The question of whether or not 'neoliberalism' is currently alive or dead depends, as David Harvey keeps repeating, on what you mean by neoliberalism. I opt for a definition of neoliberalism that is, I guess, somewhat idealist, in the sense that it focuses on rationalities, ideas and ideals, rather than on interests, money and class. But at least that way it becomes easier to distinguish it from 'capitalism' or 'financialisation'.
Put simply, neoliberalism is an attack on the conscious, collective pursuit of economic outcomes. Against unions, cartels, socialists, professions, bureaucrats and traditions, it offers the haphazard and unconscious emergence of prices and entrepreneurial success. Hayek's definition of liberalism was a form of political blindness, which trusted that unplanned outcomes were a priori superior to planned ones. And I think we can now safely say that this aspect of neoliberalism has now died. Ironically, this may involve politicians getting even more intimate with business than they were previously, as the news about Ministerial-corporate 'buddy' arrangements indicated. Take the following examples.
Firstly, today's headline news is that the British Prime Minister has pledged to get energy costs down, via a 'summit' between the government and the energy suppliers. This - seemingly - represents a loss of faith in the price mechanism, as an honest representation of the value of energy. Or rather, it represents a significant departure from the Thatcherite and Blairite assumption that well-designed regulators were sufficient to serve the public interest. What, it would be interesting to know, is the regulator not doing or unable to do, that politicians are now holding 'summits' with company bosses? Are the energy companies to be asked to do something other than maximise return to shareholders? Who is to decide what this 'other' thing is (Hayek would demand to know)?
Secondly, Treasury officials have worked closely with British banks, to persuade them to take a 'haircut' on Greek government debt. Arguably this remains consistent with the precepts of rational choice economics, in that banks are in a prisoner's dilemma situation, of requiring some third party intervention, to help them agree to take a shared loss. But again, the spectre of the planner, seeking conscious coordination of goals and desires, appears here, rendering it entirely at odds with the Hayekian view of freedom.
And thirdly there is the rise of behavioural and wellbeing economics, both of which abandon the 'revealed preference' theory of consumer choice, which (in true Hayekian spirit) assumed that individuals could never be 'wrong' about their desires or values. In place of this, the 'nudgers' and the 'happiness' gurus work to help individuals take choices that they will later be glad of, and gradually learn to take again in future. This may be simply an expanded form of neo-classical economics, which costs in longer-term outcomes for health, environment and mind; but it nevertheless assumes some vantage point for the policy-maker that is superior to that of the consumer (at least in the short-term). This, too, would represent the 'road to serfdom', for the notoriously paranoid early neoliberals. Minimum alcohol pricing could be the thin end of a wedge, which turns against the trust in markets to deliver goals that nobody could foresee. Once competition authorities start to permit price-fixing for public ends, a crucial line hass been crossed - for Hayek, the only line that matters.
The fact that bankers continue to pay themselves vast bonuses, or that the interests of government bond-holders are prioritised over those of citizens, might signify to many that 'neoliberalism' has never been more dominant. Giovanni Arrighi argues that capitalist powers experience a belle epoque of finance-driven prosperity, in the twilight decades of their global dominance, which is how the US experienced a splurge of growth from the late 1980s onwards. In a sense we're now witnessing the belle epoque of the belle epoque: particular interests squeezing whatever is left from a system that is effectively finished, including governments. Like a fractious family descending on the possessions of a deceased relative, this situation brings the various parties together face-to-face, to an extent that was never necessary previously.
The representation of neoliberalism as a corporate-government stitch-up (as Colin Crouch's new book seems to propose) makes considerable sense, but it's important to specify what sort of stitch-up. It wasn't a stitch-up of realpolitik or fraternity (save for the sort of Texan mercantilism that George W Bush brought to Washington, with very poor economic consequences), but a stitch-up focused on rules and regulations. It privileged market conditions, prices, competition, not favours or back-scratching; at the very least, it purported to do so. The new wave of summits, meetings and buddy-systems that has emerged, to coordinate corporate, financial and government interests, indicates that we are currently operating without any governing economic policy paradigm at all. In that sense, neoliberalism is over.