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The fatal embrace of human rights and neoliberalism Why did the rise of human rights in the 1970s coincide with the institutionalisation of neoliberalism? And why has the neoliberal age also been the age of human rights? Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in neol The fatal embrace of human rights and neoliberalism Why did the rise of human rights in the 1970s coincide with the institutionalisation of neoliberalism? And why has the neoliberal age also been the age of human rights? Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in neoliberal attempts to develop a moral framework for a market society.In the wake of World War Two, neoliberals saw demands for new rights to social welfare and self-determination as threats to ‘civilisation’. Yet, rather than rejecting rights, they developed a distinctive account of human rights as tools to depoliticise civil society, protect private investments and shape liberal subjects. Honing in on neoliberal political thought, Whyte shows that the neoliberals developed a stark dichotomy between politics, conceived as conflictual, coercive and violent, and civil society, which they depicted as a realm of mutually-beneficial, voluntary, market relations between individual subjects of rights. In mobilising human rights to provide a moral language for a market society, neoliberals contributed far more than is often realised to today’s politics of human rights.


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The fatal embrace of human rights and neoliberalism Why did the rise of human rights in the 1970s coincide with the institutionalisation of neoliberalism? And why has the neoliberal age also been the age of human rights? Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in neol The fatal embrace of human rights and neoliberalism Why did the rise of human rights in the 1970s coincide with the institutionalisation of neoliberalism? And why has the neoliberal age also been the age of human rights? Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism, Jessica Whyte uncovers the place of human rights in neoliberal attempts to develop a moral framework for a market society.In the wake of World War Two, neoliberals saw demands for new rights to social welfare and self-determination as threats to ‘civilisation’. Yet, rather than rejecting rights, they developed a distinctive account of human rights as tools to depoliticise civil society, protect private investments and shape liberal subjects. Honing in on neoliberal political thought, Whyte shows that the neoliberals developed a stark dichotomy between politics, conceived as conflictual, coercive and violent, and civil society, which they depicted as a realm of mutually-beneficial, voluntary, market relations between individual subjects of rights. In mobilising human rights to provide a moral language for a market society, neoliberals contributed far more than is often realised to today’s politics of human rights.

30 review for The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Swrang Varma

    one of the most brilliant, most original archival of the history of a very successful belief system i have read in recent times. it had to be a belief constructed, and this belief in turn had to construct ideal subjects and subjectivities that would respond and desire such a system. what is fascinating to note is the marvellous mental gymnastics all these neoliberal economists and humanitarians performed in the face of the repeated (expected) contradictions (to put it mildly) and crises that the one of the most brilliant, most original archival of the history of a very successful belief system i have read in recent times. it had to be a belief constructed, and this belief in turn had to construct ideal subjects and subjectivities that would respond and desire such a system. what is fascinating to note is the marvellous mental gymnastics all these neoliberal economists and humanitarians performed in the face of the repeated (expected) contradictions (to put it mildly) and crises that the subjection of the individual to the effects of the market would expose them to. many people make the mistake of making neoliberalism sound like just a cold technocratic solution to the contradictions of capital, and it partly was, but what is ignored was that was necessary but not sufficient. for it required a whole host of legal and moral structures that would allow such a system to flourish. there's a wonderful and ironically hope-inducing (for all of us on the Left) quote from a pretty racist fuck (all of them were), Rony Brauman, who was president of both Medicines Sans Frontieres (fuck the French, I'm not adding the accents) and Liberte Sans Frontieres, and believed that even recognizing postcolonial poverty as a consequence of imperialism was a "western guilt complex": “We realised that our ideas no longer shocked anyone. They had become commonplace. Third-Worldism was dead.’160 Almost twenty years later, in a context of rising concern for the economic equality brought about by decades of neoliberal reforms, Brauman reflected in 2015: ‘I see myself and the small group that I brought together as a kind of symptom of the rise of neoliberalism … We had the conviction that we were a kind of intellectual vanguard, but no’, he laughed, ‘we were just following the rising tendency...”, to which Jessica Whyte responds: “I have suggested that this assessment is, if anything, too modest: rather than being a symptom, the humanitarians who founded LSF explicitly mobilised the language of human rights in order to contest the vision of substantive equality that defined the Third Worldist project and the NIEO. They were not powerless companions of the rising neoliberals, but active, enthusiastic and influential fellow-travellers. Their special contribution was to pioneer a distinctly neoliberal human rights discourse, for which a competitive market order accompanied by a liberal institutional structure was truly the last utopia.” it's a testament to the magical creative powers of language, and historical materialism.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steffi

