Knowledge at work : Some neoliberal anachronisms
With a predilection for market solutions, neoliberalism upholds that the individual is generally the best judge of his or her interests. Yet markets are never universally applied as a mechanism of allocation and there are reasons, in principle, why capitalism will always have ‘missing markets’. Concentrating on the application and appropriateness of neoliberal theory to the workplace, this essay argues that firms are not markets, despite some tendencies in modern theory to conflate the two. The employment contract is a key characteristic of modern firms, but neoliberal theory is often silent on the distinction between an employment contract and a contract for services, and largely ignores the asymmetrical rights of authority within contracts of employment. Furthermore, the social nature of knowledge represents a challenge to neoliberal theory and policy, because it sometimes makes it more difficult to define individual property rights. Accordingly, with the growth of the knowledge economy, neoliberalism to some extent is an anachronism.