Before I came to law school I was obsessed with that the "typical law school day" looked like. I wanted students to give me a breakdown of their time in six minute intervals. No one did, but lots of internet people were like I SPEND LITERALLY 900 HOURS PER WEEK STUDYING AND I AM IN THE TOP 10% OF MY CLASS AT A T15 SCHOOL. And then I got to law school, promptly forgot what my school is ranked (thank god, because I'm pretty sure our ranking fell by like 80 points during my first year) and spent ALL MY TIME STUDYING but also napping and learning that it takes a long time to walk places instead of drive. (Hi, Boston!)
And despite the popular motto (1L- Scare you to death; 2L - Work you to death; 3L- Bore you to death) so far my last year of law school is not living up to its reputation. I am not bored, and also really fucking busy. Today is a typical Monday. I got up at six, cuddled with the kitten and walked to school in the rain and spent the rest of the day thinking about neoliberalism. Typical.
I got into the clinic office around 7:15. Luckily my girlfriend makes me coffee to bring, but I did stop for a bagel from the weird and amazing fried chicken food trailer next to the law school. By 7:30 I was working on researching my clinic case, annoyed that I needed to call a county office in a different time zone that wouldn’t be open for a few more hours.
As this posts, I am in my only class for today -- Law and Economic Development. Today is Heterodox Economists day and I am having flashbacks to undergrad when “neoliberalism” was blamed by students for everything. Dog ran away? Neoliberalism. College-wide budget cuts? Neoliberalism. Bad cup of coffee from the cafe? Soooo neoliberal. Can’t find a good outfit to wear? Neoliberalism.
I’m pretty sure our college motto was “neoliberalism is someone else’s utopia,” which was supposed to remind us that if only we created our own utopia maybe we could live in a world in which no one ever had to say the world neoliberalism ever again. Don’t get me wrong -- I am not a fan of neoliberal ideology. I think it is de facto racist and has ruined real lives in real tangible ways. But I don’t necessarily think it caused any dogs to run away. I should be clear that it was much more of a collective over enthusiasm among students to find neoliberalism around us, like a Where’s Waldo puzzle featuring Margaret Thatcher in a striped shirt, rather than any miseducation on the part of our professors. We were just very earnest and enthusiastic in our learning.
Needless to say, after modeling essentially my entire undergraduate career on trying to dig my way out of neoliberal hell, I was surprised when on the second day of my law and economics class when my professor told us neoliberalism ended in the 80’s. I’m not sure where exactly that puts us now, but I don’t think we have transcended neoliberalism, even if its more explicit measures have fallen slightly out of favor in the international development context.
I used “neoliberalism” as a buzzword for at least a year before I had any idea that it related to actual economic development policies and not just kind of amorphous conservative things. And then last year I went to a conference at Harvard on remaking the idea of property in the face of neoliberal ideology. My old property professor was speaking, and during the last panel when people’s questions were all over the place, she asked simply, “how are you defining neoliberalism?” and none of the answers given touched on really any sort of economic liberalization at all and instead seemed to focus on interpersonal relationships and individual property rights in the United States. So neoliberalism is dead and none of us know what it is.
The best way I've ever seen it explained is here, if you're curious and like water balloons.
Anyway, the fact that my flats absorbed like a pound of water each on my walk to school and now are squeaking with every step I take? Soooo neoliberal. Me spending the rest of the day reading about Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers and HIV/AIDs litigation for my International Health Law class tomorrow? Actually neoliberal.
Typical neoliberal life of a law student.