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Nathalie Lévy, Alexis Chommeloux, Nathalie Champroux, Stéphane Porion, Selma Josso, Audrey Damiens (eds), The Anglo-American Model of Neoliberalism of the 1980s: Construction, Development and Dissemination

Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022. 335 p. ISBN: 978-3-031-12073-2. 126.59€
Andrew IVES
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Nathalie Lévy, Alexis Chommeloux, Nathalie Champroux, Stéphane Porion, Selma Josso, Audrey Damiens (eds), The Anglo-American Model of Neoliberalism of the 1980s: Construction, Development and Dissemination. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022. 335 p. ISBN: 978-3-031-12073-2. 126.59€

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1The Anglo-American Model of Neoliberalism of the 1980s: Construction, Development and Dissemination, edited by Nathalie Lévy, Alexis Chommeloux, Nathalie Champroux, Stéphane Porion, Selma Josso and Audrey Damiens, provides an excellent collection of eighteen articles, enhanced with a foreword by Daniel Stedman Jones, and an introduction signed by three of the editors, that enriches the existing literature on neoliberalism. Confronted with a concept that has been deemed “slippery” by some academics (Mudge, 2008), which has evolved over time with distinct phases (Stedman Jones 2012; Cahill 2018), and which requires a subtle understanding of the differing political and economic particularities of the countries in which the ideology has been introduced, the editors have made a wise choice in circumscribing their focus to the “Anglo-American variant” and by limiting their attention to the construction, development and dissemination of a particular form of neoliberalism that they trace back to the election of Margaret Thatcher in May 1979, a historic moment qualified as the “neoliberal turning point” (27).

2The editors have chosen, somewhat curiously, to have the introduction preceded by two other articles. The rationale must have been to place these two articles before the introduction because they set the stage for the other articles which are more solidly focused on the 1980s turning point and the repercussions in the following years. However, the argument leading to this decision is not convincing: either the two articles placed before the introduction are directly related to the theme, or they should have been excluded. Fortunately, for the coherence of the whole, these two “pre-introduction” articles provide valuable background context. The first, by Kenneth Morgan, reaches back at times to the eighteenth century but mainly spans the period 1832-1945, providing a wide scope review of liberal politics in the UK and in the US. For the author, the different currents discussed come together in their defence of “reform within the capitalist system.” Readers would have benefitted from a paragraph in which the author explicitly explained the lexical distinction he makes between “neo-liberalism” and “neoliberalism,” especially as the hyphenated form, designating the evolution towards the reformed liberalism of the post-war consensus years, rather than contemporary neoliberalism, structures the thrust of the argument. The second article, written by Stéphane Porion and Sébastien Mort, brings us closer to the period noted in the title, treating the period 1945-1979 in its search for the intellectual roots of neoliberalism. The introduction, placed in third position, offers definitions, discusses the existing literature and presents the general theme of the dissemination of the ideology, this theme being seen as constituting the principal originality of the book (35); it then briefly presents the set of articles. These are organised as follows: part one, theoretical and political perspectives, with five articles; part two, transfer of the neoliberal paradigm within the anglosphere, with six articles; and part three, dissemination in Europe, composed of five articles.

3Part one of the collection opens with an excellent article by Martine Azuelos treating the paradigm shift to neoliberalism as a “gradual three-stage process” (50); the article then deals with the resiliency of the model when faced with crises, in particular the 2007 financial crisis, before speculating on how the model may evolve, an interrogation conducted at a time when it was too early to fully understand the impact of the Covid 19 crisis. Next Virgile Lorenzoni deals with the role of think tanks in the dissemination of the ideology, followed by an interesting, and timely, interrogation of the extent to which neoliberalism can be qualified as “illiberal” by Raphaël Demias-Morisset. The next two articles focus on the two countries at the centre of the collection’s reflection. Peter Dorey focuses on how neoliberalism was introduced in the UK, first permeating the Conservative Party from the late 1970s onwards, before infiltrating the Labour Party, as the author succinctly sums up with a quote from Thatcher, who says her greatest political achievement was to have “forced our opponents [Tony Blair and New Labour] to change their minds” (108). Robert Mason then focuses on how neoliberalism progressively established itself as the dominant ideology in the United States, trying to understand how it managed to successfully impose itself, even though the underlying assumptions had never really mobilised public support.

