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2022, vol. 56, br. 1, str. 90-119
Kritički osvrt na uspon neoliberalnog koncepta u ekonomskoj politici
aEkonomski institut, Beograd
bUniverzitet Singidunum, Beograd + Institut društvenih nauka, Beograd

e-adresajignjatovic985@gmail.com, sfilipovic@idn.org.rs
Sažetak
Osamdesetih godina XX veka neoliberalni koncept je nametnut kao ekonomsko-politička doktrina zasnovana na tvrdnji da slobodno tržište efikasno raspoređuje resurse i osigurava svetsku dobrobit i mir. Cilj ovog rada je da na bazi analize razvoja ekonomske misli pokuša da pruži jedno od mogućih tumačenja neoliberalne ekonomije. Osnove liberalne ekonomije definisane su klasičnom političkom ekonomijom, a doprinos su dale neoklasična ekonomska škola ali i drugi pravci u razvoju ekonomske misli. Mada su zagovornici neoliberalne ekonomije proklamovali liberalizaciju i privatizaciju sa ciljem unapređenja opšteg blagostanja društva, globalna ekonomska kriza i COVID-19 kriza su pokazale zablude i kontradiktornosti neoliberalnih postulata koji ne samo da nisu efikasni u vreme krize nego doprinose i porastu globalne nejednakosti.

Introduction

Neoliberal economic policy experienced a strong momentum in the 1980s, based on the assumption that a self-regulated free market and "invisible hand" of the market provided prosperity and led to equal income distribution. It is founded on market reforms that imply privatization and deregulation of economic activities, liberalization of capital flows, goods and services and gradual reduction of the role of the state in economy (Filipović, 2014; Radonjić, 2004). Firstly, it implies a shift and turn from Keynesian economic policy of aggregate demand to supply economy and to political programs that favour relatively unfettered market operations (Kuzmančev-Stojanović, 2021, p. 106). Proponents of the neoliberal concept, and thus globalization, believe that such economic transformation has enabled economic growth and the growth of general social welfare (Tošković & Filipović, 2017, p. 14). In globalization, however, national economies are faced with turbulent changes in the social sphere (Jovović, 2021, p. 294).

The revival of the neoliberal idea began with the Mont Pelerin Society at the end of the Second World War. Among the main theorists of this Society (many of whom were supporters of the so-called Chicago School of Economics) were Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992), Henry Calvert Simons (1899-1946), Sir John Harold Clapham (1873-1946), Frank Hyneman Knight (1885-1972), George Stigler (1911-1991), Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902-1994), Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) and Milton Friedman (1912-2006). All of them advocated freedom of expression, a free market and the political values of an open society based on the principles of a liberal economy. Well-known Marxist social theorist David W. Harvey (1935) was responsible for spreading the neoliberal idea, while among the institutions special support was given by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Although the neoliberal concept starts from the fact that the free market should lead to general social well-being, while market forces ensure a fair distribution of income (Tošković & Filipović, 2017, p. 23), over time a vivid discussion has started began about whether everything is like that in practice. The period after the economic crisis brought about an increase in inequality and social stratification on a global level, which opened the door for reconsideration of the neoliberal concept.

The wave of neoliberal ideas influenced the development of law (Dokmanović, 2017), politics (Tomka, 2004) and ethics (Marinković et al., 2013), but the subject of this paper is the development of neoliberal economic thought, which has its roots in the liberal approach to economics. The aim of the paper is to point out the historical development of the neoliberal idea on the basis of a systematic review of the literature and to present the most complete interpretation of the neoliberal concept of economics. In accordance with that, the paper will point out the roots of the development of the neoliberal economic paradigm, which has become dominant through neoliberal economic policy and institutions, and thus defined the framework of the modern global socio-economic environment.

The rise of liberal economy before the Great Depression

Liberal economics marked the period from the second half of the 18th century, which coincided with the development of industry, the emergence of large corporations and the concentration of capital. The time of financial and corporate rise was marked by several financial crises and recessions. At the same time, there was a process of mass migration of the population from the countryside to the cities, as well as large migrations of the population from Europe to America, Australia and New Zealand. However, problems during the Great Depression (1929-1932) marginalized the significance of liberal market principles since this concept could not provide a solution to recovery of economy and society.

