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Digital Subscriptions > Boston Review > Economics After Neoliberalism (Summer 2019) > “ILLIBERAL” ECONOMICS


“ECONOMICS AFTER NEOLIBERALISM” describes an economics that uses public power to solve public problems. In other words, it is political economy. This does not mean that it is not “economics.” To the contrary, it means that Naidu, Rodrik, and Zucman have revealed an important truth about the discipline. By using economics as a technical tool to achieve public priorities, they demonstrate the inevitability of value decisions and create new possibilities for a politics willing to embrace it.

Economics without politics denies important realities about public life. Real-world developments driven by social and political motivations are chalked up in its models as “market failures” and “asymmetries.” It assumes the righteousness of its underlying framework of an equilibrium chosen by the preferences of market participants against other explanations that are understood to be ad hoc or irrational. Making this the basis for public policy is, to use our term for discussion, “neoliberalism”—its own kind of politics.

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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.