The political economy of neoliberalism

Periodo di svolgimento
Info sul corso
Ore del corso
Ore dei docenti responsabili
Ore di didattica integrativa

Modalità esame

Relazione di seminario


Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Transnational Governance"

Optional for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students of the PhD Programme in "Political Science and Sociology"

Optional for the 4th and 5th year students of the MA Programme in "Political and Social Sciences"


Overview of the course

Since 1980, economic and political processes at the world and national levels have been deeply affected by neoliberalism. As an ideology, neoliberalism is based in the values of individual freedom, liberal democracy, economic liberalisation, widespread opportunities, on the belief that markets are able to operate effectively without the intervention of political authorities. As a model of political and economic order, neoliberalism has brought about new forms of transnational governance and  neoliberal globalisation, weakening democratic processes and rolling back the role of politics and State intervention. The values, ideas, political projects, economic strategies and social conflicts of neoliberalism have largely shaped the international order, the world economy, national politics and social dynamics.

Lectures will focus on the following issues:

- The trajectory of neoliberalism, with its intellectual origins, its political rise with the electoral victories of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 in the UK and Ronald Reagan in 1980 in the United States, its global diffusion as a paradigm for politics and economics.

- Neoliberalism and the declining hegemony of the United States, with a focus on US international strategies, the changes in the international order, the making of neoliberal globalisation.

- The politics of neoliberalism, with the reshaping of political processes and centres of power, the rise of transnational governance and supranational institutions, the weakening of democracy, changes in party politics, reduction in the role of States and space for government action, from taxation to public expenditures.

- The economics of neoliberalism, with the growing role of global markets, multinational firms and financial players, the commodification of new activities – knowledge, personal data, environmental resources, welfare and caring activities, etc. - the rise of finance, the policies that have introduced liberalisation, privatisation, deregulation.

- The making of neoliberal economic policies and their consequences; monetary, fiscal, trade, financial, industrial, technology, labour, welfare policies have been reshaped by neoliberal views and introduced in a large majority of countries, with pervasive institutional, political economic and social effects, including the rise in inequalities.

- The social conflicts of neoliberalism, in different regional contexts; on the one hand, new cross-border civil society activism and social movements have challenged neoliberal globalisation; on the other hand, national politics has been affected both by resistance against the neoliberal agenda and by a reconfiguration of individual identities, social classes, political cleavages.

- The decline of neoliberalism; the 2008 financial crisis, the covid-19 pandemic and climate change have highlighted the contradictions and failures of neoliberalism, bringing about a return of politics and State intervention, opening up a debate on its future.

Course format

Lectures will provide the basic tools for understanding the political economy of neoliberalism. Students are asked to read the course material and participate in the discussion. Academic guests and PhD students may give invited talks on specific topics related to the course.


PhD and Master students taking the exam are asked to write a paper – of about 3,000 words - on a course topic. Topics may bridge the background and interests of students with the themes of the course. Exam papers should be highly focused, with a strong logical structure, and may address or combine theory, empirical evidence and policy analyses. Master students can be allowed to write their paper in Italian.



Session N. 1 The trajectory of neoliberalism

17.1.2022, h.14.00-17.00

Required readings

Friedrich Hayek, The road to serfdom. London, London, Routledge, 1944 [1948].

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and freedom, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1962

D. Harvey, A brief history of neoliberalism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, Introduction, Ch.1,2.

Q. Slobodian, Globalists: the end of Empire and the birth of Neoliberalism, Harvard University Press, 2018, Introduction and Conclusion.


Session N. 2 Neoliberalism and US hegemony in the international order

18.1.2022, h. 14.00-17.00

Required readings

A. Cooley and D. Nexon, Exit from Hegemony: The Unraveling of the American Global Order, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2020, ch.1


Session N. 3 The politics of neoliberalism

24.1.2022, h.14.00-17.00

Required readings

D. Harvey, A brief history of neoliberalism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, Ch.3

S. Sassen, Territory, authority, rights, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2006, Ch.5

W. Brown, In the ruins of neoliberalism. The rise of anti-democratic politics in the West, New York, Columbia University Press, 2019, Introduction, Ch.1,2.


Session N. 4 Seminar ‘American capitalism in the age of chaos’

by Jonathan Levy, University of Chicago

Chair: Meardi. Discussants: Catte, della Porta, Pianta, Pons.

25.1.2022, h.14.00-17.30

Required readings

Colin Crouch, The strange non-death of neoliberalism, London, Wiley, 2011, Ch.1,2,3,4

Jonathan Levy, The ages of American capitalism, A history of the United States, New York, Random House, Book four, The age of Chaos, 1980-, Preface: Chaos, Ch.19.


Session N. 5 The making of neoliberal economic policies and their consequences

31.1.2022, h.14.00-17.00

Required readings

D. Harvey, A brief history of neoliberalism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, Introduction, Ch. 6,7

J. Stiglitz, Making globalization work, New York, Norton, Ch.1,2,3,7,10


Session N. 6 The social conflicts of neoliberalism - global and national

1.2.2022, h. 14.00-17.00

Required readings

M. Pianta, Parallel summits of global civil society, in H. Anheier, M. Glasius, M. Kaldor (eds) Global civil society 2001, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001

M. Pianta, R. Marchetti, The global justice movements, The transnational dimension, in D. della Porta (ed.) The global justice movement, Boulder, Paradigm, 2007.

D. della Porta, Social movements in times of austerity: bringing capitalism back into protest analysis, London, Wiley, 2015, Ch.1,2,6.


Session N. 7 The decline of neoliberalism

Guest speaker Paolo Gerbaudo, Kings College London

8.2.2022, h.14.00-16.00

Required readings

S. Hall, D. Massey, M. Rustin (eds) After neoliberalism? The Kilburn Manifesto, London, Lawrence and Wishart, 2015, Framing statement, Ch.1,7,8,11

P. Gerbaudo, The great recoil. Politics after populism and pandemic, London, Verso, 2021

Obiettivi formativi

Teaching goals

The aim of the course is to provide students with the conceptual, analytical, empirical and policy tools needed to understand the evolution of neoliberalism in terms of ideas, political and economic projects, specific policies and outcomes.

Riferimenti bibliografici

See above