William Callison speaks with Michel Feher about his new book Rated Agency:Investee Politics in a Speculative Age. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full conversation in Los Angeles Review of Books. An excerpt appears below:
“WILLIAM CALLISON: ‘Neoliberalism’ and ‘financialization’ have become increasingly important terms for scholars and activists alike. At the beginning of Rated Agency, you caution against conflating the two concepts. What is the difference between them and why do you consider it so significant?
MICHEL FEHER: Neoliberalism refers to a mode of government devised in the postwar period by an international cohort of scholars who worried about the impending demise of the ‘free world.’ Notwithstanding some doctrinal differences between them, Friedrich Hayek, the Freiburg School ordoliberals, and Milton Friedman’s circle at the Chicago School agreed that, to ward off ‘creeping socialism,’ drastic changes were in order.
The neoliberals faulted Keynesian-inspired governments for believing that the prevention of market failure and the appeasement of the working class justified tampering with the price mechanism — with minimum wages, rent control, socialized health care, and public pension systems. They also castigated corporate managers for giving precedence to endogenous growth over profit maximization and for using collective bargaining to entrench their own power. Finally, and most importantly, they lamented that the wrongheaded priorities of politicians and employers persuaded wage earners to stake their welfare on state support and labor unions rather than on their own individual efforts and initiatives.
To keep the socialist fox out of the liberal henhouse, the neoliberal luminaries designed a three-pronged program. Their agenda involved harnessing the powers and resources of the state to protect market mechanisms from political distortions, teaching CEOs that their loyalty should rest with shareholders, and converting wage earners to the values of the business community. These were central tenets of neoliberalism before the rise of financialization.”