The Deregulation Ethic and the Conscience of Capitalism: How the Neoliberal ‘Free Market’ Model Undermines Rationality and Moral Conduct

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Over the last few decades there have been a multitude of critical works focusing on the ethical and moral implications of the (re)turn to ‘free markets’ associated with neoliberalism. Many focus on the way in which the culture of the latter, with its lionisation of self interest, promotes selfishness and greed and, thus, represents a corrosive influence on social mores. This piece, while fully accepting such arguments, further asserts that the push for increasing deregulation of the economic sphere, the concomitant move to divest the latter of wider social responsibilities, as well as rising inequalities of wealth, power and influence, taken together exert a further significant but hitherto under acknowledged influence, exacerbating the asserted ‘irrationality’ and amorality of the neoliberal credo. Drawing on a range of sources, including new understandings of the individual emerging from the fledgling area of neurosociology, it is argued that all of the aforementioned aspects of neoliberalism coalesce to undermine the rationality, propriety and empathy of its adherents.
In some senses, as is argued, this represents an antithesis to the Weberian vision of rational
capitalism as imagined in the ‘Protestant Ethic'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-665
Number of pages15
Issue number5
Early online date16 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012



  • neoliberalism
  • rationality
  • deregulation
  • amorality
  • egoism
  • neurosociology

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