provisioning established previously (which are defined, often ex post,
as being ‘inefficient’), reduce the degree of coordination of economic activity, create socially unde-
sirable employment patterns, feed the concentration of income and wealth, preclude the use of
industrial policy instruments for the implementation of socially-determined priorities, and make
the balance of payments structurally dependent on international flows of capital. In doing this, and
despite ideological claims to the contrary, neoliberalism fuels unsustainable patterns of production,
employment, distribution, consumption, state finance and global integration, and it increases eco-
nomic uncertainty, volatility and vulnerability to (financial) crisis.
In particular, financial sector control of economic resources and the main sources of capital
allows it to drain capital from production; at the same time, neoliberalism systematically, if une-
venly, favours large capital at the expense of small capital and the workers, belying its claims to
foster competition and ‘level the playing field’. As a result, accumulation in neoliberal economies
tends to take the form of bubbles which eventually collapse with destructive implications and
requiring expensive state-sponsored bailouts. These cycles include the international debt crisis of
Fine and Saad-Filho 699
the early 1980s, the US savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, the stock market crashes of the 1980s
and 1990s, the Japanese crisis dragging on since the late 1980s, the crises in several middle-income
countries at the end of the 20th century, and the dotcom, financial and housing bubbles of the
2000s, culminating with the global meltdown starting in 2007.
In turn, neoliberal policies are justified ideologically through the imperatives of ‘business con-
fidence’ and ‘competitiveness’. This is misleading, because confidence is elusive, materially
ungrounded, self-referential and volatile, and it systematically leads to the over-estimation of the
levels and effectiveness of investments that will ensue from the pursuit of finance-friendly policies.
Moreover, those policies are not self-correcting. Instead of leading to a change of course, failure to
achieve their stated aims normally leads to the deepening and extension of the ‘reforms’ with the
excuse of ensuring implementation and the promise of imminent success the next time around.45
Unsurprisingly, then, however we interpret the differences between the post-war boom (includ-
ing Keynesianism, developmentalism, Soviet regimes and their variants) and the neoliberal period,
economic performance for the latter in terms of growth and volatility has been generally worse
and, ultimately, led to a global crisis driven by finance and financialization, despite unambiguously
and unprecedentedly favourable conditions for capitalism worldwide (see first thing).
The thirteenth thing you need to know about neoliberalism is that there are alternatives, both
within and beyond neoliberalism itself.
It was shown in the sixth thing that neoliberalism cannot be reduced to a collection of policies,
which would suggest that alternative policy initiatives can reverse the neoliberal reforms and even
transcend neoliberalism. Policy changes are certainly essential, but the scope for such changes can
be questioned in the light of the political means available to the opposition, the strength of the
coalitions potentially committed to them, and the scope to drive the required distributional, regula-
tory and policy reforms given the neoliberal transformation of production, international integra-
tion, the state, ideology and society itself. None of these can be adequately assessed without a prior
understanding of the systemic features of neoliberalism and the transformations that it has wrought
on class relations and institutions and the processes of economic and social reproduction.
It was also shown in the seventh thing that neoliberalism is not a ‘capitalist conspiracy’ against
the workers, in which case there would be nothing systemic or historically-specific about it, since
capitalists and the state have always readily conspired against the workers.46 Conversely, in this
case neoliberalism could be dislocated through a counter-conspiracy, or even by changes in the
law. Alternatively, this approach can also be read as implying that ‘things were much better’ under
previous systems of accumulation (Keynesian, developmentalist, and so on), which, in principle,
should be restored.
The latter goals are laudable but implausible. For, while neoliberalism is incompatible with
economic democracy, it simultaneously hollows out political democracy (see Ayers and Saad-
Filho, 2014). On the one hand, the discourse and practice of TINA (There Is No Alternative), often
now muted and implicit, under neoliberalism blocks the political expression of dissent even in
moderate forms and feeds apathy, populism and the far right, courting destabilizing implications
for neoliberalism itself. On the other hand, the institutional shifts, the changes in the structures of
political representation, and the social and economic transformations wrought by neoliberalism
systematically reduce the scope for the expression of collective interests, the emergence of trans-
formative programmes, and even the aspiration to change society beyond neoliberalism.