Liberal economic ideas were the basis of classical economic theory (schools) or classical political economy, as still found in the literature. The theoretical and ideological strength of classical liberalism rests on the ideas of private property, free market, and individualism (Henry, 2010). It developed primarily during the Enlightenment in Scotland, and was noted in the works of Adam Smith (Grey, 1999), who made a turning point in the development of economic thought and after which economics stands out as a separate scientific discipline. Theorists of the classical school of economics observed the individual behaviour of market participants in economic processes. Their priority was to recognize the general laws that operate in the economy as a whole, in order to come to conclusions on how economic benefits for society as a whole can be increased.

Based on the analysis of the papers written by representatives of the classical school of economics, certain conclusions can be drawn. One of their basic principles is that market conditions should be determined by supply and demand, without state interference. The role of the state is to ensure a successful market economy through full protection of property rights and contracts, full freedom, equality and fair business relations in all sectors, stable currency and efficient payment system, public control of natural monopolies and protection of competition, availability of information on supply and demand for products and services, efficient social protection etc. (Baletić, 2005). The second principle refers to the inviolability of private property as the gains from free trade are emphasized. In such an exchange, personal gain is realized, not benefit for the government or someone else. However, creating a market will not mean equal income for every individual. The emergence of unequal distribution calls into question the definition of relations in society, but inequality should be tolerated according to the argument of allocative market efficiency, i.e. gains from free trade.

The basic principles included laissez-faire (i.e. non-interference of the state in the economy), the rule of the natural order in society and the rule of law. Along with the laissez-faire principle, Smith developed the metaphor of the "invisible hand of the market" which points to the self-regulating nature of the market. The idea that the free market is the supreme authority was proclaimed, and that its "invisible hand" enables increasing the benefits of both the individual and society, i.e. that promoting one's own interest will lead to "involuntary" promotion of society's interests. It was considered that the market was powerful enough to best control basic human instincts (greed, desire for power and wealth) as well as to channel them for the common good. The absolute efficiency of the self-regulating laissez-faire market was believed in, as the "invisible hand" regulates everything and leads to the fact that each individual and, while taking into account their interests, at the same time it contributes to the well-being of all (Augustyn, 2017). As the freedom of the individual and the protection of private property rights were the priority, the main obstacle was seen in the state and the idea was that the role of the state must be limited. According to the understanding of the classical school of economics, the role of the state is to ensure a successful market economy, primarily through full protection of property rights and contracts.

During the 19th century, the neoclassical school continued to develop on the foundations of classical political economy. This school further developed the principles of methodological individualism, maximization and balance, but also the idea of marginal value.

The neoclassical school of economics, associated with names such as Marie-Esprit-Léon Walras, William Stanley Jevons, Alfred Marshall, but also the founders of the Austrian school such as Joseph Alois Schumpeter and Carl Menger. The term "neoclassical school of economics" is introduced in order to make certain distinction from the classical school of economics, in the sense that neoclassicists put in the foreground an individual who has his needs and seeks to maximize their usefulness and preferences. The outcomes can be explained as if they were the result of the rational behaviour of individuals. Individuals act as if they are maximizing a utility function with limitations. This is an axiomatization of behaviour, because the preferences of individuals who represent the order of consumer baskets can be represented by the utility function if certain axioms are met (completeness, reflexivity, transitivity).

The previously mentioned representatives of the classical school established the idea of spontaneous order, so they could rather be connected with methodological individualism (Udehn, 2002, Perišić 2020, str. 893). Nevertheless, unlike the social class model developed by classical economists, the neoclassical model focuses on the individual who maximizes utility in economic transactions when the price of a good equals the benefits of that good. This means that the equilibrium condition is often defined through the equality of the marginal rate of substitution and the ratio of prices under certain conditions. The theory of general equilibrium, which defines the interdependence of goods and markets, is still one of the basic theories in economics.

