Neoliberalism 4.0: The Rise of Illiberal Capitalism; Comment on “How Neoliberalism Is Shaping the Supply of Unhealthy Commodities and What This Means for NCD Prevention”

Document Type: Commentary

Author

Distinguished Research Chair, Globalization and Health Equity, Faculty of Medicine, School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Abstract

Neoliberal logic and institutional lethargy may well explain part of the reason why governments pay little attention to how their economic and development policies negatively affect health outcomes associated with the global diffusion of unhealthy commodities. In calling attention to this the authors encourage health advocates to consider strategies other than just regulation to curb both the supply and demand for these commodities, by better understanding how neoliberal logic suffuses institutional regimes, and how it might be coopted to alternative ends. The argument is compelling as possible mid-level reform, but it omits the history of the development of neoliberalism, from its founding in liberal philosophy and ethics in the transition from feudalism to capitalism, to its hegemonic rise in global economics over the past four decades. This rise was as much due to elites (the 1% and now 0.001%) wanting to reverse the progressive compression in income and wealth distribution during the first three decades that followed World War Two. Through three phases of neoliberal policy (structural adjustment, financialization, austerity) wealth ceased trickling downwards, and spiralled upwards. Citizen discontent with stagnating or declining livelihoods became the fuel for illiberal leaders to take power in many countries, heralding a new, autocratic and nationalistic form of neoliberalism. With climate crises mounting and ecological limits rendering mid-level reform of coopting the neoliberal logic to incentivize production of healthier commodities, health advocates need to consider more profound idea of how to tame or erode (increasingly predatory) capitalism itself.

Keywords

Main Subjects


  1. Lencucha R, Thow AM. How neoliberalism is shaping the supply of unhealthy commodities and what this means for NCD prevention. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2019;8(9):514-520. doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2019.56
  2. People’s Health Movement. The Health Crises of Neoliberal Globalization, Global Health Watch website. London: Zed Books; 2014:11-42. https://www.ghwatch.org/sites/www.ghwatch.org/files/A1_0.pdf.  Accessed November 3, 2019.
  3. Labonté R, Stuckler D. The rise of neoliberalism: how bad economics imperils health and what to do about it. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016;70(3):312-318. doi:10.1136/jech-2015-206295
  4. Schrecker T, Chapman AR, Labonté R, De Vogli R. Advancing health equity in the global marketplace: how human rights can help. Soc Sci Med. 2010;71(8):1520-1526. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.06.042
  5. Jaggar AM. A feminist critique of the alleged southern debt. Hypatia. 2002;17(4):119-142. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.2002.tb01076.x
  6. Hayek FA. The Road to Serfdom. New York: Routledge; 1996.
  7. Wren-Lewis S. Ordoliberalism, Neoliberalism and Economics. Social Europe; 2014.
  8. Les Trente Glorieuses. La documentation Française: La libraire du citoyen. https://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/var/storage/libris/3303331280811/3303331280811_EX.pdf.  Accessed October 15, 2019.
  9. Piketty T. Capital in the twenty-first century. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; 2014.
  10. Afterword – Statement of Aims – About MPS. The Mont Pelerin Society website. https://www.montpelerin.org/statement-of-aims/.  Accessed October 15, 2019.
  11. Harvey D. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press; 2005.
  12. Wade R. From global imbalances to global reorganisations. Cambridge J Econ. 2009;33(4):539-562. doi:10.1093/cje/bep032
  13. O'Sullivan M. Globalisation is dead and we need to invent a new world order. The Economist. June 28, 2019. https://www.economist.com/open-future/2019/06/28/globalisation-is-dead-and-we-need-to-invent-a-new-world-order.  Accessed October 15, 2019.
  14. Savio R. Farewell to the World Social Forum? Other News – Voices Against the Tide. October 3, 2019. https://www.other-news.info/2019/10/farewell-to-the-world-social-forum/.  Accessed October 15, 2019.
  15. Peters MA. The end of neoliberal globalisation and the rise of authoritarian populism. Educ Philos Theory. 2018;50(4):323-325. doi:10.1080/00131857.2017.1305720
  16. Palma JG. Behind the Seven Veils of Inequality. What if it's all about the Struggle within just One Half of the Population over just One Half of the National Income? Dev Change. 2019;50(5):1133-1213. doi:10.1111/dech.12505
  17. Bruff I. The rise of authoritarian neoliberalism. Rethink Marx. 2014;26(1):113-129. doi:10.1080/08935696.2013.843250
  18. Wolf M. Capitalism and democracy: the strain is showing. Financial Times. August 30, 2016. https://www.ft.com/content/e46e8c00-6b72-11e6-ae5b-a7cc5dd5a28c.  Accessed October 15, 2019.