In short, the post-war consensus inspired a political contest over whether collectivism in the
forms of (Keynesian) reformism or socialist revolution would be capable of continuing to deliver
700 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
progressive outcomes. Neither now is on the agenda, not least as the dominant form taken by col-
lective economic and social reproduction has been appropriated by finance. Nevertheless, the eco-
nomic contradictions of neoliberalism, the incremental sclerosis of the political institutions
regulating its metabolism and the cumulative corrosion of its ideological foundations make this
system of accumulation resistant to economic change, but also vulnerable to a multiplicity of polit-
This does not imply that electoral strategies are sufficient, nor that changes in social, industrial,
financial or monetary policies can fulfil radical expectations. Quite the contrary: neoliberalism has
repeatedly demonstrated its resilience both in practice and in the realm of ideas. But the demand
for the expansion and radicalization of political and economic democracy can integrate widely dif-
ferent struggles, delegitimize neoliberalism and support the emergence of alternatives. These are
now urgently needed.
Kate Bayliss and Mary Robertson were major contributors to the ideas employed in the drafting of this paper
but declined to be co-authors. Thanks to others for comments.
Research for this paper was supported by the project Financialization Economy Society and Sustainable
Development (FESSUD), which is funded by the European Union under Framework Programme 7 contract
1. Much of the neoliberal conundrum is neatly illustrated by Wacquant (2009: 306): ‘Neoliberalism is an
elusive and contested notion, a hybrid term awkwardly suspended between the lay idiom of political
debate and the technical terminology of social science, which moreover is often invoked without clear
referent. For some, it designates a hard-wired reality … while others view it as a doctrine … It is alter-
nately depicted as a tight, fixed, and monolithic set of principles and programs that tend to homogenize
societies, or as a loose, mobile, and plastic constellation of concepts and institutions adaptable to varie-
gated strands of capitalism’.
2. See, for example, Ayers and Saad-Filho (2008, 2014), Bayliss et al. (2011), Chang et al. (2012), Fine
(2010a, 2010b), Fine and Hall (2012), Fine and Saad-Filho (2014), Saad-Filho (2003, 2007, 2008, 2011),
Saad-Filho and Johnston (2005) and Saad-Filho and Yalman (2010).
3. This paper does not draw upon material from those case studies, but relevant contributions are included
in Work Packages 5 and 8 of the Fessud project, http://fessud.eu/
4. Thus, for Dardot and Laval (2013: 7), ‘Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, neo-liberalism has generally
been interpreted both as an ideology and as an economic policy directly informed by that ideology’.
5. See, for example, Duménil and Lévy (2004) and the works reviewed in Cahill (2014).
6. Similar, if not identical, questions might be asked of ‘globalization’, which is the most prominent way
of characterizing the contemporary world, not necessarily as a stage of development but with multi-
ple, competing, contested and not always consistent interpretations (Kiely, 2005; Kozul-Wright, 2006;
Labica, 2007; Rosenberg, 2000, 2005).
7. Of course, there may be exceptions if periodizing by relatively disconnected criteria such as political
systems, wars and technologies.
8. This leaves open how to characterize the stage after Keynesianism if not neoliberalism, with post-Fordism
also having proven incapable of delivering anything other than a temporary and unsatisfactory answer.
9. See Castree (2006) and Ferguson (2007) but also, on the contrary, Hart (2002, 2008) for neoliberalism’s
contingent diversities as opposed to incoherencies.
10. See Ayers and Saad-Filho (2014), and note the putative ‘de-politicization through economization’ (Madra
and Adaman, 2014). The neoliberal dilemma across freedom of, and yet control over, individual choice is
Fine and Saad-Filho 701
neatly addressed in scholarship, ideology and, increasingly, policy in practice, by the notion of ‘nudging’
behaviour (Fine et al., 2016).
11. See Hands (2010) and Witztum (2013) for the poverty of the attempted socialization of the individual in
mainstream economics relative to Smith. Medema (2009) demonstrates the tension between appealing to
pursuit of self-interest as a rationale both favouring and opposing state intervention.
