Disorienting Neoliberalism: Global Justice and the Outer Limit of Freedom

November 28, 2020
Disorienting Neoliberalism: Global Justice and the Outer Limit of Freedom

In the world neoliberalism has made, the pervasiveness ofinjustice and the scale of inequality can be so overwhelming thatmeaningful resistance seems impossible. DisorientingNeoliberalism argues that combatting the injustices of today'sglobal economy begins with reorienting our way of seeing so that wecan act more effectively. Within political theory, standardapproaches to global justice envision ideal institutions, butprovide little guidance for people responding to today's mosturgent problems. Meanwhile, empirical and historical researchexplains how neoliberalism achieved political and intellectualhegemony, but not how we can imagine its replacement.Disorienting Neoliberalism argues that people can andshould become disposed to solidarity with each other once they seeglobal injustices as a limit on their own freedom. Benjamin L.McKean reorients us by taking us inside the global supply chainsthat assemble clothes, electronics, and other goods, revealing thetension between neoliberal theories of freedom and thehierarchical, coercive reality of their operations. In this newapproach to global justice, he explains how neoliberal institutionsand ideas constrain the freedom of people throughout the supplychain from worker to consumer. Rather than a linked set of privatemarket exchanges, supply chains are political entities that seek togovern the rest of us. Where neoliberal institutions train us tosee each other as competitors, McKean provides a new orientation tothe global economy in which we can see each other as partners inresisting a shared obstacle to freedom and thus be called tocollective action.Drawing from a wide range of thinkers, from Hegel and John Rawlsto W. E. B. Du Bois and Iris Marion Young, DisorientingNeoliberalism shows how political action today can be meaningfuland promote justice, moving beyond the pity and resentment globalinequality often provokes to a new politics of solidarity.