Neo-liberalism is the problem of how to govern through the autonomy of the governed when they are no longer virtuous

Dean, Governmentality 2nd edition, 190-1

Neo-liberalism, in this form at least, is a response to a kind of ‘political reproduction’ problem that is posed by neo-conseratives in the United States and is embodied in the Republican Contract with America (Cruikshank, 1998). This is the problem of how to govern through the autonomy of the governed when they are no longer virtuous. It takes a contemporary form when the citizenry is corrupted by, to list but a few neo-conservative targets: ‘rent-seeking’ politicians and bureaucrats; misguided and dangerous ideas (such as those perpetrated by the ‘counter-culture’); schools that fail to teach the three Rs and personal responsibility; permissive morality and easy divorce laws; and dependency-fostering social provision, such as the programmes of the Great Society. Neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism share this same diagnosis of the problem of a corruption of the people and the need to lead them to accept their responsibilities and become a virtuous citizenry again. Neo-conservativsm often adopts sovereign instruments to enforce marriage and heterosexual relations, fight illegal immigration  (and restrict legal immigration), enforce minimum labour and ‘workfare’ programmes, and demand punishment rather than the rehabilitation of criminal [191] offenders (Cruikshank, 1998: 152). Neo-liberalism, in contrast, looks to a kind of cultural revolution that will restore the responsible autonomy of the citizenry. This revolution is made possible by return to the values associated with the course of evolution of civilization. However, we should be careful not to draw too strict a line between the two, given the emphasis on the ‘culture wars’ by the neo-conservatives in the United States, conducted against the ‘counter-culture’, multiculturalism, and the decentering of sexuality and familial relations.n6

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