We had some talk here a while ago about what “neoliberalism” means. Here’s a short history and explanation via zunguzungu’s Sunday Reading.
When I was studying Spanish in Guatemala, I remember talking to a girl who described her private high school as “Christian” (as opposed to Catholic) and “neoliberal.” It really is part of the language once you get outside our charming idiot terrain.
Yeah, it’s really not part of the mainstream political discourse in the U.S. If you said “neoliberalism” on CNN I suspect you would be met by blank stares, and not invited back on the program. At a more specialist or informed level of the discourse, a lot of people take pains to deny the legitimacy of the concept — I’m looking at you, Yggles. Around the law school, many people don’t know what the word means, and even many people who have some idea of the concept wouldn’t want to be caught talking about it. (I’m reminded of that line in a Borges story, something like “There is only one word that a riddle cannot contain, and that word is the answer to the riddle.”)
On the other hand, I get that there’s a massive amount of noise about things conservatives do in the U.S. that don’t count as neoliberal, and those things are important. And conservatism is a complicated thing with various strands. And, of course, it’s uncomfortable for Democratic partisans to admit that many of their party’s leaders have neoliberalism in common with the leaders of the conservative movement.