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After Failure: A Second Stage of Neoliberalism | Social Europe Journal - 2011-04-08

In the era of second-stage neoliberalism with its culture of enforcement the risk of resentment and illiberalism increases. Neoliberalism has been ‘loaded up’ by adding elements from conservative or nationalistic or other right-wing ideas. Postliberalism is the result of this transformation of neoliberalism as a system of beliefs and thoughts. Postliberalism can be defined as the attempt to cure neoliberalism – by abandoning liberalism. ‘Postliberal’ refers to political concepts and ideas that try to solve the follow-up problems of neoliberalism by using lines of argument that are no longer compatible with a liberal understanding of freedom, individuality, self-determination and autonomy.

Postliberalism is to be understood as a reaction to neoliberalism’s argumentative difficulties. To take the free market and free competition as the core of the entire political thinking might be called the essence of being ‘neoliberal’. But, the emphasis on the functioning of markets – in the sense of a ‘spontaneous order’ – has led to substantial tensions in relation to ways of thinking that strive to achieve a just order.

Friedrich A. von Hayek, the main proponent of neoliberal thinking in politics and economics, has expressed thoughts on the topic of justice in three respects: Due to the structure of markets, the concept of ‘justice’ only makes sense as a term to describe the quality of market framework institutions. The concept of ‘social justice’, on the other hand, does not make any sense in relation to the spontaneous order of the market. Therefore, the concept has to be avoided. Markets do not implement the merit principle. Rewards in a market system depend on the contingencies of supply and demand conditions – and not on skills, efforts or contributions to the common good. Neoliberalism aims to avoid a political debate in terms of social justice and justice as merit. In times of crisis, these two aspects of neoliberal thinking lead to a situation in which neoliberalism is getting more and more into argumentative difficulties. A form of capitalism that is increasingly producing social injustices and that is passing the costs onto those who did not cause the crisis is widely perceived as ‘socially unjust’ by the public.

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