According to the neoclassical school, the central economic problem is considered the achievement of efficient allocation of resources, in the sense of Pareto optimality,1 which is based on the fundamental theory of welfare economics. This actually refers to the two basic economic theorems that make up the welfare economy. The first theorem argues that any competitive equilibrium is effective, while it assumes that participants care only about personal consumption of goods and not about what other market participants spend. The second theorem of welfare economics claims that optimal allocation can be achieved through perfect competition and that any regulation (subsidies, setting minimum and maximum prices, etc.) reduces the efficiency of the economy and leads to lower social welfare.

The neoclassical school also criticized state intervention pledging private property, entrepreneurship and competition. The market was considered as the best mechanism for managing the economy, but unlike the classical school of economics, the neoclassical school saw the problem of market power and introduced the concept of monopoly (later other market shortcomings such as externalities, public goods etc.). However, they believed that many of these shortcomings could be solved through the market (Weintraub, 2020), because market forces are "omniscient" and omnipotent and therefore they, and not the state, should allocate national and international relations (Stojanović, 2000, p. 58).

Although new directions of political economy were created over time (e.g. the development of the social democratic direction and Marxism), the liberal approach was dominant until the emergence of the Great Depression in 1929.

Revival of the liberal idea through the monetarist approach

The Great Depression during the 1930s primarily shook public confidence in capitalism, but also confidence in the ability of unregulated markets to lead to progress (Živkovski, 2013, p. 389). When John Maynard Keynes announced a moratorium on laissez-faire in his paper shortly before the Great Depression (1926), the idea of liberal economics seemed abandoned and the illusion of liberal capitalism about the functioning of the "invisible hand" was over. Keynes believed that neoclassical mechanisms did not lead to full employment and that the state must therefore intervene and increase aggregate demand (e.g. public works in infrastructure). As the ruling neoclassical economic theory showed the inability of the market to self-regulate and had no explanation for the decline in production and employment, Keynes highlighted the problem of unemployment and pointed out the importance of state intervention through fiscal policy. In this way, the role of the state was revived, and laissez-faire and the "invisible hand" of the market were declared invalid. In addition, Keynes believed that crises and depressions were caused by the free market, while the task of governments was to eliminate them.

However, the revival of the neoclassical liberal idea of the market was never abandoned completely. Immediately after the Second World War, discussions on the perspective of the liberal idea in new circumstances were initiated by the Mont Pelerin Society, which advocated the free market and the values of an open society. Great support for the revival of the liberal idea came from the Chicago School of Economics, which formed the direction of the New Classical Macroeconomics based on the neoclassical (micro) model, i.e. the idea that the market was efficient and self-regulating, but also the theory of rational expectations for which Robert Lucas received the Nobel Prize. The basis of the theory of rational expectations is that many economic policies aimed at increasing economic activity will be ineffective, because economic actors will change their behaviour and neutralize the impact of the measure taken (Tošković & Filipović, 2017, p. 54).

According to Becchio & Leghissa, although neoclassical economics and neoliberalism are presented as renewed forms of classical economics and classical liberalism, there are some crucial differences between them. While the classical economy viewed the market as an institution that allows for a greater division of labour and thus a necessary condition for increasing the nation's wealth, the neoclassical economy and neoliberalism view the market as a natural institution that enables relations between rational factors. The theoretical power of the theory of rational choice gradually turned this vision into an anthropological dimension which found its outcome in the rise and development of neoliberalism (Becchio & Leghissa, 2016).

Neoliberalism is often seen as an ideology that opposes the values of classical liberalism (Thorsen & Lie, 2006, p. 3), but is considered "a kind of liberalism that favours the global free market, without state regulation" (Jovanović 2020, p. 43), in which individuals are constantly guided by the "invisible hand" towards the complete realization of personal and social goals (Pejić & Jakšić, 1994, pp. 51-53).

The contribution to the spread of "neoliberalism" is primarily related to David Harvey's "A Brief History of Neoliberalism", which emphasizes free markets, free trade, private property and the elimination of the state role in the field of economic activity (Harvey, 2005, p. 2).

