The contemporary order just about everywhere is oft justified with respect to neoliberal ideas, and so it is that we may frame a hypothesis; examination of the discord, should there be one, between neoliberal theory and practice informs us plenty regarding the nature of contemporary society.
As we know neoliberal ideas are presented as the natural intellectual heir of classical liberalism, especially so as neoliberalism places a strong emphasis upon a critique of the centralised power of the state.
It is said that state power militates against individual liberty and autonomy, and should always be tempered and countered by those whose hearts beat to a liberal drum.
Perhaps the most well known exposition of neoliberalism remains Hayek's The Road to Serfdom.
Hayek wrote in the late 1940s when state power in much of the Western world was being expanded in two important ways.
The first was through the development of social welfare states and the second through the development of the national security state most especially, and most crucially, in the United States.
In the neoliberal canon you will find much ire directed at the first, but little to none at the second. The difference exposes the role that neoliberal ideas play in our society, and the true centres of power that reside within them.
The difference is readily explainable; in the former the state helps the poor, in the latter the rich. When state action assists the poor it is trenchantly attacked by our erstwhile neoliberals but when aiding the rich it is quietly left aside if not readily applauded.
The social welfare state is, of course, associated with pensions, unemployment benefits, public health, public education, just about everything associated with the needs and concerns of most, especially the most underprivileged and disadvantaged, members of society.
The market left to its own devices, it was recognised, fosters inequality and class hierarchy and thereby an interventionist state was required to pull up those left by the wayside.
Hence it was that state power expanded through provision of welfare programmes and the adoption of labour market regulations.
The welfare state was also associated with Keynesian demand management of the economy geared toward the maintenance of full employment.
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