Beyond neoliberalism

We all have beliefs that guide us. Guiding beliefs are shared explicitly or implicitly at the organizations we work. When a belief system is generally accepted by society it is called an orthodoxy. According to the Cambridge Dictionary: “The current economic orthodoxy is of a free market and unregulated trade.”

Because it is generally accepted by society an orthodoxy provides a background that is usually not explicitly referenced when taking decisions. It is usually taken for granted. The orthodoxy provides a stable context and that is valuable when evaluating options, making decisions, and executing them. Orientation without orthodoxies is difficult. 

However, reality is always more complex than an orthodoxy. The beliefs of the orthodoxy may become inconsistent with observed reality over time or may miss out on important new risks. Thus, an orthodoxy may hit its “expiration date”.

My key observation is that there are many signs that neoliberalism is now hitting its expiration date. That means business and political leaders can no longer simply rely on the general acceptance of neoliberal premises. We are entering a phase beyond neoliberalism.

As it is not clear at this point in time which beliefs will constitute a new orthodoxy beyond neoliberalism, the key question I want to address is what should business leaders do in the transition?

I am arguing for a pragmatic way forward with the help of elementary heuristics that business leaders can use as anchors in the transition without falling into the trap of ideological polarization.

The lecture was given at the HHL Doctoral Summer School 2019 on Growth vs. Sustainability on 2 July 2019.