    Man. What a great read, I immediately sent copies to three colleagues where I sense potential for conversion to the socialist cause :) (depending on where people stand, I could be the most annoying or most interesting colleague). This boook ‘The Morals of the Market. Human rights and the rise of neoliberalism’ (VERSO, 2019) should be a must read for fellow international development workers. This is a very original account (basef on very solid archival research) of how neoliberals constructed human Man. What a great read, I immediately sent copies to three colleagues where I sense potential for conversion to the socialist cause :) (depending on where people stand, I could be the most annoying or most interesting colleague). This boook ‘The Morals of the Market. Human rights and the rise of neoliberalism’ (VERSO, 2019) should be a must read for fellow international development workers. This is a very original account (basef on very solid archival research) of how neoliberals constructed human rights as a barricade against political projects based on equality and economic justice. Anyone working in intl development will be all too familiar with the apolitical and fairly empty ‘rights-based’ discourse and I learned a lot about the actual origins of this. The book sheds light on the evolution and struggle over the human rights language and how it was not only systematically sanitized but ended up where political itself is seen as violent and corrupt and the apolitical ‘civil society’ and ‘the market’ as beacons of progress. The book rightly embedds the human rights discourse within wider theories of imperialism and shows how human rights and neoliberal ‘poverty management’ have become a means to enforce global standards (WTO etc) to support the old rights of private capital in the ‘third world’. It also shows how this evolved in the post-cold war era where the so-called ‘responsibility to protect’ and the IMF’s reforms are always two sides of the same coin. In a final argument, with relevance to today, the book shows that the west is now learning what the global south has already learned over the past four decades: that neoliberalism tends to produce authoritarianism.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Leif

    Fine enough! Whyte has a good hypothesis (that neoliberalism is far from a set of economic controls, but that neoliberalism depends on moralities that its supporters attempt to disperse widely) and finds support for it in the parallel developments of the Mont Pelerin group and the United Nations' development of and support for human rights. That said, I feel like the book spun its wheels quite a bit, making much out of small episodes when it could have stretched its legs a little more. Perhaps t Fine enough! Whyte has a good hypothesis (that neoliberalism is far from a set of economic controls, but that neoliberalism depends on moralities that its supporters attempt to disperse widely) and finds support for it in the parallel developments of the Mont Pelerin group and the United Nations' development of and support for human rights. That said, I feel like the book spun its wheels quite a bit, making much out of small episodes when it could have stretched its legs a little more. Perhaps there is half a book of good material here, and the rest fills time but could be tighter. The last chapter was initially published as a standalone article, and there you can feel the tautness of Whyte's argument in a way not otherwise demonstrated across the book as a whole.

  4. 4 out of 5

    heidi

    Excellent read. Whyte untangles logical fallacies so well, it's almost sexy (which is impressive for a work on neoliberalism). This belief system is grounded in a lesser-acknowledged political vision; a competitive market order would best ensure the protection of individuals from state intervention, incentivizing the productivity necessary for human dignity. Distinct from laissez-faire, this new system required a degree of intervention to submit individuals to market forces. Human dignity, howev Excellent read. Whyte untangles logical fallacies so well, it's almost sexy (which is impressive for a work on neoliberalism). This belief system is grounded in a lesser-acknowledged political vision; a competitive market order would best ensure the protection of individuals from state intervention, incentivizing the productivity necessary for human dignity. Distinct from laissez-faire, this new system required a degree of intervention to submit individuals to market forces. Human dignity, however, is predicated upon access to resources, which are distributed unequally within a competitive framework that rides on the coattails of existing racial and gendered hierarchies. Early neoliberals were aware of this minor caveat and devised an intricate network of justifications to ensure market (white) supremacy. Humanitarian groups in the 70s and 80s who lent their support to frameworks of individual rights, withholding any critique of larger structural forces at play, worked to make this view morally palatable. Contemporary inequities can be largely attributed to the consequences of decades of neoliberal reforms, both in the West and in countries the West forcefully assisted in undergoing development projects. "The challenge for the neoliberals was to overcome the egalitarianism of communal cultures and the assumption that basic welfare was a right, and to instill the morals of the market and a culture for individual rights." Understanding the motivations behind this history is essential to understanding so much of what we now witness, from the stagnation of the U.S. wages to the resurgence of anti-immigrant sentiment to the prevalence of authoritarianism in the Global South.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    as they say, GET OUT is actually a documentary. And I can only guess that the same has been said about SORRY TO BOTHER YOU. In which case, this text would be considered snuff, in comparison. In both, the proles are now the precariat, and instead of chains being all they have to lose, now it’s their independent contractor status

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Excellent research and strong analysis throughout. A fascinating book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    JUSTIN JOS

    An excellent read. The book traces the history of human rights and its usurpation by neoliberal policies. Using Chile as a case study enriches the book further. The most important point about this book is that it explains the issues very non academically making it super readable. I enjoyed every bit of the book. It also leaves the reader thinking about the future of human rights in the neoliberal era.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Will

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ana Fuentes Zueck

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bird Dude

  11. 5 out of 5

    Myf Doughty

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

  13. 4 out of 5

    Micky V

  14. 4 out of 5

    Edward

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Perry

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

  18. 4 out of 5

    August Denys

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Benbow

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shoon Teoh

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dimitris Machlouta

  23. 5 out of 5

    JK202

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dwjuan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tom Blackburn

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rivse

  29. 4 out of 5

    tartenfion

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dimitris Machlouta

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