In a recent column in Dissent, the historian Daniel T. Rodgers takes issue with how the word “neoliberalism” has become “a linguistic omnivore” in present-day scholarship. Deeming its success “a measure of its substantive hollowness,” he untangles its various meanings (“market fundamentalism,” “commodification of the self,” “finance capitalism,” and so on) and appeals for a return to a descriptive language closer to social reality. I argue the contrary here. Neoliberalism owes its success to its distinct ideological shape, which functions thanks to, not in spite of, its paradoxes and contradictions. Although the original agenda of neoliberalism has been revised many times over, its scope and reach have steadily increased. Its commonly overlooked scientific dynamism, sponsored by private individuals and foundations, relayed by think tanks, and embedded in a growing, yet problematic “marketplace of ideas,” remains at the very heart of the neoliberal project today.
- Lecture series: Calendar of events “in the history, anthropology, and sociology of human knowledges” at the Centre for Global Knowledge Studies, Cambridge University, 2018–2019 (@gloknoscentre) via Inanna Hamati-Ataya (@berytia)
- Workshop CFP: Social Technologies and Global Knowledge Economies, 1750-1850, April 4–6, 2019, Göttingen ( deadline: November 15, 2018) via Dominik Huenniger (@dominikhhh)
- Symposium CFP: Networks: The Creation and Circulation of Knowledge from Franklin to Facebook, American Philosophical Society, June 6–7, 2019 (deadline: November 16, 2018) via Maria Simonsen (@MariaSimonsen6)
- Blog post: “The new, younger generation of scientists is much more open to dialogue with society,” by Simona Cerrato, LSE Impact Blog, August 30, 2018
In 1737, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus bitterly complained about the haphazard naming practices of his contemporaries. “The names bestowed on plants by the ancient Greeks and Romans I commend,” he wrote, “but I shudder at the sight of most of those given by modern authorities: for those are for the most part a mere chaos of confusion, whose mother is barbarity, whose father dogmatism, and whose nurse prejudice.” But even after the many editions of Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae ostensibly brought order to the chaos of naming things in the natural world and structuring Western scientific understanding of it, the problem of accurately describing new natural phenomena persisted. Continue reading “The Limits of Book Learning”