4Part two of the collection provides some more interesting articles. Thierry Kirat and Frédéric Marty open the section with a study of originalism in the United States Supreme Court. The authors argue convincingly that, far from ensuring neutrality, originalism, as a doctrine, has, in fact, been a strong ally to the set of convictions that structure the neoliberal ideology. Nathalie Lévy follows with an article dealing with the financial liberalisation of the 1980s. The choice to study the changes in a wider perspective covering a century (1913-2013) allows the author to be balanced, and to avoid over-emphasizing the specificities and novelty of the 1980s, while still confirming some generally accepted premises, namely that there was indeed a specific neoliberal turn in the 1980s. Chapter 11, signed by Catherine Mathieu, studies “forty years of neoliberalism in the UK.” While it does not really break new ground, this article has the merit of providing necessary nuance, challenging the excessive conclusions sometimes drawn by politically motivated analyses. The next two articles deal specifically with health care. Louise Dalingwater explores the legacy of neoliberal health care in Britain; Jonathan Bell follows with a study of heath care politics in the United States, focusing on “the relationship between sexual politics and political economy” (212). Part two closes with a study by Agnès de Fraissinette dealing with American government policy concerning prisons generally, and the detention of undocumented migrants specifically, which suggests a link between the neoliberal orientations of Ronald Reagan and the policy options retained at the time, policies that were subsequently contested by various activist movements.

5The final part of the book deals with dissemination of Anglo-American neoliberalism in Europe. Ilias Ben Mna opens the section with an interesting study of the Walt Disney company as a purveyor of neoliberal logic. Of particular merit is Ben Mna’s treatment of the very concept of work and the role played by Disney in redefining it as a path to self-fulfilment. Florence Descamps and Laure Quennouëlle-Corre follow with a thorough treatment of the potential links between Anglo-American neoliberalism and the rise of neoliberal-inspired governmental policy in France. While they tend to conclude by debunking the thesis that France was under the direct influence of Anglo-American trends, the present reviewer remains nonetheless convinced of a subtle influence exercised through the effects of soft power, an angle which is largely neglected here, perhaps due to the difficulty in proving something that is sensed intuitively. Next is found Selma Josso’s stimulating article on the discursive techniques at play in ensuring the implementation of the European Union’s neoliberal inspired recommendations to member nations. Rosella Carè continues with the theme of the dissemination of New Public Management techniques in Europe by working with the concept of Social Impact Bonds. Barabara Curylo closes the set of articles with a study of the implementation of neoliberal ideology in the Central Eastern European countries, and how this has led unexpectedly to illiberalism in the CEECs. Curylo shows that the paradoxes inherent in the ideological renewal contained the seeds for these illiberal results.

6The Mont Pelerin Society, discussed in the second chapter, was clearly an early and influential advocate for the neoliberal turn. One of the features of their strategy for gaining widespread acceptance for their ideas was to focus on influencing those in academia and in positions of power. The present collection of articles has thus, perhaps appropriately, focused almost exclusively on studying the construction, development and dissemination from a top-down perspective. If a criticism can be made of the book, it is the near absence of analyses taking a bottom-up approach and studying grass roots resistance to neoliberalism. Perhaps this is a gap that could be addressed in a future collection of articles that specialists will look forward to reading.

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Cahill, Damien et al (ed). The SAGE Handbook of Neoliberalism. London: SAGE, 2018.

Mudge, Stephanie. "What is neo-liberalism?" Socio-Economic Review 6.4 (2008): 703-731.

Stedman Jones, Daniel. Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2012.

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Andrew IVES, « Nathalie Lévy, Alexis Chommeloux, Nathalie Champroux, Stéphane Porion, Selma Josso, Audrey Damiens (eds), The Anglo-American Model of Neoliberalism of the 1980s: Construction, Development and Dissemination »e-Rea [En ligne], 21.2 | 2024, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2024, consulté le 18 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Andrew IVES

Université de Caen Normandie

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