Far from being restricted to economic questions, neoliberalism is a global thought, a worldview, an ideology prone to sketching out schemes for the improvement of various aspects of social life and, last but not least, of politics. The writing of many neoliberals, among them a few leading figures, shows an enduring skepticism about democracy, with it being accused of stifling liberty and fostering socialism. This suspicious look at democracy is sometimes coupled with a reflection on possible alternatives and explains the interest expressed for some right-wing authoritarian regimes, the dictatorship of General Pinochet in Chile serving as a particular example here. The neoliberal reflection on democracy unveils a deep-rooted resentment of modern representative systems and the correlative quest for a form of legitimacy not based on the rule of majority but on the rule of a chosen few.
This paper studies the critique of Friedrich Hayek’s liberalism delivered by Raymond Aron, on a period that runs from the 1940s to the early 1980s. Through a cross rereading of the main texts of these two twentieth century philosophers, it tries to show that their oppositions—on the place of economic freedom, on the definition of freedom, and on the conception of democracy—reveal the existence of two deeply divergent paths within contemporary neo-liberalism: one that is based on an obsessive attachment to the market and that is accompanied by a pronounced distrust towards democracy; the other that is, on the contrary, built on a trust in democracy, considered as liberalism’s endpoint, which leads to the non- absolutization of the market. Reconsidering this opposition may facilitate a process of moving away from a narrow and caricatural perception of neo-liberalism, which reduces it to a locking of political possibilities.
French “neoliberalism” was born in the 1930s, specifically during the Walter Lippmann Colloquium of 1938 organized by the philosopher Louis Rougier, in the context of the imminence of the war. The aim of this article is to understand how, given the totalitarian threat, the French neoliberal thought of this period conceived democracy. We shall compare to this end the conceptions of two founders of this current: that of Rougier, who preferred to speak about “constructive liberalism” (“libéralisme constructeur”) and that of Louis Marlio, who spoke about “social liberalism” (“libéralisme social”). Are these two expressions equivalent and are they underlain by the same conception of the democracy?
Starting from the observation that there is a great deal of confusion about the notion of “neoliberalism,” this study aims to clarify the meaning and the history of the doctrine. To do so, it first develops an original typology distinguishing four tendencies (ordoliberal, neoclassical, Austrian, and French) and then sheds light on the evolution of the movement over the past eight decades.