12. Following the decline of Friedman’s monetarism in the 1980s, the emerging neoliberal ideas were
strapped more or less awkwardly to different versions of ‘supply-side’ and new classical economics, new
Keynesianism and new institutionalism, depending on how imperfectly working markets were concep-
tualized and incorporated into macroeconomic analysis (see Fine et al., 2001; Fine and Milonakis, 2009;
Milonakis and Fine, 2009; Fine and Dimakou, 2016).
13. See Duménil and Lévy (2004), Fine and Harris (1985) and, especially, Panitch and Gindin (2012).
14. Most recently, see Kliman and Williams (2015).
15. The most prominent example of this sort of reasoning is the Brenner hypothesis of investment overhang
involving competitiveness between nations and large national capitals discouraging new investment.
See, however, Fine et al. (2005) for a critique focusing on the extraordinary restructuring in the steel
industry. Hypotheses of lack of movement since the 1970s rarely can provide evidence from particular
sectors of the economy for which, of course, little has remained the same.
16. It is part and parcel of the inheritance from Keynesianism and its debate with monetarism that health,
education, welfare, industrial policy, finance for investment, and so on, as opposed to effective demand,
are sidelined alongside the focus on the short run as if it were independent from the long run. In this
respect, monetarism only completed what Keynesianism started, finishing with the failure to acknowl-
edge financialization, itself merely the tip of the iceberg in the neglect of the other determinants of
economic policy and performance. Hence the insights from and limitations of Crouch’s (2009) notion of
privatized Keynesianism, that neoliberalism is based upon demand management through private credit
rather than state expenditure.
17. As Wade (2013: 7) rightly puts it, ‘[t]he “market” is the polite way of referring to “the owners of capital”,
especially financial capital’.
18. See, for example, Lemke (2001).
19. See Fine et al. (2013) in the context of the developmental state paradigm that accepts the analytical
agenda of state versus market.
20. See first thing and Fine (2013a).
21. Quoting at length from Ashman and Fine (2013: 156–7): ‘[F]inancialisation has involved: the phenom-
enal expansion of financial assets relative to real activity; … the proliferation of types of assets, from
derivatives through to futures markets with a corresponding explosion of acronyms; the absolute and
relative expansion of speculative as opposed to or at the expense of real investment; a shift in the bal-
ance of productive to financial imperatives within the private sector whether financial or not; increasing
inequality in income arising out of weight of financial rewards; consumer-led booms based on credit;
the penetration of finance into ever more areas of economic and social life such as pensions, education,
health, and provision of economic and social infrastructure; the emergence of a neoliberal culture of
reliance upon markets and private capital and corresponding anti-statism despite the extent to which
the rewards to private finance have … derived from state finance itself. Financialisation is also associ-
ated with the continued role of the US dollar as world money despite … its deficits in trade, capital
account, the fiscus, and consumer spending, and minimal rates of interest … [H]owever financialisation
is defined, its consequences have been perceived to be: reductions in overall levels and efficacy of real
investment as financial instruments and activities expand at its expense even if excessive investment
does take place in particular sectors at particular times; … prioritising shareholder value, or financial
worth, over other economic and social values; pushing of policies towards conservatism and commer-
cialisation in all respects; extending influence of finance more broadly, both directly and indirectly, over
economic and social policy; placing more aspects of economic and social life at the risk of volatility from
financial instability and, conversely, placing the economy and social life at risk of crisis from triggers
within particular markets …Whilst, then, financialisation is a single word, it is attached to a wide variety
of different forms and effects of finance.’
702 Critical Sociology 43(4-5)
22. Note that reducing wages in pursuit of profit is by no means unique to neoliberalism. But, for the latter,
the pressure is that much greater in view of financial imperatives (also explaining why rewards within or
linked to that sector have become so disproportionate).
