How to Waste a Crisis


Mike Konczal reveiws Philip Mirowski’s Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste in The New Inquiry:

In 1978, in a series of lectures at the Collège de France, philosopher Michel Foucault told the gathered students that they should start reading University of Chicago economists. Almost 30 years before management consultants like Tom Peters would start promoting the value of people measuring their own human capital, Foucault walked his audience through obscure journal articles on the economics of the self by the idea of human capital’s intellectual progenitor, Gary Becker.

Decades before neoliberalism would become a widespread intellectual crutch word, Foucault declared, “Neoliberalism is not Adam Smith; neoliberalism is not market society.” So what is it then? What are the term’s stakes? And why does the condition it describes seem to lumber on despite the economic devastation of the past five years, which might have spelled its definitive end? This question forms the core of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste, the most recent book by economic historian and philosopher Philip Mirowski.

Mirowski’s book can be thought of as two long essays stitched together. The first is about defining what neoliberalism is and what it is not, as well as a background history on the institutions that have come to be associated with it. The second documents where the economics profession stands in the aftermath of the financial crisis: how it has resisted reform and may even be beyond it, despite economists’ embarrassing failures.

More here.