Neoliberalism’s last breath: thinking politico-economic well-being during and beyond COVID-19, 92-99

Kiasha Naidoo


In this article, I discuss the concept and practice of “neoliberalism” in order to subsequently emphasise the ways in which the system lacks well-being – a concept used by Amartya Sen to discuss the capacity of individuals to pursue a meaningful life. This absence of systemic well-being restricts the capacity of the system to provide the capacity for well-being to its citizens. The failure of neoliberalism to both embody and deliver on its promise of maximised well-being is due to its unstable and paradoxical foundations, which have become even clearer in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These shortcomings result in the need for strong state action and yet limit the valuable choices available to states. Thereby indicating that the neoliberal politico-economic system lacks well-being. Subsequent to diagnosing neoliberalism as “unwell”, I will highlight how its underlying principles of individualism and meritocracy together form a model which is overly simplistic and thus cannot provide a justificatory framework for the action required during COVID-19 to recover the possibility of individual and social well-being. As the crisis peaks and falls, our “new normal” ought to be informed by rethinking freedom and the dichotomy of individualism and collectivism beyond neoliberal theorisations.        


COVID-19, neoliberalism, individualism, collectivism, well-being, meaningful life, state, meritocracy

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ISSN 2668-0009; ISSN-L 2668-0009