My first post examined some forthcoming research which suggests the development of the social investment market may be entrenching neoliberal language and logic into the Third sector. In this post I look at the equally contentious idea that government policy is also helping to embed neoliberal thinking in to the Third Sector.
No such thing as society?
With its emphasis on free trade, privatisation and deregulation, neoliberalism is said to be the driving force behind the increasingly individualistic nature of Western societies. An individualism which seemingly reached its zenith when Margaret Thatcher famously declared ‘There is no such thing as society’. For economist such as Hayek and Friedman, this is actually a positive thing.
Both argued that moving away from centralised control of economic activity empowers individuals, and their supporters have since presented numerous examples of how increased economic freedoms have lead to pressure for increased political freedoms, particularly within developing economies. Freedom equals freedom equals freedom perhaps? A contemporary example is arguably the Ukraine, and advocates also point to the growth of liberal democracies worldwide during the period when neoliberal thinking has been so dominant.
But a new era is dawning upon us! Increasingly we are seeing the ‘social’ playing a much more dominant role than in previous years. Whether it be social enterprise or social media, society is making a comeback.
Some have argued that the growth of the ‘social’ represents neoliberalism’s response to the fact that people aren’t quite as rational as once thought, and we can’t “operate as isolated, calculating machines”, with only the law and the market to guide us. People need the ‘social’. Otherwise they start doing a whole load of effed-up shizzle that could bring the whole thing down (like creating derivatives or whatever).
It appears then that whilst neoliberalism still exists and shows no signs of abating, it is finally acknowledging that society actually exists. And in scenes reminiscent of the Twilight saga, the two are eyeing each other up from across the canteen, though it’s not yet clear if the outcome will be something beautiful or an absolute bloodbath.
There’s two schools of thought on this, and in the Third Sector you’re never more than a stone’s throw away from someone who thinks that this unholy matrimony is going to end in tears, with civil society the loser. There is however another school of thought that suggests like Bella and Edward, the two may be able to get it on after all.
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