Neoliberalism has recently become the focus of public debate regarding its role in causing the current global financial crisis. In this context many have argued that the dominance of neoliberalism is coming to an end. In Australia, the best known example of this view is probably Prime Minster Kevin Rudd’s essay published in The Monthly, February 2009.

However, often missing from this public debate is recognition of the contested scholarly understandings of neoliberalism. Public debates tend to understand neoliberalism as being synonymous with free markets. Indicative of this is Kevin Rudd’s description of neoliberalism as free market fundamentailsm in his Monthly article. Such understandings ignore the range of alternative conceptions of neoliberalism developed by scholars in Australia and elsewhere. For example, such understandings of neoliberalism miss scholarly developments in areas including: the concept of regulatory capitalism; the differences between neoliberal theory and practice; neoliberalism and governmentality; and neoliberalism as a new mode of regulation.

Furthermore, while scholars have developed a number of alternative conceptions of neoliberalism, in Australia there has been little direct engagement between these different scholarly conceptions of neoliberalism.

The proposed workshop will fill these gaps by bringing together leading Australian scholars for a focussed investigation of the nature of neoliberalism. Based upon these understandings, the policy implications of the current global financial crisis for the future of neoliberalism will then be considered.

Questions to be addressed include:

  • What is neoliberalism?
  • Has neoliberal policy making been superseded?
  • Was neoliberalism a misnomer as a description of the major policy trends during the last twenty years?
  • Does the global financial crisis herald a new era of regulation?
  • Which avenues for public policy are opened up and which are curtailed by the global financial crisis?

The workshop will provide a forum for the articulation of a range of competing answers to these questions and will allow participants to refine their arguments and engage with others from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. Invited paper-givers, discussants and participants are drawn from the disciplines of political economy, political science, sociology, law and history, and comprise a mix of established scholars and early career researchers from a variety of universities and states.

The workshop will be organised around 5 topic areas, which represent distinct approaches to understanding neoliberalism and its future in the wake of the global financial crisis:

  • Neoliberalism as a misnomer
  • Neoliberalism and governmentality
  • Neoliberalism as socio-economic regulation
  • Neoliberal theory and practice
  • Neoliberalism and policy options after the GFC.

Each session will be framed by one of these topic areas, with each of the two papers in the session addressing the topic. The papers will be made available to all participants prior to the conference to give enough time for them to be read in advance. Each session will begin with a summary and evaluation of the two papers by a discussant. The authors of the papers will then provide a brief response, after which the topic will be opened up to the other participants for questions and comments.

It is intended that the comments and questions from discussants and other participants will form the basis for revisions to the papers for publication either in a scholarly journal or edited book. At this stage an in principle commitment to publication of the papers in a special issue has been given by the editors of the Journal of Australian Political Economy, subject to the usual double-blind refereeing process. However, it is anticipated that scholarly presses will also be approached with a proposal to publish the papers as an edited book. Given the profile of the paper-givers and topicality of the themes, this would seem to have good prospects of success. It is hoped that the publication of these examinations of the nature of neoliberalism will enable better informed debate regarding the future of neoliberalism and the implications of the global financial crisis for public policy.