My paper will develop some of the ideas in my neo-communitarianism piece, to reflect on the fact that neoliberalism both began with a critique of the 'social' (in the form of the socialist calculation debate of the 1920s) and is now being arguably reformed or replaced via new logics of 'social' quantification. It strikes me that what facebook et al promise in the form of 'predictive social analytics', for example, isn't that different from what Soviet economists were tasked with doing for a planned economy. So neoliberalism is therefore book-ended by utopian efforts to optimise or rationalise 'the social'. This is the abstract:
Friedrich Hayek referred to the term ‘social’ as “that weasel word”, arguing that it was meaningless and always disguised the true intentions of its user. The origins of neoliberalism can be traced to the ‘socialist calculation’ debates of the 1920s and ‘30s, in which Austrian economists and leftwing neo-classical economists argued over whether efficiency was possible in a planned economy. Neoliberal government has been analysed in terms of the ‘death of the social’ (Rose, 1996) while economists have been accused of ‘colonising’ the social, with economistic theories such as ‘social capital’ (Fine, 2008, 2011). But today, the ‘social’ seems everywhere, in the form of social enterprise, valuation, prescribing, media and so on. This paper reflects on neoliberalism as a failed attempt to cleanse modernity of Rousseauian social theory, arguing that the crisis of the last five years has seen the ‘revenge of the social’, which experts and economists strive to cope with, by reducing it to the psychological.