‘Neoliberalism’ and ‘Capitalism’ – What’s the difference?

A short but thorough explanation by the great cultural and political theorist Professor Jeremy Gilbert who describes Capitalism as an economic practice and Neoliberalism as a philosophy about how societies in which that practice prevails should be managed.

My personal experience of living in a neoliberal world for over four decades has led me to believe that it views and uses the functions of capitalism in a narrow and deterministic way, assuming predictable human reactions to the needs, wants, and desires of everyday life. The microeconomic theory of modeling, as promoted by neoliberal economist Milton Friedman, would be rendered obsolete if we were to incorporate the infinite variables of empathy, love, and charity. By judging humans solely as seekers of utility, status, and wealth, neoliberalism appears more aligned with the mercantile class of the 17th and 18th centuries, which used their ill-gotten wealth to manipulate markets and determine value solely by the final price point, ignoring the actual production costs.

This view of human behavior contrasts with the classical economists, such as Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, and Mill, who recognized the corruption of markets by the mercantile class and developed theories in opposition to this. However, I do not promote classical economic theory but rather recognize that it arose from lived experiences and observations of market corruption.

In addition to market manipulation, neoliberal philosophy often involves lobbying governments, exploiting weaker nations and individuals, and holding the belief that “all is fair in the love and war” of trade. Such practices are prevalent in the current “evil corps” that dominate our lives and harm the planet. Defining neoliberalism solely within the context of classical economic theories is insufficient, as it fails to account for the present reality of corporate-lobbied corridors of government, tax avoidance mechanisms, and exploitation of less capable countries and individuals for the sole purpose of wealth accumulation beyond what is necessary.

I currently lean towards Keynesian economics, which embraces the idea of uncertainty and a focus on achieving the “good life.” Nonetheless, I acknowledge the relevance of Marx’s critique of capitalism, particularly concerning the exploitation of surplus value.

“Please read below to see the difference between an angry amateur and a nuanced professional”.


I wrote this in response to a discussion  of this theme on the NEON list. Thinking it was both too long for an email list and might be a useful resource for some people, I posted it here…
What’s the difference between ‘neoliberalism’ and ‘capitalism’ 
I think that neoliberalism and capitalism are simply different types of thing.

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