Neoliberalism: From Law to Resistance

This is the first of a series of posts on Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism. Read the rest of the symposium here. 

Christine Schwöbel-Patel –

9780674979529There are two recurring themes about neoliberalism and law. One of the themes (often voiced by the Right) is that neoliberalism has become a type of bogeyman, standing in for everything privatized, profit-driven, inequality-creating. Another recurring theme (often voiced by the Left) is that neoliberalism has been entirely ignored by lawyers, who believe that what they are doing does not really relate to the de facto inequalities of the global economy. Commentators on neoliberalism therefore either consider it as tediously omnipresent or as worryingly absent. Quinn Slobodian’s recent brilliant book Globalists addresses both of these themes, providing nuance to those troubled by neoliberalism and urgency to those (so far) untroubled by it. Apart from the elucidation of neoliberalism, Slobodian also gently but decidedly points us in the direction of possible routes for reclaiming internationalism from the Globalists.

From Slobodian we learn some vital things about neoliberalism which compel more nuance in the use of the term. It should be said that what we learn does not make neoliberalism more benign, but rather it allows us to pinpoint when and how neoliberalism came to be the dominant project – and with that possible modes of resistance against it. For international economic lawyers who believed that politics and ideology are outside of the discipline’s ‘neutral’ legal structures, the book should be more than simply an eye-opener; it should lead to a profound and devastating revelation of how international economic law is deeply implicated in inequality today.

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