I am an American. In America, the term “neoliberal” is not used at all in common political conversation. I encounter it solely when speaking to people from other countries on the Internet. It seems to describe certain aspects of (at least claimed) “free-market” or “capitalist” ideology held by politicians that are disliked by the person using the term.

Unlike other “neo-” terms with which I am familiar (mainly “neoconservative”, as that is actually used in the United States by some people to identify themselves), I have never heard of a person or a movement that identifies themselves as “neoliberal”.

Has anyone ever used the term “neoliberal” to identify themselves? Is this word ever used non-pejoratively? Why are people who do not like what the “neoliberals” want so compelled to call them “neoliberal”?

  • My impression is that the pejorative use of the term neoliberalism really went mainstream after the financial crisis and with the rise of social media. Neoliberalism was (is?) basically the mainstream normative theory of economics.
    – Colin
    Jul 28, 2019 at 3:46
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    Another problem is also that in the US the term "liberal" is generally used quite differently than in Europe. What the US usually mean with "liberal" is social liberalism, in turn usually associated with the political Left. While the "liberal" in "neo-liberal" refers to economic liberalism, in turn more associated with the political Right. Maybe "libertarian" might be a more appropriate term there. So calling someone, be it yourself or someone else, "neo-liberal" might be quite confusing to the general public in the US. Oct 29, 2020 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


The Adam Smith Institute, a British think tank, describes itself as "neo-liberal".

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    That’s an interesting example because it seems like they’re trying to change the term from being pejorative.
    – Joe
    Jul 28, 2019 at 2:59
  • I read an academic article where the author suggested that the ASI was trolling, but I can't remember the reference (even after two weeks!).
    – Matthew
    Aug 10, 2019 at 22:01
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    Most of what the ASI does could be described as trolling, so it's possible. I think they'd call it being brave or thinking the unthinkable.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 7, 2022 at 10:10

I remember reading a Medium article in January about the neoliberal subreddit. The users proudly claim the term neoliberal; only half ironically. The article was Why Would Anyone Want to Be a Neoliberal? by Joshua Tait. Googling neoliberal subreddit turned up a few more articles, and of course you could poke around the subreddit itself (I tried and I really didn't get it).

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    That's an excellent article, though it describes something that is rather different from what most people now would describe as "neoliberalism." I am not at all convinced that those folks can reclaim the term, in part because it would have to involve getting people to use a different term for what people generally call "neoliberalism" today.
    – cjs
    Nov 5, 2022 at 2:45

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