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A Research Agenda for Neoliberalism

Kean Birch

With an ever-expanding variety of perspectives on the concept of neoliberalism, it is increasingly difficult to identify any commonalities. This book explores how different people understand neoliberalism, and the contradictions in thinking of neoliberalism as a market-based ethic, project, or order. Detailing the intellectual history of ‘neoliberal’ thought, the variety of critical approaches and the many analytical ambiguities, Kean Birch presents a new way to conceptualize contemporary political economy and offers potential avenues for future research through a judicious exploration of ‘neoliberal’ practices, processes, and institutions.
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Chapter 7: From entrepreneurship to rentiership in neoliberalism

Kean Birch


This chapter introduces the second contradiction of neoliberalism and critical understandings of it, namely the emphasis on entrepreneurship as the defining feature of modern subjectivity. Both neoliberals and their critics emphasize the idea that everyone is or has become an entrepreneur in contemporary capitalism. Despite these claims, there is limited evidence that people are actually more entrepreneurial in their actions and behaviours; most critical perspectives that propound this view, for example, do not present substantive empirical support for their arguments. In fact, it is possible to argue that contemporary capitalism is underpinned more by forms of rent-seeking or rentiership in which ownership and control of various assets (e.g. housing) enables individuals to capture and appropriate (rather than create) value. This is evident across the economy from house ownership through social media platforms.

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