An Analysis of Article: Neo-Liberalism

Categories: Liberalism

Neo-liberalism has been one of the most influential ideologies over the last two decades that has had significant influence in the change of power and politics, at both global and national levels. Neoliberalism theories are based on ideas and values that stem from the social tenets of classical liberalism that promote the free market, individualism, the pursuit of self-interest and the proposition that these will lead to the social good. Acceptance of the values and ideas of classical liberalism does not extend to Enlightenment assumptions about science, reason and progress of humanity and is rejected by neo-liberals as an infringement on an individual’s freedom that distorts the natural operations of markets.

This freedom endorses limiting the involvement from the state or federal governing bodies, as Neo-liberals believe that individual responsibility makes both economic and moral sense.

It is the focus of this essay to present an explanation by way of example of the key concepts of neoliberalism that are structured within the selected article and describe how this theory influences how we understand population groups, social issues and if the views of neo-liberalism reflect social justice values.

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This article mirrors key concepts of Neo-liberalism in promoting a framework of strategies that is consistent with limiting government intervention and redirecting individuals that receive social support to obtaining social responsibility and rights through the guise of mutual obligation by way of participation. The proposed participation plan is consistent with neo-liberal ideas in denying acknowledgment of any complex issues surrounding a need basis that gives rise to circumstances resulting in dependency on a social support system.

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This denial of need-based support creates a classification of discriminating between the deserving and undeserving poor by way of assessment of participation. To ignore the cause for dependency is in line with the neo-liberal agenda of achieving moral order within society that supports the principle of equality that is determined in terms of the free and unfettered market economy.

In neo-liberal terminology this means treating everyone equal regardless of his or her circumstances relating to poverty, wealth, opportunity, health, education or needs. If this universal equality results in poverty for some then this is just and viewed by neo-liberals as promoting individual freedom and to be expected. Reference to this neo-liberal theory is couched in the article as allowing people to define and achieve their own goals by choice in meeting those requirements and if they starve through lack of participation, community involvement or family support in the meantime, then it is neoliberal justice.

The absence of opportunity for state intervention as an alternative to economic participation within the article highlights an example of neo-liberalist ideology in promoting individual freedom. Neoliberalism strongly defends the self-help values as promoted by Samuel Smiles and others, and regards government intervention in economic and state life as robbery of liberty and self respect of the individual and argues that a welfare state creates a culture of dependency. These self-dependent values are an important part of fulfilling the societal values endorsed by neo-liberals by lessening the burden on society and encouraging economic rationalization and reform.

Economic rationalization and reform are key concepts within neo-liberalism that produce a reduction in government spending on welfare and redirect responsibility to communities, individuals and families for the supply of services that were once provided by the state. This concept is outlined in the article and is expressed in the promotion of community support for individuals to avail themselves if appropriate opportunities for economic participation occur and extends to implementing sanctions that result in financial penalties to encourage participation within the community programs.

Further evidence of neo-liberal ideology is encompassed within the selected article through the structure of creating social order in promoting an obligatory participation program that is in exchange for community support and the development of assisting people to understand the social rules of community support. As noted by Hayek this is “tacit” knowledge or knowing the rules of engagement and is fundamental in restoring personal responsibility in a neo-liberal environment.

Understanding the views within the article is not limited to the recipient of the community support, but broadcast to the wider population as a mechanism of gaining support in understanding social issues and support for proposed / implemented reform strategies.

Within the article these strategies have been developed in the neo-liberal environment to classify individuals and determine their worth by neo-liberal parameters. The parameters within the article define the recipients need as that of the deserving and undeserving poor which constitutes the recipient of support as a consumer of these services where they have little or no choice determining the outcome of the proposed changes by the mere fact of acceptance of their benefit.

The views within the article are consistent with neo-liberal theories that conclude that the recipient of support is responsible for their situation of requiring support and that the social issue of dependency can be avoided with active participation. If the recipient of support refuses to participate, then they are viewed as lazy and irresponsible and undeserving of support. This proposed framework of participation is based on the market forces within Australia that leaves little opportunity for support recipients when based on job availability and the neo-liberal rejection of acknowledging need for support. The concept of tolerance as suggested by Walzer in this article is totally unacceptable in aiding a neo-liberal society as the neo-liberal structure delegates all environments to the demands of the market. This neo-liberal concept is in line with reducing government expenditure and reshaping the welfare sector along market lines. This promotion of neo-liberalism changes community tolerance and understanding in regard to the provision of social welfare as governments withdraw resources from the public to the private domain. This change of tolerance within the community creates a diverse range of views within the community in determining which groups are representative of social justice values in receiving support, from the unemployed to the working who view they are paying to much tax and deserve tax cuts.

