Neoliberal Legacy – book manuscript

In 2009, Paul Dragos Aligica and I published “The Neoliberal Revolution in Eastern Europe“. In that book we attempted to provide a rigorous account of the importance of ideas in social change, as well as correct several myths relating to the transition process following the collapse of communism. I am in the process of revisiting this topic in a series of academic articles that I wish to present here as a book project.

The contemporary relevance for these concepts is huge. Skepticism or at least outright hostility to neoliberalism is the academic consensus, and I feel that I have the perspective and experience to make useful contributions to the scholarly debate. I am continually bemused that the following positions are controversial:

  • The communist experiment failed on its own terms.
  • The trauma of the adoption of communism was much greater, for most people, than the trauma of the transition to capitalism.
  • The fact that over 200m people went from one economic system to another, in such a short period or time, and with such an absence of violence, is the most peaceful and successful revolution that the world has ever seen.
  • A Russian oligarchy would be better for ordinary Russians than a Russian kleptocracy.
  • And yet Russia should not be used as the sole focus when assessing the outcome of transition. The people of countries such as Belarus, who avoided shock therapy, should be part of our analysis.
  • China should not be used as an example of how economic transitions should take place, on account of the massive restrictions on individual freedom (i.e. genocide is bad and should be avoided at almost any cost).
  • We should be skeptical of conspiracy theories that involve elite groups of “experts” who experiment on the general public, and be responsible about how we communicate them. Especially when such conspiracy theories are used by neo-fascists to centralise their power.
  • Much of the criticism of neoliberalism is driven by individual researcher’s biases against market order.

But maybe I need to articulate them better. That will be the aim of this book.

  • Introduction: The neoliberal revolution in Eastern Europe: a remarkable success or unparalleled catastrophe?
  • Chapter 1: What is neoliberalism?
  • Chapter 2: What are the arguments against neoliberalism?
  • Chapter 3: Did shock therapy work in Central and Eastern Europe?
  • Chapter 4: Does the Friedman-Hayek thesis hold in Central and Eastern Europe?
  • Chapter 5: What determines the legitimacy of privatization?
  • Chapter 6: New authoritarianism and Belarus
  • Chapter 7: On the importance of civil society
  • Conclusion

This project is my attempt to provide academic rigour to the debate about neoliberal transition. I also have a lecture series with YouTube videos that discuss the economic theory, historical record, and more personal views on the debates. It is currently under production and will be released here: