Jessica Whyte - The Morals of the Market - Australian Fabians

Jessica Whyte - The Morals of the Market

Thursday - 18 June, 2020 - 06:30 PM

Online via Zoom -

Please join us for the next NSW Fabians event of 2020 which will be held online via Zoom at this link:

Note date change, this event was originally scheduled for June 11th.

Why did the rise of human rights language in Anglo-American and European states in the 1970s coincide with the institutionalisation of neoliberalism? And why has the neoliberal age also been the age of human rights? Jessica Whyte will address these questions and introduce her new book, The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism (Verso, 2019).

Drawing on detailed archival research on the parallel histories of human rights and neoliberalism from the 1940s onwards, the book uncovers the place of human rights in neoliberal attempts to develop a moral framework for a market society. In the wake of World War Two, early neoliberal thinkers saw demands for new rights to social welfare and self-determination as threats not only to rational economics but also to the moral and political order of ‘Western civilization’. Yet, rather than rejecting rights, they developed a distinctive account of human rights as tools to depoliticize civil society, protect private investments and shape liberal subjects. Homing in on neoliberal political thought, the book shows that the neoliberals developed a stark dichotomy between politics, conceived as coercive, violent, and totalitarian and civil society, which they depicted as a realm of mutually-beneficial, voluntary, market relations between individual subjects of rights. In mobilizing human rights to provide a moral language for a market society, the book argues that neoliberals contributed far more than is often realized to today’s politics of human rights.


Jessica Whyte is Scientia Fellow (Philosophy and Law) and Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of New South Wales. She is author of Catastrophe and Redemption: The Political Thought of Giorgio Agamben, (SUNY 2013) and The Morals of the Market: Human Rights and the Rise of Neoliberalism (Verso, 2019) and an editor of Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development.

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