In the July 2018 issue of Theory & Event, Leigh Claire La Berge discusses Melinda Cooper’s Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism. Click here to learn more about the book. Click the button to the left to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:
“After a decade of critical-theory oriented books that approached neoliberalism broadly as a historical period (see David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism) or as a dominant ideology (see Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution), scholars are now raising more discrete and exacting questions: what did self-proclaimed neoliberals do and how did they do it? Nancy MacLean’s, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for American (2017), examines the work of neoliberal James M. Buchanan in the context of racial desegregation in Virginia after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Quinn Slobodian’s Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (2018) traces the rise of the neoliberals in the context of decolonization and growing interstate economic cooperation. Policy might be one word for this kind of inquiry, but it’s not one expansive enough. Somewhere between intellectual history and genealogy, these books promise to tighten our conceptual grasp of neoliberalism as well as help us to decide whether the term should continue to be endowed with the capacious meaning it now has. In some academic circles, over-arching narratives of neoliberal insistence on privatization, individualism and anti-regulation have achieved the status of common sense. Now, some of these narratives have started to be, and will continue to be, both refined if not ultimately rejected.
Enter Melinda Cooper’s new book, Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, which reorients the unit of social analysis of the neoliberal critique from homo oeconomicus to familia oeconomica, from man to the family, that bastion of liberal progress and possibility that constituted and sustained man all along. Cooper’s book will change our conversation. It provides such a detailed and comprehensive argument, one so astutely staged on multiple levels of mediation from policy to theory to possibilities and limitations of commodification itself, that it will certainly become a conceptual index for those interested in understanding the American school of neoliberalism.”