In addition, the works of Friedrich von Hayek contributed to the spread of the idea where, from a philosophical and sociological point of view, the basic values of neoliberalism are freedom of individuals, i.e. expressed individualism versus collectivism because only competition can ensure constant progress of society (Hayek, 2005). Hayek defines "individual or personal freedom as a state in which one person is not subjected to the arbitrary coercion of another or others" (Hayek, 1998, p. 19).

A special contribution to the further expansion of liberal economy was made by Milton Friedman, one of the founders of the Mont Pelerin Society, whose monetarist approach strongly relied on the foundations of the neoclassical school of economics. Most of the neoliberal views were adopted from his ideas and statements, and he had a decisive influence on the later development of this school by lecturing at the University of Chicago (Tomka, 2004, p. 227).

Friedman's view was that the market must be based on voluntary transactions (Boetsch Rodrigues, 2005). He believed that capitalism was a necessary condition for political freedom (Friedman, 1962, p. 12), that state intervention was not productive and that free market competition was far more effective, and advocated limiting government power and emphasizing the benefits of private property (Komazec & Ristić, 2011). Friedman pointed out that the Great Depression (1929-1939) had arisen as a consequence of a restrictive monetary policy, which did not provide the necessary liquidity of the economy (Friedman & Schwartz, 1963, pp. 120-130). Although he opposed state intervention, he believed that the restrictive policy of the Federal Reserve System in the United States had caused the crisis, and he saw an expansive monetary policy with low interest rates as a solution. He believed that fiscal policy was inefficient because it enabled the growth of inflation and the budget deficit, i.e. it had the effect of squeezing out the private sector. Today, neoliberals claim that the Great Depression began as a simple recession, while mistakes in the policy of monetary authorities led to a reduction in money supply, which worsened the situation in the economy, so that a simple recession led to a deep depression (Dušanić, 2014).

Monetarism gathered a large number of supporters, and in the last decades of the 20th century, it exerted a strong influence not only in the field of macroeconomics, but also in the field of politics and defining the social role of the country (Pjević, 2010). The influence of monetarists was not only to reduce social spending but also to increase labour market competitiveness by reducing union power, reducing efficient wages, increasing labour mobility, introducing lower tax rates on workers' taxes and reducing the level and duration of income based on unemployment insurance (Jandrić, 2013, p. 20). Monetarism is one of the most influential macroeconomic schools and a modern version of the neoclassical school of economics, created in response to Keynesianism. Within the monetarist approach, there are five stages of development (Jakšić et al., 2001):

  • the first stage is related to the period of the 1950s at the time of defining the theory of permanent income and the demand for money;

  • the second stage continued during the 1960s and was marked by numerous works that highlighted the importance of monetary policy;

  • the third stage refers to the period after 1967 and involves the introduction of adaptive inflation expectations and natural unemployment rates;

  • the fourth stage of development refers to the period after 1973, when monetarism took hold because in the conditions of global inflation, fiscal policy measures proved to be ineffective;

  • the fifth stage is related to the period during the 1980s and is considered the new monetarism, i.e. new classical macroeconomics.

In the late 1970s, the concept of the free market revived and gained a new affirmation in the form of the neoliberal paradigm (Jovanović & Eškinja, 2008), returning to the doctrine of the free market (Mijatović, 2002). Promoting free market (Božić-Miljković, 2021,p. 319), this concept has become prevailing on the political and economic scene.

Principles of neoliberal concept of economy

The neoliberal concept imposed itself as an economic-political doctrine of social development designed from the angle of interest of private capital owners (Baletić, 2005). It is based on the assumption that the free market, as a self-regulating system, with the power of the "invisible hand" of the market, efficiently allocates resources and increases welfare. Although there is no single definition, the neoliberal concept advocates privatization, deregulation of economic activities, liberalization of international economic flows and systematic reduction of state functions in the field of economy. Its essence is in the market freedoms of the individual, based on private property and the expansion of capital on a global level.

