Article Review: Ayer and Saad-Filho’s "Democracy against Neoliberalism: Paradoxes, Limitations, Transcendence"

Comparing democracy and liberalism

Essay, 2019

5 Pages, Grade: A


Article Review: Ayer and Saad-Filho’s “Democracy against Neoliberalism: Paradoxes, Limitations, Transcendence”


Democracy and liberalism advocates for the protection of human rights and individual liberties. For instance, a democratic society offers a platform for people to grow through fair participation in economic, political and social activities thus enhancing their ability to have full control of their futures (Saad-Filho, 2010, p. 3). Based on the conventional model, some of the main elements of democracy include respecting the rule of law, conducting credible multiparty elections, good governance, market economy and pluralist civil society (Ayers and Saad-Filho, 2015, p. 598). On the other hand, neoliberalism is associated with the rise of the Weber-Schumpeter-Dahl model, which fused political, and market-oriented tendencies thus leading to illiberal policies in relation to personal, and civil liberties, privacy rights, and collective actions, among others. As a result, Biebricher (2015, p. 257) argued that neoliberalism is the cause of crises in democracy. That is, neoliberals use corrupted conventional tools of representation and public administration to push for self-interests (Ayers and Saad-Filho, 2015, p. 599). In this article, Ayers and Saad-Filho explained the concept of neoliberal democracy and highlighted its paradoxes, limitations, and transcendence. Therefore, in this essay, the author review and critique the findings of Ayers and Saad-Filho.

Review and Critique

The rise of neoliberalism has been cited as the defining moment in the complex relationship between liberalism and democracy. Weyland (2004, p. 141) argued that neoliberalism managed to enhance the sustainability of democracy but eroded its quality. This implies that people have been forced to maintain a democratic order at the expense of social equality. Neoliberalism has, therefore, laid bare the problem of democratic decision-making especially the representative form. There is a need for majority decisions to consider the position of the minority on policy issues. However, Biebricher (2015, p. 258) criticised the contemporary neoliberal political democracy as being complicated when it comes to consensus building on key issues such as resource allocation and the inclusion of members of the public on some deliberations. That is, a neoliberal political democracy ignores the views of the less powerful or the minority as the majority makes all the decisions. Similarly, Weyland (2004, p. 139) noted that this type of democracy was vulnerable to interests of capitalists and lobbyists which sometimes does not reflect the needs and expectations of the populace. In this case, neoliberalism is an ideology that promotes self interests over public needs.

Neoliberalism promotes the idea of free market mechanism thus providing people with greater choices and freedoms. Neoliberals argue that a merit-based system promotes competition hence providing equal opportunity for everyone to realize their full potential. Ayers and Saad-Filho (2015, p. 600) narrated that neoliberalism promoted a capitalist democracy. In a neoliberal society, production took place in privately-owned workplaces where few capitalists controlled labor processes. Contrastingly, Weyland (2004, p. 143) had rejected the notion that neoliberalism ideology was merit-based and that neoliberal political democracy was the best form of decision making. He noted that neoliberalism was nothing more than a struggle between the people and capitalists for the control of the state and expansion of political rights. For instance, people need greater liberties and respect for human rights while capitalists believe that curbing some of the rights and liberties of the people is necessary to realise market goals. In this regard, critics have argued that democracy from a neoliberal perspective is legitimization of capitalist exploitation, economic inequalities and social injustices (Biebricher, 2015, Weyland, 2004).

Neoliberalism has led to the alienation of working and low-class people from the political processes. The consequences of this are the lack of public institutions, which are willing to address the issue of social welfare as the society turns into a profit-oriented system (Saad-Filho, 2010, p. 5). In addition, neoliberal reforms imposed market imperatives and transferred the social resources allocation responsibilities to the market. These policies are sustained through a political democracy characterized by respect for the rule of law, independent central banks and debt relief and aid conditions. Similarly, Biebricher (2015, p. 257) reiterated that reversing neoliberal policies will be harder to reverse once introduced. In doing so, neoliberalism has made it even harder to introduce an alternative form of democracy as the logic of financial policy disciplines is already embedded within the nation’s institutional fabric.

Neoliberalism degrades political freedoms and corrodes political structures, which are necessary for a political system that values people’s rights and liberties. Neoliberalism prioritizes profits over social equality thus allowing for the dilution of accountability and facilitation of institutionalized intolerance. It led to the erosion of political legitimacy and demonstrated that ‘individual initiatives cannot counteract its socially regressive logic’ (Ayers and Saad-Filho, 2015, p. 608). Additionally, neoliberal policies have led to economic deregulations and globalization by dismantling the conventional systems of production and reducing the degree through which economic activities can be coordinated. In this regard, neoliberalism facilitated undesirable employment patterns and supported the concentration of incomes and wealth among a small group of people (Weyland, 2004, p. 143). As a result, neoliberalism has weakened economic growth and social welfare initiatives while fuelling unsustainable production and consumption patterns leading increased economic uncertainties and volatilities.


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Article Review: Ayer and Saad-Filho’s "Democracy against Neoliberalism: Paradoxes, Limitations, Transcendence"
Comparing democracy and liberalism
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article, transcendence, limitations, paradoxes, neoliberalism, democracy, saad-filho’s, ayer, review, comparing
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Difrine Madara (Author), 2019, Article Review: Ayer and Saad-Filho’s "Democracy against Neoliberalism: Paradoxes, Limitations, Transcendence", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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