The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2021
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Hardback: Fortress Press, 2021
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A historically- and theologically-seasoned work of social and cultural criticism, Naming Neoliberalism contends that “Neoliberalism” is itself an all-consuming ideology that lurks under the surface, behind the entirety of our ways of understanding the world (what Charles Taylor might term our “social imaginary”). As Christians who occupy various social locations in this culture, it is vital that we see this prevailing “spirit,” name its evils, and be freed from its grasp on our epistemology, moral reasoning, and ethics.
At times with a take-no-prisoners style, Clapp ruthlessly critiques cultural forces like atomized individualism, self-interest, economic scarcity, and universalized contractualism and competition, locating their current, specific manifestation as being sourced in Neoliberalism. On the influence of the so-called “Free Market,” for example, “We face a belligerent bottom line that invades all aspects or spheres of our existence” (102). “The market qua market exhibits moral idiocy . . . cigarettes are stocked adjacent to smoking-cessation aids . . . fertility pills are down the aisle from contraceptives” (108). However, while many similar works of cultural criticism are predominantly deconstructive, the task of identifying and defining Neoliberalism itself only occupies the first two chapters of the book, after which Clapp turns to the much more constructive task of proposing alternate visions to the constraining ones into which Neoliberalism currently has us locked. This forward-looking commitment– what Clapp repeatedly calls “freedom for” as opposed to merely “freedom from”– injects a compelling style to a project that could otherwise have lapsed into bleak cynicism.
- from our review by Joel Wentz
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