The Managerial Lineages of Neoliberalism

Samuel Knafo, Sahil Jai Dutta, Richard Lane, Steffan Wyn-Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


ABSTRACTManagerialism is often depicted as a key practice of neoliberalism yet relatively little has been written by scholars of neoliberalism about the actual relationship between managerialism and neoliberalism. Usually subsumed under a functional reading of neoliberalism, managerialism has too often been understood simply as a means for neoliberal ends (i.e. to promote market rule or competition). This paper challenges this perspective on the grounds that it conflates practices that stem from two different historical lineages. As we show, managerial governance not only has a very different history than neoliberal theory, but it also rests on different principles. Its development can be traced back to the US defence sector in the 1950s and the pivotal role of the RAND Corporation. On the basis of this historical perspective, we argue for the need to analyse managerialism on its own terms and make the case for considering the rise of managerial science as a paradigmatic shift in governance. In doing so, we show how managerial governance represented a radical rupture from previous management practices and show how it profoundly reshaped how we have come to understand governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-251
Number of pages17
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Neoliberalism
  • New Public Management
  • governmentality
  • governance
  • RAND Corporation


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