American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Monica Prasad, Northwestern

Event time: 
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 4:00pm through 5:15pm
Event description: 

Monica Prasad

Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University

“Is Neoliberalism Over?”

Abstract: By neoliberalism I mean a set of policies built around a faith in the free market, and a strong distrust of state intervention.  In the United States, we have witnessed a rise in policies of this sort in the last three decades, starting with the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  In his first inaugural address Reagan said quote “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”; in his lighter moments, Reagan’s joke was “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”  Reagan’s anti-government approach to government has been a stable presence in American politics ever since.  We saw it catch fire again under the presidency of George W. Bush, and we have seen it flare up most recently in the rise of the Tea Party.  But there are reasons to wonder whether this era of American neoliberalism might be drawing to a close.  For example, nearly half of the American public now holds a negative image of the Tea Party and its extreme anti-government stance, compared with only a third who view it favorably.  And Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and they hold one house of Congress today partly thanks to gerrymandering.  So, has this era of American history come to a close?  Is neoliberalism over?

Monica Prasad studies how societies create and regulate markets, from the state regulations of the Progressive era to the fair trade labeling and carbon taxes of today. In her book The Politics of Free Markets (winner of the 2007 Barrington Moore Award) she investigates why the movement to minimize government regulation of markets–“neoliberalism”–was so much stronger in the U.S. and Britain than in France and West Germany.  Her new book The Land of Too Much (winner of several awards including the ASA Distinguished Scholarly Publication award for the best book in sociology) develops a demand-side theory of comparative political economy to explain the surprisingly large role of the state in the U.S., its origins in the 19th century revolution in agricultural productivity, and its consequences for undermining a European-style welfare state and leaving U.S. economic growth dependent on “mortgage Keynesianism.”