How Law Made Neoliberalism

Jedediah Britton-Purdy, Amy Kapczynski, and David Singh Grewal in the Boston Review:

We live in an era of intersecting crises—some new, some old but newly visible. At the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused nearly 500,000 deaths in the United States alone, with many more deaths on the horizon in the coming months. Since its arrival in the United States, the virus has intersected with and magnified long-neglected problems—radical disparities in access to healthcare and the fulfillment of basic needs that disproportionately impact communities of color and working-class Americans, alongside a crisis of care for the young, elderly, and sick that stretches families and communities to the breaking point.

These crises arise from the chronic failure of political institutions to respond democratically to public needs. They are rooted in decades of politics, policy, and law. For many Black, brown, rural, indigenous, and working-class Americans, this democratic failure is business as usual. But over the last four years, and especially since the storming of the Capitol, fear of democratic failure has become mainstream.

These crises are often analyzed in terms of the political economy of neoliberalism, an ideology of governance that came to predominate in the 1970s and ’80s. Neoliberalism is associated with a demand for deregulation, austerity, and an attempt to assimilate government to something more like a market—but it never was as simple as a demand for “free markets.” Rather, it was a demand to protect the market from democratic demands for redistribution.

More here.