During the 1980s, the centre of neoliberal dictation was in the United States and Great Britain. The spread of neoliberalism was strongly supported after the victory of Margaret Thatcher in the British elections in 1979 and the victory of Ronald Wilson Reagan in the United States in 1981. The so-called "Supply economy" which, among other things, meant reducing taxes on the highest salaries and reducing social spending programs under the pretext that the policy of "leakage" from top to bottom would have effects on welfare (Kapović, 2008). However, empiricism has shown the opposite. The total income of the rich is dominated by income from capital, while only a small percentage comes from labour income, while the poorer sections of the population have the opposite. As this leads to a huge increase in inequality and concentration of wealth only at the top of the pyramid, it is necessary to increase taxes and to progressively tax current income and accumulated wealth (Piketty, 2014).

Over time, the principles that characterize the new neoliberal concept of economy have developed, which can be summarized as (Tošković & Filipović, 2017, p. 57):

  • deregulation - reduction of business regulations in order to achieve a better "entrepreneurial climate", easier flow of capital;

  • liberalization - opening of borders, abolition of protective measures, i.e. customs;

  • privatization - conversion of social and state capital into private property, by the principle that private property is always more successful and better than state;

  • reduction of public spending and social security in the form of reduction of expenditures for health, education, introduction of charging for some services that were not charged before (e.g. tuition fees at universities, participation in health care, parking, etc.);

  • reducing workers' rights to facilitate profit-making (e.g. pressure on or banning unions, officially or unofficially);

  • greater "flexibility" of the workforce - which actually means easier dismissal of workers, increased workload, etc.

The neoliberal approach has taken a liberal stance on the role of the state, assuming that any state interference in the economy is prone to corruption, monopoly, restrictions and abuse, and therefore it is essential to minimize the role of state and have control over public opinion (Stark, 1952). As state institutions did not independently implement economic and social strategy, the role of the state was seriously questioned. In such a vacuum, it was necessary to formalize the program according to which the reforms would be implemented.

The program of economic reforms, known as the Washington Consensus, was defined by John Williamson in 1989. The Washington Consensus defined neoliberalism as a program of economic stabilization through institutional adjustment to free market norms, with the goal to control inflation, rationalize production and consumption, as well as to raise the level of efficiency and flexibility of business. The recommendations of the Washington Consensus were primarily promoted by international institutions (World Bank, IMF and US Treasury Department), advocating liberalization, privatization, and sound monetary and fiscal policies.

The state and its institutions had to transform and adapt to new conditions, and its role was significantly reduced, which opened the space for the application of neoliberal principles (Ognjanović, 2013). At the same time, monetary policy, as an important tool for regulating economic activity and response to economic disturbances, increasingly followed the guidelines set within the "new consensus in macroeconomics"2 (Marjanović & Mihajlović, 2012).

The Washington Consensus proclaimed a market approach model that was accepted by almost all major developing countries except China and India. It was primarily accepted by Great Britain and the United States, and it was applied after the coups in Latin American countries, and later extended to the countries of Southeast Asia and European countries in transition.

The Washington Consensus defines ten recommendations for the transition process, called the Economic Stabilization Program (Williamson, 1990):

  • establishing fiscal discipline;

  • redirection of public expenditures (health, education, infrastructure);

  • tax reform (expanding the tax base with moderate tax rates);

  • competitive exchange rate;

  • protection of property rights;

  • market deregulation;

  • liberalization of interest rates;

  • privatization of public enterprises,

  • encouraging foreign direct investment, and

  • liberalization of foreign trade.

Over time, the shortcomings of the basic package of recommendations were noticed, so the original Washington Consensus was expanded with a set of new ones, so that the“Extended Washington Consensus” was defined. Table 1 presents the comparison of the set of recommendations.

