Neoliberalism and the Contradictions of Freedom: Ideology, Subjectivity, and Critical Pedagogy
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The idea of freedom is a central figure in the ideology of neoliberalism. In the contemporary context, neoliberals argue that rolling back regulations and the marketization of social life create more choices and thus more freedom. While this position in fact dissimulates the increasing powerlessness of ordinary people, it also has roots in older philosophical arguments-in particular in the work of the economist and philosopher F.A. Hayek, whose thought has been a central inspiration for neoliberal policy. I begin my discussion here with an analysis of his concept of freedom. I believe that the ideologeme of freedom is central to securing neoliberalism's persistent hegemony, and that it needs to be engaged by critics at some depth. In spite of the failures and suffering produced by neoliberalism in practice, it retains a moral appeal for many, and not only those who are its principal beneficiaries. This appeal rests on the supposed symbiosis-and even identification-of neoliberalism (and capitalism itself) with freedom. Therefore, a critical-theoretical investigation of the philosophical and ideological architecture of this equation is urgent. In this article, I undertake this investigation in order to reveal the specific structures of violence that are the actual and positive content of neoliberal freedom.