Transcript of plenary by Monica Prasad at the BSA Annual Conference 2014.
By neoliberalism I mean a set of policies built around a faith in the free market, and a strong distrust of state
intervention. In the United States, we have witnessed a rise in policies of this sort in the last three decades, starting with the presidency of Ronald Reagan. In his first inaugural address Reagan said quote “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”; in his lighter moments, Reagan’s joke was “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Reagan’s antigovernment approach to government has been a stable presence in American politics ever since. We saw it catch fire again under the presidency of George W. Bush, and we have seen it flare up most recently in the rise of the Tea Party. But there are reasons to wonder whether this era of American neoliberalism might be drawing to a close. For example, nearly half of the American public now holds a negative image of the Tea Party and its extreme antigovernment stance, compared with only a third who view it favorably. And Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and they hold one house of Congress today partly thanks to gerrymandering. So, has this era of American history come to a close? Is neoliberalism over?