Table 1. Препоруке Вашингтонског консензуса / Washington Consensus Recommendations

Оригинални Вашингтонски консензус/ The original Washington Consensus Проширени Вашингтонски консензус (претходних десет тачака плус)/Extended Washington Consensus (previous ten points plus) /
1. Фискална дисциплина/Fiscal discipline
2. Преусмерење јавне потрошње/ Redirection of public spending
3. Пореска реформа/Tax reform
4. Финансијска стабилизација/Financial stabilization
5. Уједињен и конкурентан девизни курс/ Unified and competitive exchange rate
6. Либерализација режима трговине/ Liberalization of the trade regime
7. Отвореност за стране директне инвестиције (СДИ)/Openness to foreign direct investment (FDI)
8. Приватизација/Privatization
9. Дерегулација/Deregulation
10. Заштита својинских права/Protection of property rights
11. Корпоративно управљање/Corporate management
12. Борба против корупције/Fight against corruption
13. Флексибилна тржишта рада/Flexible labour markets
14. Приступање Светској трговинској организацији (СТО)/Accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO)
15. Финансијски стандарди/Financial standards
16. Смотрена либерализација капиталног биланса/Careful capital balance liberalization
17. Потпуно фиксни или флексибилан девизни курс/Fully fixed or flexible exchange rate
18. Независна централна банка (ЦБ)/ циљање инфлације/Independent Central Bank (CB) / inflation targeting
19. Систем социјалне заштите/Social protection system
20. Циљане мере за смањење сиромаштва/ Targeted poverty reduction measures

Извор: Rodrik 2008, str. 143 / Source: Rodrik 2008, p. 143

Following the implementation of an expanded consensus, based on corporate governance, labour market flexibility and an independent central bank, the objection was that issues of social equality and institutional development were neglected. After that, Williamson made an extension in the form of the post-enlarged Washington Consensus (Williamson, 2009), which emphasizes the following principles:

  • development must be based on a market economy, although there are major market failures that cannot be ignored;

  • the state should not be directly involved in the production process (as a general rule);

  • create a wider space for state (public sector) action, related to achieving macroeconomic stability, infrastructure development, technology transfer and research and development, sustainable development, assistance and private sector development, providing export incentives, poverty reduction and inequality in distribution income, strict supervision and regulation of the financial sector, provision of basic public goods, including institutions for the protection of property rights, etc.

The similarities and differences between the original and the post-enlarged Washington Consensus are reflected in the fact that the later version gave importance to development goals, a greater role of the state in correcting market failures and creating institutional preconditions for a functioning market economy.

Over time, the dilemma has arisen as to whether the Washington Consensus only needs to be expanded with new recommendations or whether a change of approach is essentially needed. Just some of the views are as follows:

  • a successful development strategy cannot be defined in the Washington Consensus but must be adapted to the specifics of each country;

  • the same recommendations, strategies and policies cannot be applied to all countries;

  • the successes of some countries cannot be transferred to other countries alone;

  • no appropriate and convincing answers were found, stating that full liberalization leads to better use of resources and faster economic growth;

  • the question arose as to whether the role of international financial institutions should be changed.

However, at the dawn of the new century, neoliberalism was discredited because the global economy, built on its principles, was shaken to the core by a financial crisis unprecedented since the 1930s (Steger & Ravi, 2010). Since an increase in deregulation can lead to financial instability that can infect the entire economy, some economists claim that the free market is not always in the best interest and that it has its mistakes and instabilities (Prateek, 2018).

Criticism of the neoliberal concept

Although the neoliberal concept assumes that the free market should lead to general well-being, and that market forces alone ensure a fair distribution of income, empirical data point to growing social inequalities. The traditional understanding of inequality is determined by the level of economic development, while the newer understanding is that inequality is what determines income and economic growth (Rakić, 2015). In recent decades, and especially since the global economic crisis, there has been an increasing increase in inequality and social stratification, not only between developed and underdeveloped countries, but also among the population of developed countries.

The neoliberals' attitude that reduction of taxes for the rich is actually the way which will indirectly protect workers and redistribute wealth, and thus lead to general well-being, is severely criticized by those who believe that the growth of wealth of the richest strata of society is the result of neoliberal politics.

The critics of neoliberalism believe that many countries maintain puppet regimes in the service of the world's oligarchy and transnational capital through the domestic media, business and political elite, making profits by their influence (Dušanić, 2014). It is pointed out that despite the growth of productivity and technological progress, employees are working more and more while salaries and pensions are decreasing, which leads to lower economic growth and employment rates.

