'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, April 06, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance 

I was just reading a David Brooks column from two weeks ago about the death of "neoliberalism" and am wondering if it's just me -- and it really might be -- or has the word "neoliberalism" recently taken on a new meaning? Doesn't neoliberalism just refer to an economic ideology? The "liberalism" that neoliberals neo-ify, as I have always taken the term, is the economic liberalism of the era of laissez-faire capitalism and robber barons, right?

Brooks in the above uses "neoliberal" to mean centrist liberal, to mean the politics of The New Republic and Clinton-style DLC Democrats as a whole, not just regarding economic policy. Actually Matthew Yglesias recently used the term in the exact same way, applying "neoliberal" to the DLC and The New Republic, and applying it specifically to non-economic political positions like being anti race-based affirmative action. So I'm guessing that this is a usage that it is in the culture -- but then why doesn't the author of the wikipedia entry mention this usage?

Anyway, in the above column, Brooks asserts that The New Republic is going to swing leftward because "younger leftist" interns are "crowd[ing] out vanishing neoliberals", and that, get this, TNR's editor Frank Foer has hired "neopopulist" Thomas Frank to cover the presidential campaign. This oughtta be good ... strange times...

(I must say, I am looking forward to reading Thomas Frank in The New Republic)

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