• The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order

  • America and the World in the Free Market Era
  • By: Gary Gerstle
  • Narrated by: Keith Sellon-Wright
  • Length: 13 hrs and 21 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (33 ratings)

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The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order

By: Gary Gerstle
Narrated by: Keith Sellon-Wright
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Publisher's Summary

The epochal shift toward neoliberalism—a web of related policies that, broadly speaking, reduced the footprint of government in society and reassigned economic power to private market forces—that began in the United States and Great Britain in the late 1970s fundamentally changed the world. Today, the word "neoliberal" is often used to condemn a broad swath of policies, from prizing free market principles over people to advancing privatization programs in developing nations around the world.

To be sure, neoliberalism has contributed to a number of alarming trends, not least of which has been a massive growth in income inequality. Yet as the eminent historian Gary Gerstle argues in The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order, these indictments fail to reckon with the full contours of what neoliberalism was and why its worldview had such persuasive hold on both the right and the left for three decades. As he shows, the neoliberal order that emerged in America in the 1970s fused ideas of deregulation with personal freedoms, open borders with cosmopolitanism, and globalization with the promise of increased prosperity for all. Along with tracing how this worldview emerged in America and grew to dominate the world, Gerstle explores the previously unrecognized extent to which its triumph was facilitated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and its communist allies.

©2022 Gary Gerstle (P)2022 Kalorama
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Cursory, unoriginal, class-blind

If you know very little about Neo-liberalism, this clearly-written book will give you a broad overview of the movement's historical arc. However, based on the hype, I was expecting some original, insightful analysis. Instead, this reads like an extended New York Times piece. Certain subjects are more or less off limits; most notably, investigating rampant upper-class corruption, white-collar crime, surveillance, propaganda, election interference, and the imperialism on which Neoliberalism is founded.

As a result, the book reads more like a history of the propaganda used to sell Neoliberalism, but presented as though it were actual history, as though it's purveyors actually believed the half-truths and outright lies by which they engineered public assent. In the author's telling, the promoters of Neoliberalism believed in trickle-down economics, believed that deregulation would lift as boats, believed that monopolies, a casino economy, tax breaks for the rich, precarious workers, and the minting of multi-billionaires was what America needed to recover from the quasi-communist harm done by the New Deal.

By this dodge, the author is largely freed from considering how his social circle might have deliberately, ruthlessly, sociopathically impoverished middle class. Of course, he can't avoid the topic of class warfare entirely. He acknowledges, in passing, that wealth inequality is a major outcome of Neoliberalism. But it didn't happen on purpose, for every president after Eisenhower had the best interest of the public at heart. They just couldn't foresee how their policies would play out. Their aims and ambitions were a world removed from those of Gilded Age robber-barons, union-busters, speculative bankers, propagandists, and monopolists. This time it would be different . . . somehow.

When covering the 2008 crash, the author notes that "not one banker went to jail." Does he ask why? Does he explain what they did that might have been criminal? No, and this is par for the course. At every turn his account is white-washed, expect where the corruption is to blatant to ignore, as in the lies leading up to the Iraq war. In nearly every other case, elites are simply over-ambitious or ignorant or incompetent. How the policies of these ignorant, incompetent elites always, and in every case funneled wealth upward for sixty years does not pique the author's curiosity much.

The Military Industrial Complex is also largely outside the author's preview, as though the rise of Neoliberalism did not go hand in hand with the war industry and empire building. Nor is there much analysis of advertising as the mechanism of Neoliberal control. The downsides of corporate news are discussed, but not really in terms of corporate profits and ownership by cynical, transnational billionaires bent on dividing the working class.

The author's assessment of the current situation is the weakest. Imagine the New York Times take on Obama, Occupy Wall Street, Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden. Obama had no choice but to bail out the banks--the world economy was teetering on the brink! Trump-as-racist is drummed in ad nauseum. The New Deal-like proposals of Bernie Sanders are not discussed in terms of their possible efficacy. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is a new FDR . . . if it weren't for big bad Joe Manchin.

Anyone familiar George Orwell's or Noam Chomsky's analysis of the conformity and subservience rampant among academic elites can see it played out quite blatantly here. I recommend Thomas Franks' "What's the Matter With Kansas," "Listen Liberal," and "Rendezvous With Oblivion" for a more honest account of the workings of Neoliberalism.

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should be call a defense of neoliberalism.

The book is a defense of neoliberaliam. It celebrates Reagan and the like. Calls neoliberalism the proper continuation of liberal ideals, bashes the socialist world with the usual prescribed truisms, pushes the notion that neoliberalism promotes win-win diplomacy with the third world, and celebrates the policy of liberating capitalism from political constraints; ie, a dictatorship of capitalism. It white washes intentional evils as honest mistakes by honest actors and ignores the darker side of the neoliberal order altogether. In short, the book is propaganda.

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9/10

The central thesis of this book, concerning the rise and fall of political orders, is well born out by the history that Gerstle sketches. There are a few factual errors, questionable takes, and the curious omission of neoconservatism, that keep this from a perfect score, but the bottom line is that the author understands the currents of political history and has crafted a book that will stand alongside the work of Naomi Klein, David Harvey, and Thomas Frank in dissecting the neoliberal project.

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New Deal to now: full panorama

The author calmly sorts it all out. "Neoliberal" refers to preference for markets as central organizers of society, deregulation, globalization, and a cluster of accompanying things, political, economic, and cultural. This is especially useful, as terms such as "liberal" and "conservative" have mutated a lot. The major political leaders, economic thinkers, laws, and social trends are clearly explained, and unpacked. I would recommend this as a top source for understanding the USA since the 1970s.