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The Revenge of Politics on Economics – is the neoliberal era coming to a close?

November 29, 2016

London, UK. Since its intellectual inception in the 1930s and its political emergence in the 1970s, neoliberalism has sought to disenchant politics by replacing it with economics. But is this framework finished, author William Davies questions.

In a revised edition of The Limits of Neoliberalism, first published in 2014, Davies examines both the efforts and failures of economic experts to make government and public life amenable to measurement, and to re-model society and state in terms of competition. Framed against the backdrop of post-Brexit Britain and the 2016 US Presidential election campaign, Davies poses some pivotal questions on the value, and success of neoliberalism; an ideological framework that sees competition as the defining characteristic and redefines citizens as consumers.

“In the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump's election victory, there is a widespread feeling that the neoliberal era is coming to a close and another one is emerging. I agree with this. However, it's crucial that we understand what neoliberalism means and how it works; otherwise we can't understand the political crises that are engulfing us right now. Events such as Brexit represent the 'revenge of politics on economics': efforts to marginalize or contain politics eventually reached their limits, and a counter-reaction has occurred, which threatens to overturn many of the key principles of policy making of the past 40 years. Ultimately I don't think paradigms simply end all at once, and we need to focus instead on how the seeds of this recent political crisis were sown over time”, argues Davies.

Can we hold this new ideology that no-one has yet labelled or defined as being at the root of all of our current problems? Guardian commentator Aditya Chakrabortty, writing in the new foreword, suggests so as he claims that the “economic and political system has failed” due to a “zombie like” adherence to this neoliberalism system.

Looking forwards Davies calls for a “transformation”:

“I think economic sociology and political economy have to come to terms with the emerging political order in some way. We are seeing the emergence of forms of 'economic nationalism', protectionism and challenges to international markets. The topic of neoliberalism remains interesting and relevant, but increasingly I think we will need to abandon the search for the underlying rationality of capitalism, and focus on its politics and irrationality. Perhaps this means economic sociologists and political sociologists working together more. “

On the publication of the text, SAGE’s President, Global Publishing, Ziyad Marar commented:

“Anyone who has followed Will Davies’ trenchant and insightful commentary through recent political turmoil will know him to be a great example of how a social scientist can engage with the public sphere. So I’m delighted we at SAGE are publishing his important and timely exploration of the Limits of Neoliberalism.”

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The Limits of Neolibralism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition Revised edition by William Davies, was published by SAGE in November 2016. The text is available in paperback, handback and e-Book version.  A preview of the book, including Aditya Chakrabortty’s foreword, can be read here. If you are a member of the media and need a press copy, please get in touch with

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Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community. SAGE is a leading international provider of innovative, high-quality content publishing more than 1000 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. Our growing selection of library products includes archives, data, case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company’s continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC and Melbourne.

Dr William Davies is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. Davies is a political economist with particular interests in neoliberalism, history of economics and economic sociology. His work explores the way in which economics influences our understanding of politics, society and ourselves. Davies is also Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Centre, which explores critical, cultural and political perspectives on economic life. Prior to doing his PhD, William worked in public policy for think tanks including Demos and the Institute for Public Policy Research.

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