The Moral Dimensions of Neoliberalism


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The ideology of neoliberalism has been a misery to many people because it has been argued that this economic concept has models that are similar to capitalist ideology. David. P. Pierson, the author of “Breaking neoliberal? Contemporary neoliberal discourses And policies in AMC’s breaking bad” argues that neoliberal policies and discourses that are detrimental to politics and society are embodied in the Breaking Bad TV series. I support Pierson that neoliberal policies and discourses mean more harm than good to social-politic and economy which this paper looks forward to analyzing the moral dimensions of neoliberalism, how this economic ideology prioritizes profits over social ethics and how its discourses about masculinity intersect with the Breaking Bad TV series.

Neoliberalism Definition

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According to Harvey (2005), neoliberalism is an ideology that proposes economic practices that are based on a free market, strong property right, free trade and non-interference from the government. Neoliberalism also argues that individuals can advance their life and entrepreneur skills if they are liberated within the institutional framework (Harvey 2005). Proponents of neoliberal ideology say that government should seek to free individuals rather than govern society regarding the management of property (Fevre 2016). In connection to that, the administration should also not impose regulations that are meant to impede economic activities. When it comes to neoliberalism, God-given talents to amass personal wealth as well as the ability to make a profit, outweigh the significance of politics and social relations (Fevre 2016). The supporters of liberalism seek to shrink and limiting the government so that it does not interfere with the individual’s ability to advance themselves. Contrary to neoliberalism ideology, the government does seek to channel resources to large corporations from citizens and public organizations to ensure even distribution of wealth.

Neoliberal stands for principles of individual responsibility and self-management. The economic market values such as competitiveness, efficiency and discipline should be embraced by individuals who seek to advance themselves politically, economically and socially. That being said, it is easier to deduce that community engagement is forgone and market forces dictate how individuals can further personal wealth as well as sustain self-interest. Proponents of neoliberalism shrewdly use the term “equal opportunity” to isolate sociopolitical conditions that may inhibit individuals that look forward to advancing themselves. For example, investors from prosperous countries take advantage of developing nations to set large corporations that will get cheap labor from locals of the host nations and take back the profit to their mother countries. When the less-advantaged countries try to introduce sociopolitical policies that see the locals benefit from the corporations set in their backyard, international investors cry-foul citing that they are being denied ” equal opportunity” that the free-market grants them.

Applications of Neoliberalism

Scholars of neoliberalism frequently like to think that tenets of neoliberalism apply mainly to macro social changes forgetting that the ideology is also applicable at the micro level. As mentioned earlier, neoliberalism emphasizes competition, self-interest, self-management as well as individual responsibility concerning free trade and the free market. However, the ideology also impacts material conditions regarding sexuality, race, and gender. For instance, the study argues that neoliberalism is a theory that affects not only public but also private, not only economics but also politics; not only the organizations that people have but also the institutions that people should have in future. The study further claims that neoliberal forces its market policies down into the throats of people; thus, affecting individuals’ everyday decisions of how they should live.

Having said that, neoliberalism is a concept that influences class, sexuality, social behavior, and race at the social-structural level. The concept is also viewed as highly gendered that influences material and quality of day-to-day life. Even though neoliberalism is not a concept that rule people on a universal level nor permeates every decision that individuals make, the concept, however, does have a material connection to gender, class, and race besides being manifested in various segments of life. There are various overlapping dynamics of how neoliberalism affects women’s material conditions. The first dynamic manifested by neoliberalism that affects women materialistically is the fact that women receive fewer salaries or wages than men, thereby, exposing them to changes that negatively affect working class and poor individuals in society.

People who are from minority groups such as LGBTQ, people of color as well as the economically-disadvantaged people get affected drastically when neoliberal government deregulates. The second, dynamic of neoliberalism that affects women materialistically is that women are habitually responsible for social reproduction and the unpaid work. Therefore, neoliberalism takes advantage of the appearance of the labor market of the worker besides assuming that wages and salary reflect the value of the performed work. The elite men do not want to do anything regarding the gender inequality manifested by neoliberalism because they are concerned with their privileges that assist them in amassing of wealth and success. Subsequently, neoliberalism propagates gender inequality that its proponents are not willing to address about it.