23. See, inter alia, Duménil and Lévy (2004), Gowan (1999) and Kotz (2015).
24. For a historical overview see Panitch and Gindin (2012), Rude (2005) and Saad-Filho (2007).
25. See Saad-Filho and Johnston (2005).
26. Thus, for example, the social structures of accumulation approach has been modified to suggest that
neoliberalism is a particularly dysfunctional articulation of social structures (Kotz et al, 2010).
27. See, in this light, Ashman and Fine (2013) and Fine (2014b) for critiques of VoC and WRA, respectively.
Note that each approach to different types of (parts of) capitalism is grounded in methodological nation-
alism in which the global as such is just one factor amongst many.
28. Harvey (2005) calls this process ‘accumulation by dispossession’, an umbrella term for an extremely
diverse range of phenomena that at most and only occasionally have a limited connection to primi-
tive accumulation in the classical Marxist sense and, more often than not, are underpinned by finan-
cialization (as, for example, in futures carbon trading, which is probably the most fetishized form of
29. See, for example, Duménil and Lévy (2011) and McNally (2014).
30. Thus, for the monopoly capital school, US capitalism has been chronically beset, even during the post-
war boom, by deficient demand, in this case deriving from the underconsumption deriving from high
monopoly prices, and correspondingly low real wages and output. For Polanyi Levitt (2013: 164): ‘The
objective of the neoliberal counter-revolution was to restore the discipline of capital over labour, and the
principal means of achieving it were deregulation, liberalization, privatization and explicit attacks on
31. For a critical review see Fine (2014a).
32. Significantly for what was to come, germane to comparative performance during the post-war boom were
debates about different financial systems (typically, bank-based vs market-based) and how conducive they
were for economic and social restructuring, in both generating finance for investment and interacting with
the policymaking processes (Ashman and Fine, 2013; Fine and Harris, 1985; Zysman, 1983).
33. The leading example is provided by the Irish Republic, not least in the wake of the global crisis; see
Doherty (2011) and Regan (2009).
34. For example, in Hungary, ‘[c]ommitted to introducing new fiscal discipline and to cutting real wages,
the Socialist government unilaterally imposed it austerity budged and reinstituted wage controls, bypass-
ing the IRC [Industrial Relations Code] while continuing to claim commitment to the tripartite process’
(Ost, 2000: 510). In Poland, ‘the main task of … [the] tripartite commission has been to secure labor’s
consent to its own marginalization’ (p. 515). In sum, ‘the best that can be said is that tripartism means
formal negotiations over very broad issues, with no guarantees that the agreements will become law or
be respected by employers … equally likely are tripartite sessions where the government simply informs
“social partners” of its intentions and seeks labor assent to fait accompli’ (Ost, 2000: 515).
35. See, especially in the context of ‘development’, Bayliss et al. (2011), Fine (2010a) and Fine and Saad-
36. See, for example, Barber (1995) and Bresnahan (2003).
37. See Gingrich (2015) for variability in institutional forms of social provision in light of what is provided
and how and corresponding implications for ‘cost’ of neoliberal change.
38. Note that beyond the pursuit of the eponymous stakeholder value, study of the relationship between
financialization and the restructuring of productive capital remains seriously underdeveloped, partly
because it is limited to drawing upon macroeconomic generalizations in terms of low investment. For a
telling illustration in the context of financialization of global production networks, see Coe et al. (2014).
39. See, for example, Graeber (2014) on the neoliberalization of the university.
40. For the capacity of the top 10% of the income distribution to grow at the expense of the bottom 40%, see
Palma (2009) on the ‘neoliberal art of democracy’.
41. See especially Lapavitsas (2013) and Fine (2010c, 2013–14) for wide-ranging critique with alternatives.
42. See Bryan and Rafferty (2014: 404).
Fine and Saad-Filho 703
43. Such financialization of everyday life directly leads to the notion that the over-indebted are in need of
financial literacy programmes as a result of being irrational (see Santos, 2014).
44. See, for example, Langley (2008) and Kear (2013).
45. This is evident in the ‘evaluatory trap’ associated with privatization (Bayliss and Fine, 2008) and in the
hype surrounding private sector funding of the public sector.
46. In Adam Smith’s (2009) famous words, ‘People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merri-
ment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance
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