Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry
2015 Capital as Power Essay Prize

The Who of Power?

by Adam David Morton on October 25, 2015

ideaHow is the causative role of ideas appreciated in understanding the political economy of neoliberalism?

My latest journal article published in Globalizations delves into this question through a feature review on an outstanding book now available in paperback, which is Damien Cahill’s The End of Laissez-Faire?: On the Durability of Embedded Neoliberalism.

My article raises three specific contributions made by Damien Cahill’s book and its challenge to ideas-centred conceptions of neoliberalism, not least in relation to arguments propounded by neoliberal fundamentalists, Marxist scholars, and constructivist strands of political economy.

These three contributions revolve around the book’s:


  1. carefully crafted alternative account of ideational causation in shaping neoliberal political economy;
  2. an alternative origin story of neoliberalism and periodisation of capitalism; and
  3. an explicit normative perspective in critiquing neoliberalism as a set of class relations through which capital has conditioned the exploitation of labour.

This then leads me to consider some wider questioning of the book while delivering some reflections by way of conclusion as to where this leaves neoliberalism studies in political economy today.

As a result, it is crucial to sustain a focus on the class relations, institutions, and ideology of present-day capitalism. Also, my argument is that reflecting further on the who of power remains an enduring challenge for political economy.

I would especially like to thank the people at Globalizations for supporting this article through to publication, led by Barry Gills and his excellent editorial board team.

The article was first presented at the VI Australian International Political Economy Network (AIPEN) annual workshop, at the University of Wollongong (2-3 February 2015).


Adam David Morton
Adam David Morton is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.
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