Morality and neoliberalism

It is hard to think that neoliberalism has nothing to do with morality while in reality, the ideology influences social life. According to Croteau and Hoynes (2006), neoliberal endeavor to promote market solutions influences social ethics. The study argued that markets are unprincipled because they do not make a judgment regarding what is bought and sold. Neoliberal market tenets do not give a distinction between the goods that are and good and harmful. The market does not prevent the production of child pornography does it have mechanisms to stop the sale of crack and cocaine. The report also argued how slavery that was practiced for nearly 250 years as an example of the morality of markets. If markets were concerned with the social-welfare, then slavery would not have thrived that long.

There were no tenets of the market that would have been against slavery. It took the intervention of government to stop the buying and selling of human beings. In fact, those that were involved in the selling and buying of slaves opposed the move for the government to stop slavery (Croteau and Hoynes 2006). It is in the record of history that the American Southerners who were supporting slavery engaged in a battle with the American Northerners that were against the practice of slavery. It is, therefore, unsound to argue that morality is not incorporated in the economic and social life approaches of neoliberal. Neoliberalism does affect the moral judgment of not only individuals but also, social groups and corporations.

Breaking Bad

Through Breaking Bad series, it will be demonstrated how masculinity in the series is related to entrepreneurship. “Breaking Bad” is a series that revolves around on Walter White as the character who is in the midst of a financial struggle. His financial problems are compounded further when he learns that he has lung cancer. He ponders on how to salvage himself from financial woes when all over a sudden he enlists a former scholar to help him produce methamphetamine to secure the future for his family after he is gone as well as cutting the mounting medical bills.


Neoliberalism primary goal is to create and encourage entrepreneurial initiatives. According to the report, an entrepreneur who is culturally coded as masculine is cherished more in the realm of neoliberalism. There are some cultural elements such as success, power, risk and materialism that entrepreneurs share with dominant masculinity. These traits of masculinity and entrepreneurship are propagated with the help of mainstream media resulting in everyone thinking that entrepreneurship world is a masculine space.

Pierson (2012) concedes that Walter White exhibits neoliberal principles throughout the series. The author says, “Walt exemplifies the tenets of neoliberal entrepreneurialism. He carefully weighs the risks and benefits of his strategic business actions…Walt’s primary concern is maximizing his profits and protecting them from the prying eyes of government officials (Pierson 2012).” Even though Pierson does illuminates how neoliberalism policies are embodied in the Breaking Bad series, he does not delve deep into the connection between neoliberalism and masculinity in the series. Thus, it is significant to elaborate further on Pierson’s observations from the perspective of the connection between masculinity and neoliberal principles.

Business and Violence

Walter demonstrates key points between neoliberalism and masculinity throughout the series as the central character, particularly regarding entrepreneurialism. As the series begins, Walter’s goal primary goal is to make money that can help in settling his medical bills and support the family. Initially, he does not show the intent of starting a business or committing violence. Neither does he want to be a player regarding the selling of meth. However, he becomes greedy as the series unfold (Pierson 2012). His dark side as a character is exuded when he is involved in a series of murder in “Cats in the Bag” episodes. In episode 2 of season one, Jesse and Walter are planning on how to execute Krazy-8 who was a threat to their business operations. Initially, Crazy-8 and his associate were poisoned by Walter, but Crazy-8 survived while his associate succumbed to poison. As a result of Krazy-8 surviving from poisoning, Walter and his partner in crime are pondering on how to eliminate Krazy-8 with finality.


Indeed, according to Pierson neoliberal policies are detrimental to society because the ideology seeks to promote selfish gains of individuals through a free market, free trade, and non-government interference. Neoliberalism has proved that it is more concerned with sacrificing the general welfare of society instead of individual success. Throughout the series of breaking bad, the central character has demonstrated how neoliberal ideology can be harmful to the society and welfare of people. Walter’s primary intention is to make just enough money that can cater to the needs of his family apart from covering medical bills, but not to be greedy and violent. Similarly, entrepreneurs begin with the intention of making just enough money, but neoliberal principles push them to want more than enough until they no longer care about the welfare of others.

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