In developed economies that successfully apply the neoliberal concept of economy, "population fatigue" is noticeable due to economic shocks and permanent stressful uncertainty of market operations, and the need to reconsider the model and the need for income redistribution is increasingly pointed out. On the other hand, countries that have been in the so-called "transition process" by years, not only failed to establish a system of free market mechanism (Josifidis, 2004), but faced the effects of the crisis from developed neoliberal economies (Filipović & Miljković, 2014).

Piketty points out that in 2012, for example, the 100 richest people in the world became richer by USD 241 million and their wealth increased to USD 1.9 thousand billion, which is close to the UK annual gross domestic product. The sudden enrichment of the richest strata of society came from the fall in tax rates, the refusal to pay fees for the use of mineral resources and land, due to the privatization of public property, the liberalization of wages and the abolition of collective bargaining. Piketty also points out that while some capitalist have become three times faster in enrichment, their concentration of capital can reach 90-100% of national capital, the middle class has nothing left and it disappears from the social ladder. He concludes that the current economic policy leads to growing inequality and enrichment of the few at the top of the pyramid, which takes us back to the 19th century, which was dominated by the hereditary wealth of wealthy dynasties that had key positions in economic, social and political structure. What is more, wealth has just led to negative social consequences in which capitalism cannot function (Piketty, 2014).

Chang believes that the growth of inequality through uneven distribution of wealth, with slower economic growth and increased instability in most countries, is the result of free market ideology (Chang, 2013), while Varoufakis points out that creating a consumer society based on a linear model of resource use and environmental pollution resulted in the abuse of regulations and the creation of a global elite (Varoufakis, 2013).

Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz uses the term "market fundamentalism" as a synonym for neoliberal doctrine or "Washington Consensus" policy, which he says was based on a misunderstanding of economic theory as a result of inadequate interpretation of historical data (Stiglitz 2009, p. 346). He also warns that an economic and political system that does not satisfy the majority of citizens cannot survive in the long run (Stiglitz, 2013).

Anderson believes that neoliberalism has no serious competitor to replace it (Anderson 2000, p. 17), and that "the search for the theoretical consistency of neoliberalism has a predominantly critical character" (Marinković & Ristić 2015, p. 115).

Hall et al. believe that the transition from industrial to financial capitalism (neoliberalism) has "deepened inequalities in income, health and life chances within and between countries (Hall et al., 2013, p. 9), on a scale not seen since before the Second World War", where the basic stated problem describing the concept of "class" is inequality (Tyler, 2015). Sowel believes that from the 1970s to the present, inequality has increased primarily in countries advocating neoliberalism (USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland) than in other developed countries (Sowel, 2019).

Maksimović and Cvetićanin share the opinion that the current crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression in 1929 (Maksimović & Cvetićanin, 2021, p. 936). Vidal & Correa go a step further and believe that the COVID crisis was a result of decades-long overexploitation of nature and people, which further contributed to the growth and deepening of income inequality (Vidal & Correa, 2021). Therefore, the role of the state is crucial during the crisis (Madžar, 2020). This means that the role of the state is not to be underestimated (Đukić, 2013, p. 111), because it sets economic and social goals that markets cannot achieve (Kovačević, 2012), especially in times of crisis when the role of the state is irreplaceable in the "organization of economic development" (Madžar, 2013, p. 333), but "also in ensuring stability and continuity, which is confirmed in groundbreaking historical events" (Jakšić, 2012).

That the role of the state is crucial has been shown during the COVID crisis when the Italian government nationalized its airline Alitalia, while the Spanish government took control of the private health care system (Marx, 2020; Fernández, 2020). Grigera states that in some countries, the state has taken it upon itself to pay salaries to workers who are forced to stay at home. Thus, in Great Britain, the Government undertook to pay a maximum of 80% of the salary of the self-employed and workers in the amount of 2,500 pounds per worker per month, while in Denmark the Government covered 75% of the salary (Grigera, 2020).

