Tuesday , March 26 2019
Home / EconLog Library / A Most Surprising Clause About “Neoliberalism”

A Most Surprising Clause About “Neoliberalism”

Summary:
“[T]he neo-romantic tales spun by Duneier, Anderson, and Newman at the close of the regressive nineties suggest that U.S. sociology is now tied and party to the ongoing construction of the neoliberal state…” This is from Loic Wacquant‘s 2002 review essay in the American Journal of Sociology, one of the field’s top two journals.  That’s just a few years before researchers found that over 25% of U.S. sociology professors self-identified as “Marxists.” How could any sociologist make such bizarre accusations against his peers?  Well, the piece also wisely warns against “the classical fallacy of argumentum ad populum, in which a thesis is asserted, even acclaimed, because it resonates with the moral schemata and expectations of its audience, but at the cost of a

Topics:
Bryan Caplan considers the following as important: , ,

This could be interesting, too:

Alberto Mingardi writes What future for French “capitalism?”

Pierre Lemieux writes Nineteen Years After 9/11

Bryan Caplan writes The Dissident Ambassador

Bryan Caplan writes The Missing Planks

“[T]he neo-romantic tales spun by Duneier, Anderson, and Newman at the close of the regressive nineties suggest that U.S. sociology is now tied and party to the ongoing construction of the neoliberal state…”

This is from Loic Wacquant‘s 2002 review essay in the American Journal of Sociology, one of the field’s top two journals.  That’s just a few years before researchers found that over 25% of U.S. sociology professors self-identified as “Marxists.”

How could any sociologist make such bizarre accusations against his peers?  Well, the piece also wisely warns against “the classical fallacy of argumentum ad populum, in which a thesis is asserted, even acclaimed, because it resonates with the moral schemata and expectations of its audience, but at the cost of a dangerous suspension of analytic and political judgment.”  When your audience is overwhelmingly leftist, denouncing covert neoliberal sin resonates like a gong.

P.S. Despite this cultishness, Wacquant’s piece also contains numerous astute observations about his fellow ethnographers’ wishful thinking.  Example:

Duneier asserts that the ethnic variety of buyers “gives a good sense of the wide-ranging impact a book vendor can have on the lives of many people on the street” (Sidewalk, p.25; emphasis added) but, again, there is no evidence that they do have an impact on any of them. Thus the moral salience and cultural sponsorship thesis of the book is unsubstantiated and rests entirely on a continual confusion between sociability and solidarity, cordiality and cohesion (as when Duneier asserts that “sidewalk life still provides strangers with a source of solidarity”; SW, p. 293). As for the notion that “there is no substitute for the power of the informal social relations that constitute a wholesome sidewalk” (SW, p. 42), it is simply fanciful: cities and neighborhoods without sidewalk vendors have not for that reason plunged into moral strife and social chaos.

Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Senior Scholar at the Mercatus Center. He has published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, the Journal of Law and Economics, and Intelligence, and has appeared on 20/20, FoxNews, and C-SPAN. Bryan Caplan blogs on EconLog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *