Book Notes: Dardot and Laval’s The New Way of the World: On Neo-Liberal Society

This is one of the books I have read on neoliberalism, and I loved it. If somebody ever told me that it’s possible to find French theorists who wrote an accessible, easy to read book, I’d ask what they were smoking. But this stuff is good, folks. If you are looking for material to offer your students to give them an introduction to the history of neoliberalism, this book will be perfect. I can see students actually enjoying this. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

You know how I’m only excited about stuff that tells me things I disagree with. It annoys me to waste time on authors who say shit I already know and agree with. Dardot and Laval are all how there is no collapse of the nation state and no retreat of the state at all. And it’s not dumb disagreement. It’s a powerful argument on how the state fakes retreat while simply changing its function yet remaining as strong as ever.

There are, of course, limitations to the authors’ argument. What I found to be deficient is the insistence on competitiveness as the only defining feature of the neoliberal subjectivity. I don’t have my own answers about the way neoliberal subjectivity is constituted but I think that it’s a lot more than just competition. The New Way of the World: On Neo-Liberal Society is a huge influence on Rendueles, the author I talked about recently, so if you are choosing between the two, pick The New Way. Seriously, it reads almost like a mystery novel, not because there is a lot of mystery but because it’s reasonably easy to read.

And keep clicking on the book that really matters.


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