Rugitsky believes that governments around the world have largely adopted national policies to reduce the effects of the crisis, but most are aimed at mitigating falling profits and rescuing troubled businesses, rather than protecting the working class from life-threatening risks (Rugitsky, 2020). The question is whether these measures will be temporary, i.e. whether neoliberal politics will continue to dominate in the post-crisis period. Nassif-Pires et al., as well as Harvey, agree that the transformations caused by the fight against the pandemic may be the last impulse lacking to redefine neoliberal domination, not only because the pandemic deepens the crisis, but because inequality is increasing (Nassif-Pires et al., 2020; Harvey, 2020). There is no doubt that overcoming neoliberalism represents historical openness and strengthening the deeper struggle for the future of global societies.

Conclusion

The neoliberal concept of the economy is based on the principles of classical political economy, starting from several principles where the key principle is the free market and non-interference of the state in the economy. Respecting the philosophy of individualism, where the highest value is given to the individual and strives to defend his freedoms in economic and moral matters, liberal economic theory is based on the assumption that people are basically rational and do their best within given limits, but that the state should not protect them from their own mistakes. It should be emphasized that there is a difference between treating individuals as rational and describing the outcome of their behaviour as if the outcome were the result of rational decisions. Furthermore, state powers should be minimally used, i.e. the state should not decide about economic resources and redistribution not should it violate the principles of personal freedom and individual responsibility, which is considered the basis of the free market economy.

The influence of classical political economy and, above all, the principle of self-regulating market mechanism as the supreme authority that puts the interests and protection of private property in the foreground, while characterizing the state as the main obstacle to market development (laissez-faire), had a dominant influence until the Great Depression of 1929. As the self-regulating market mechanism showed all its shortcomings during the recession period, the Keynesian approach promoting the active role of the state in economic policy was adopted. However, it seems that every crisis leads to reconsideration, so the Great Depression of 1929 is not exclusive in that respect.

However, liberal ideas were not abandoned, and the proponents of this approach reconsidered the adaptation of liberal ideas to the new circumstances immediately after the Second World War. A special contribution to the revival of liberal economic ideas was made by monetarists and the so-called the Chicago School of Economics, which directed the course of economic policy towards solving the problem of inflation, which became a global problem during the 1970s. In the early 1980s, a new chapter in economic policy was opened, where liberal ideas came to life in the form of a neoliberal economy whose principles were proclaimed by the Washington Consensus. The basic principles of the new neoliberal concept included macroeconomic stabilization, liberalization and mass privatization.

The program of neoliberal economics is primarily dictated by the United States and Great Britain, which implemented the program of economic reforms in the early 1980s, and which is supported through international financial institutions (primarily the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank). As the effects of the program did not yield satisfactory results in many Latin American and European countries in transition, critics could be heard more and more often.

In particular, the global crisis of 2008 showed many misconceptions of the self-regulating market and launched an avalanche of economic packages of measures to save the economy. Nevertheless, it turned out that the measures were again in favour of large owners of private capital, while the greatest burden was borne by poor citizens. Hence, criticisms can be heard more and more often that neoliberal economic policy not only fails to contribute to the improvement of the general welfare of society, but it also leads to the growth of inequality and huge differences. Also, the COVID-19 crisis reaffirmed the rule that the role of the state is crucial in all crisis situations and that in a global pandemic it is necessary to develop a new concept that would be able to contribute to improving general welfare, which, among other things, requires the reduction of global inequalities.

Endnotes

1Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian engineer, economist, sociologist, political scientist and philosopher. Introducing the concepts of efficiency (Pareto efficiency) and ordinal utility (utility is not measured, but compared), he contributed to the development of mathematical economics. He is also known for establishing the theory of well-being and the contribution to the study of income distribution.
2This term is also called “new neoclassical synthesis”, and is related to implementation of monetary policy in modern conditions. It is characterized by elements of the functioning of the economy, the role of the financial sector, the importance of money, as well as the efficiency of various economic policy measures.

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O članku

jezik rada: srpski, engleski
vrsta rada: pregledni članak
DOI: 10.5937/socpreg56-35619
primljen: 28.12.2021.
revidiran: 20.02.2022.
prihvaćen: 21.02.2022.
objavljen u SCIndeksu: 29.04.2022.
metod recenzije: dvostruko anoniman
Creative Commons License 4.0

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