Many streams of political ideology and theory represent social justice values. As varied, as the thoughts are they all have a common theme of presenting a fair structure that is beneficial for all within the community. Social justice for many represents recognition of inequities within the community that deny individuals and /or groups opportunity to a life that includes the right to good health, safe housing, education, employment and a choice about their life regardless of the situation they were born into and the mechanisms to change it.

Mechanisms to provide this environment require a structured community model that takes into consideration social inclusion for all, and provides channels that not only redistribute the social wealth of the community as promoted by Marshall, but include strategies for disadvantaged groups to have advantaged opportunity to all society avenues. This environment is one which looks after the members of a community and creates a more equal society that is reflective of social justice morals and can only be acquired with active government intervention, community education and social change that is intrinsically linked to human rights.

These social values that promote human rights are removed from the surrounding principles of neoliberalism theories that diminish the role of the state in providing support to its members, and transfer this responsibility to the community and family to offer assistance to those in need. Neo-liberalism is founded on the individualist self-help concept that lacks consideration of providing a supportive network to those in need and instead places responsibility for the situation of need with the individual. This concept cannot be considered as providing social justice and beneficial to all when it ignores the value of human dignity and dismisses the current environment where family breakdown and isolation is for many a day-to-day reality that support does not exist.

Social justice concepts include providing equity within the community and often requires affirmation action for more significantly social disadvantaged groups to obtain access to opportunity, which is in contrast to the principles of neo-liberalism that promote treating every one as an equal and allowing them to rise or fall according to his or her own talents. This approach across a community would significantly isolate and marginalize existing groups that were already disadvantaged and is inconsistent with social justice values.

Neo-liberalism also embraces the concept of mutual obligation, which reduces government involvement and targets those who are least able to support themselves and have little or no choice in accepting support. This form of compulsory participation is not consistent with social justice values as outlined by the United Nations that, human rights are based on respect for the dignity and worth of all human beings and seek to ensure freedom from fear and want, and should not be a substitute for the necessary improvements in the social and material conditions of those who are socially disadvantaged or part of the process of achieving social inclusion.

Education within the community needs to highlight that different forms of participation are all equally valuable to our social fabric, such as caring for our elderly, disabled and young etc that is often neglected as a contribution in society. This education emulating social justice values can only eventuate with government and community support. Social justice is the expression of human rights in public policy and programs as expressed by Rawls who defines justice to be the first virtue of social institutions that is sanctioned by a public concept of justice, as without this, secure political association is impossible. With active democratic government intervention and community education a positive avenue to a just society can be shaped.

The recommendation to create a neo-liberal social policy that determines social welfare has opportunity of being determined as a commodity within the community that has lost its main theme of social justice principles of equity, opportunity and access that reinforces the ever growing divide between the privileged and disadvantaged.economic policies that demonstrate a commitment to broader social goals of inclusion and alleviation of poverty.

Co-operation and participation between individuals of a society that has a broad spectrum of representation forms a strong community devoid of marginalisation. The concept of communities lending support to the government in eliminating the economic and social gap separating people from realising their full potential is social justice. This can be supported with a sound infrastructure that removes barriers and risk to social inclusion that develops the skills and capacities of individuals to participate in the social and economic mainstream of community life and will encourage a more equitable society.

Bibliography / Reference List

  1. Australian Law Reform Introduction to Human Rights and Social Justice Vol 2
  2. Everingham, C (2001), “Reconstituting community: social order and the politics of the community”, in Journal of Social Issues, Vol.36 2, May.
  3. Heywood A (1999) Political Theory An Introduction Palgrave Great Britain
  4. Ife, J. (2001) “Human Rights and Social Work: towards rights-based practice”, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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  6. Levitas, R. (1998), “The Inclusive Society? Social Exclusion and the New Labour”, Macmillan, London
  7. O’Connor, I Wilson J & Setterlund, D (1998), “Social Welfare in Australia”, Chapter 2, in Social Work and Welfare Practice, Longman, Melbourne
  8. Melbourne City Mission (2000) Response to “Participation Support for a more Equitable Society. The Interim Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform”
  9. Moss J, (2000), The ethics and politics of mutual obligation “, in Australian Journal of Social Issues, Vol.35 No.4.
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An Analysis of Article: Neo-Liberalism. (2021, Sep 14). Retrieved from

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