Neoliberalism refers primarily to the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. These include extensive economic liberalization policies such as privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society. These market-based ideas and the policies they inspired constitute a paradigm shift away from the post-war Keynesian consensus which lasted from 1945 to 1980.
The term has been used in English since the start of the 20th century with different meanings, but became more prevalent in its current meaning in the 1970s and 1980s by scholars in a wide variety of social sciences, as well as being used by critics. Modern advocates of free market policies avoid the term "neoliberal" and some scholars have described the term as meaning different things to different people, as neoliberalism "mutated" into geopolitically distinct hybrids as it travelled around the world. As such, neoliberalism shares many attributes with other contested concepts, including democracy.
When the term was reintroduced in the 1980s in connection with Augusto Pinochet's economic reforms in Chile, the usage of the term had shifted. It had not only become a term with negative connotations employed principally by critics of market reform, but it also had shifted in meaning from a moderate form of liberalism to a more radical and laissez-faire capitalist set of ideas. Scholars now tended to associate it with the theories of economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, along with politicians and policy-makers such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Alan Greenspan. Once the new meaning of neoliberalism was established as a common usage among Spanish-speaking scholars, it diffused into the English-language study of political economy. By 1994, with the passage of NAFTA and the Zapatistas reaction to this development in Chiapas, the term entered global circulation. Scholarship on the phenomenon of neoliberalism has been growing. The impact of the global 2008–2009 crisis has also given rise to new scholarship that critiques neoliberalism and seeks developmental alternatives.
- Campbell Jones, Martin Parker, Rene Ten Bos (2005). For Business Ethics. Routledge. ISBN 0415311357. p. 100:
- "Neoliberalism represents a set of ideas that caught on from the mid to late 1970s, and are famously associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States following their elections in 1979 and 1981. The 'neo' part of neoliberalism indicates that there is something new about it, suggesting that it is an updated version of older ideas about 'liberal economics' which has long argued that markets should be free from intervention by the state. In its simplest version, it reads: markets good, government bad."
- Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy (2004). Capital Resurgent: Roots of the Neoliberal Revolution. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674011589 Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- Jonathan Arac in Peter A. Hall and Michèle Lamont in Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era (2013) pp xvi–xvii
- The term is generally used by those who oppose it. People do not call themselves neoliberal; instead, they tag their enemies with the term.
- Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
- "Neo-Liberal Ideas". World Health Organization.
- Thomas I. Palley (May 5, 2004). From Keynesianism to Neoliberalism: Shifting Paradigms in Economics. Foreign Policy in Focus. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
- Vincent, Andrew. Modern Political Ideologies. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 339. ISBN 978-1405154956. https://books.google.com/books?id=igrwb3rsOOUC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA339#v=onepage&q&f=false.
- Taylor C. Boas, Jordan Gans-Morse (June 2009). "Neoliberalism: From New Liberal Philosophy to Anti-Liberal Slogan". Studies in Comparative International Development 44 (2): 137–161. doi:10.1007/s12116-009-9040-5. ""Neoliberalism has rapidly become an academic catchphrase. From only a handful of mentions in the 1980s, use of the term has exploded during the past two decades, appearing in nearly 1,000 academic articles annually between 2002 and 2005. Neoliberalism is now a predominant concept in scholarly writing on development and political economy, far outpacing related terms such as monetarism, neoconservatism, the Washington Consensus, and even market reform."".
- Springer, Simon; Birch, Kean; MacLeavy, Julie, eds (2016). The Handbook of Neoliberalism. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 978-1138844001. https://www.routledge.com/The-Handbook-of-Neoliberalism/Springer-Birch-MacLeavy/p/book/9781138844001. ""Neoliberalism is easily one of the most powerful concepts to emerge within the social sciences in the last two decades, and the number of scholars who write about this dynamic and unfolding process of socio-spatial transformation is astonishing.""
- Noel Castree (2013). A Dictionary of Human Geography. Oxford University Press. p. 339. https://books.google.com/books?id=eYWcAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA339. ""'Neoliberalism' is very much a critics term: it is virtually never used by those whom the critics describe as neoliberals.""
- Daniel Stedman Jones (21 July 2014). Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. Princeton University Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4008-5183-6. https://books.google.com/books?id=cMs0AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA13. ""Friedman and Hayek are identified as the original thinkers and Thatcher and Reagan as the archetypal politicians of Western neoliberalism. Neoliberalism here has a pejorative connotation.""
- Rowden, Rick (2016-07-06). "The IMF Confronts Its N-Word". https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/07/06/the-imf-confronts-its-n-word-neoliberalism/.
- Springer, Simon; Birch, Kean; MacLeavy, Julie, eds (2016). The Handbook of Neoliberalism. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 978-1138844001. https://www.routledge.com/The-Handbook-of-Neoliberalism/Springer-Birch-MacLeavy/p/book/9781138844001. "Neoliberalism is a slippery concept, meaning different things to different people. Scholars have examined the relationships between neoliberalism and a vast array of conceptual categories."
- "Student heaps abuse on professor in ‘neoliberalism’ row" (in en). http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/student-heaps-abuse-on-professor-in-row-over-neoliberalism-27pvhbfnp. ""Colin Talbot, a professor at Manchester University, recently wrote it was such a broad term as to be meaningless and few people ever admitted to being neoliberals""
- Springer, Simon; Birch, Kean; MacLeavy, Julie, eds (2016). The Handbook of Neoliberalism. Routledge. p. 3. ISBN 978-1138844001. https://www.routledge.com/The-Handbook-of-Neoliberalism/Springer-Birch-MacLeavy/p/book/9781138844001.
- Pradella, Lucia; Marois, Thomas (2015). Polarising Development: Alternatives to Neoliberalism and the Crisis. United Kingdom: Pluto Press. pp. 1–11. ISBN 978 0 7453 3469 1. http://www.academia.edu/9680429/Polarising_Development_Introducing_Alternatives_to_Neoliberalism_and_the_Crisis.