This chapter presents a genealogy of neoliberalism as a free-market ideational program, from the early decades of the 20th century through to its consummation with state power in the 1970s. Neoliberalism was born as a contradictory and contested project, specifically through a series of situated, sympathetic critiques of 19th-century laissez-faire. These were played out, most explicitly, through the work of the Mont Pelerin Society and its associated networks, though these have often been spaces of debate and contestation. In this sense, neoliberalism has always been an open-ended, plural, and adaptable project. At the heart of this lies its contradictory embrace of liberty and order — what can be seen as its ‘Chicago School’ and ‘Ordoliberal’ faces of neoliberalism, respectively. Highlighting the constructed nature of neoliberalism's ideational project, the chapter exposes some of the ‘hidden hands’ that shaped this purposive critique of, and alternative to, Keynesianism.
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