A Most Surprising Clause About "Neoliberalism"
By Bryan Caplan
“[T]he neo-romantic tales spun by Duneier, Anderson, and Newman at the close of the regressive nineties suggest that U.S. sociology is now tied and party to the ongoing construction of the neoliberal state…”
This is from Loic Wacquant‘s 2002 review essay in the American Journal of Sociology, one of the field’s top two journals. That’s just a few years before researchers found that over 25% of U.S. sociology professors self-identified as “Marxists.”
How could any sociologist make such bizarre accusations against his peers? Well, the piece also wisely warns against “the classical fallacy of argumentum ad populum, in which a thesis is asserted, even acclaimed, because it resonates with the moral schemata and expectations of its audience, but at the cost of a dangerous suspension of analytic and political judgment.” When your audience is overwhelmingly leftist, denouncing covert neoliberal sin resonates like a gong.
P.S. Despite this cultishness, Wacquant’s piece also contains numerous astute observations about his fellow ethnographers’ wishful thinking. Example:
Duneier asserts that the ethnic variety of buyers “gives a good sense of the wide-ranging impact a book vendor can have on the lives of many people on the street” (Sidewalk, p.25; emphasis added) but, again, there is no evidence that they do have an impact on any of them. Thus the moral salience and cultural sponsorship thesis of the book is unsubstantiated and rests entirely on a continual confusion between sociability and solidarity, cordiality and cohesion (as when Duneier asserts that “sidewalk life still provides strangers with a source of solidarity”; SW, p. 293). As for the notion that “there is no substitute for the power of the informal social relations that constitute a wholesome sidewalk” (SW, p. 42), it is simply fanciful: cities and neighborhoods without sidewalk vendors have not for that reason plunged into moral strife and social chaos.