Is Neoliberalism Biting Its Own Tail? From the Economics of Ignorance to Post-Truth Politics

In our infinite ignorance, we are all equal.
—Karl Popper
 

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. Continue reading “Is Neoliberalism Biting Its Own Tail? From the Economics of Ignorance to Post-Truth Politics”

Histories of Knowledge around the Web

Monk leading stubborn donkey while reading book
“Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties” by Wordsworth Thompson (Boston, MA: L. Prang & Co., 1878), Library of Congress, PPOC, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2016649779/.

Ten Links

  1. “Teaching Soviet Children the Language of Science and Technology” by Laura Todd at The Language of ‘Authoritarian’ Regimes, June 28, 2017
  2. “What We Can Learn from Fake News” by Paul J. Croce at the History News Network, July 23, 2017
  3. “How African American Activists are Influencing Latinos” by Aaron Fountain at Black Perspectives, July 25, 2017
  4. “An African American Pioneer in Greece: John Wesley Gilbert and the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1890–1891” by John W. I. Lee at From the Archivist’s Notebook, August 1, 2017
  5. “The Forgotten World of Communist Bookstores” by Joshua Clarke Davis at Jacobin, August 11, 2017
  6. “The Significance of Scripts” by Elisabeth Chaghafi at Shakespeare’s World, August 24, 2017
  7. “The Racist Roots of Gynecology and What Black Women Birthed” by Sherronda J. Brown at Wear Your Voice, August 29, 2017
  8. “(In)Forming Revolution Series: Information Networks in the Age of Revolutions” at Age of Revolutions, September 4–29, 2017
  9. “How to Become a Doctor (in 1949)” by Allison Piazza at Books, Health, and History (New York Academy of Medicine), September 5, 2017
  10. “Race, Law & Literature—A New Course” by Eddie Bruce-Jones on his eponymously named blog, September 10, 2017

Journalistic Practices and Knowledge Production

In 1903, the Austrian journalist Emil Löbl observed that “many of today’s readers” see their newspaper as a “universal encyclopedia,” the study of which, they believed, satisfied their duty as “cultivated people” (Kulturmenschen) to stay informed. Whether or not this was a positive development, journalists needed to recognize that “modern readers expected of newspapers the greatest degree of universality, the widest variety, the most complete abundance of content.”[1] Continue reading “Journalistic Practices and Knowledge Production”

History of Knowledge and Contemporary Discourse on Science

The polarizing contemporary debate on science in the United States could be extraordinarily interesting for historians of knowledge, if it were occurring in the past. Still, if we could divert our attention from the news for a moment, we might find it offers some food for thought.

In the midst of the current conversation, which is experiencing renewed fervor under the new administration, the Twitterverse is exploding with talk of “truthiness,” “alternative facts,” “fact-based journalism,” “fake news,” and “lies.” This rhetoric encompasses not just climate science but also everyday policy-making and “s/he said” – “s/he said” arguments. It is easy to get caught up in this conversation, whose ideological and epistemological battle lines seem so clearly drawn, but one thing gets lost—most of the time, anyway. Continue reading “History of Knowledge and Contemporary Discourse on Science”