Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What the Heck is Neoliberalism and Why Should We Care?

This is my first weekly dissertation update. I'm hoping that by listing my accomplishments here that I'll have a running record of my progress and may be able to stay focused and get my dissertation done.

This week I worked quite a bit on my theory chapter. Yes, an entire chapter (or 25 - 40 pages) dedicated to discussing my theoretical approach to my study. My brain hurts just typing that. Throughout the course of the week I worked on summarizing institutional anomie theory. IAT is the backbone of my research as it describes the interactions between culture (the American Dream) and social institutions (family, education, polity, and the economy) that lead to high crime in the United States. Fortunately, this was the easy part of my week. I have spent quite a bit of time over the last few years thinking about and summarizing IAT for various papers that this part was old hat. Unfortunately, I know have to turn to the more difficult task of clarifying my position on the theory.

This leads me to the title of this post...

Neoliberalism is, according to some, an ideology, style of governance, and a policy package that focuses on small government with little regulation of the free market. Neoliberalism began in the late-1970s and solidified its hold in the 1980s. Most of the reading that I had done about this particular facet of economic life focus on defining the concept of neoliberalism without discussing how people and society have changed as a result of it. The economy is not a faceless institution that operates on its own. Some people benefit directly from the policies that have been made, while others have lived with the consequences. As  a result of neoliberalism in the United States, we have seen a reduction in social welfare programs, the implementation of restrictive welfare (some would say workfare) policies, the cost of higher education shifted to families, and so on. 

We should care about neoliberalism because it benefits a relatively small group at the cost of everyone else. The problem is that this ideology taps into the cultural myth of the American Dream and emphasizes competition and individualism. Thus, when large groups of people collectively fail at achieving culturally mandated goals, it is the fault of people who have not benefited from the policies of neoliberalism and not the fault of those who have put the policies in place.*

*This is just a snippet of my current thinking while I sort out my ideas.

For the rest of the week, I am focusing on the following:
  • Doing more reading about social structures of accumulation (SSA) theory
  • Meeting with my chair to discuss progress so far
  • Writing a "zero" draft of my SSA + IAT thoughts
funny gifs
Tune in next week for more dissertation fun. 

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