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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > Economics After Neoliberalism (Summer 2019) > ECONOMICS IS THE MATERIALITY OF MORAL CHOICE

ECONOMICS IS THE MATERIALITY OF MORAL CHOICE

FOR NON-ECONOMISTS on the left, “Economics After Neoliberalism” is a welcome arrival. Having long been scolded or silenced by neoliberals with a dismissive “You just don’t understand how markets work”, outsiders like me can only celebrate the assistance that Naidu, Rodrik, and Zucman provide—from deep within the inner sanctum no less. It almost feels like our Marshall McLuhan moment.

I wonder if Naidu, Rodrik, and Zucman are selling themselves short, however. To hear them tell it, what has made neoliberalism so attractive and commanding as a politics is the borrowed authority of economics. Neoliberals sold their policies as the simple implementation of economic knowledge, so much so that neoliberalism “now appears to be just another name for economics.” Given that conflation, Naidu, Rodrik, and Zucman see their task as, first, debunking the notion that neoliberalism rests on “sound economics”, and, second, offering progressive policy alternatives that incorporate values—such as “fairness”, “equality”, and “inclusive prosperity”—that neoliberalsand some economists consider external to the discipline. The point is to marshal the technical knowledge of the profession on behalf of new values, policies, and institutions.

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Economics After Neoliberalism offers a powerful case for a new brand of economics—one focused on power and inequality and aimed at a more inclusive society. Three prominent economists—Suresh Naidu, Dani Rodrik, and Gabriel Zucman—lead off with a vision “for economic policy that stands as a genuine alternative to market fundamentalism.” Expanding on “the state of creative ferment” they describe, Boston Review has commissioned responses to their essay from economists, philosophers, political scientists, and policymakers across the political spectrum as well as new essays that challenge the current shape of markets and suggest more democratic alternatives. Lenore Palladino explores the misguided logic of shareholder primacy and points to more equitable approaches to corporate governance—such as employee ownership funds. Amy Kapczynski examines how the courts have developed a new, anti-democratic First Amendment that protects corporate speech at the expense of regulation designed to protect public health and safety. And Robert Manduca explores the importance of public discussion about economics by revisiting Chester Bowles's remarkable book, Tomorrow Without Fear, which explained Keynesian ideas to the public after World War II.