From Market to Contract: What Do Corporate Governance and Contract Law Contribute to the Analysis of Neoliberalism?

  • Kean BirchEmail author


Today, most economic activity takes place inside for-profit economic organizations, especially large multinational enterprises. For some reason, neoliberalism sits very comfortably alongside the growth of these large, usually monopolistic, corporations and the concentration of market power they entail. Analytically, normatively and politically this should not be the case, at least according to dominant understandings and representations of neoliberalism. Neoliberals and their critics usually highlight the expansion, insertion and dominance of markets and market thinking as the defining feature of neoliberal restructuring, implying that corporate monopoly and market concentration should be anathema to our supposedly neoliberal age. That was the case in the early to mid-twentieth century when neoliberals, of whatever school, seemed entirely antagonistic towards both (Birch 2017). However, historical work by van Horn (2009, 2011) and van Horn and Mirowski (2009) shows how neoliberals—primarily of the Chicago School—ended up changing their position during the 1950s and 1960s until they largely theorized away any problems with monopoly.



This chapter is based on my article, Birch, K. (2016) Market vs. Contract? The Implications of Contractual Theories of Corporate Governance to the Analysis of Neoliberalism. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, 16(1): 107–133. Thanks to Simon Dawes for his editorial assistance.


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

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