twiix wrote:isn't neoliberal just an economic view? I could be 100% wrong, so feel free to roast me if I am, but I thought it was typically just used as a descriptor of extreme deregulated markets, opposite of communism, or entirely state-planned economy.
It's a fraught term because it has wildly different connotations in different places, but I imagine that people who self-identify as neoliberal are unified by the following:
Utilitarianism and (scientific) empiricism. Polices are good or bad to the extent that they demonstrably help or hurt people. Most neoliberals are fans of things like human rights and the rule of law, but that might be explained by the fact that defending human rights and the rule of law tends to produce good outcomes. Neoliberals are, conversely, deeply skeptical of ideologically-motivated programmes with poor track records, such as economic isolationism and socialism. I'd say the extreme right wing of neoliberalism is defined by market advocates and Monetarists like Milton Friedman, whereas the extreme left wing is held down by advocates of Nordic-style systems (still thoroughly capitalistic but with a greater appetite for taxation and industrial policy).
This outlook is important because the reasons why
neoliberals support liberalism has wide-ranging effects on the sorts of economic and social policies they support. Not really because "the freer the market, the freer the people", or any sort of values-based drive like that, but because market economies consistently produce the best outcomes. This ideological difference from libertarians, to the right, means that neoliberals are much more likely to support government intervention in order to internalize negative externalities and otherwise align economic actors' interests with society at large. A similar ideological gap from collectivists, to the left, means that neoliberals are relatively quite tolerant of private wealth, and of the commanding heights of the economy being controlled by private actors as opposed to the government, so long as everyone plays by the rules.
There has certainly been a shift in the past few decades towards being less apathetic about social issues (as opposed to the old-school neoliberalism of, say, Thatcher, which held that opening up economic opportunities and generally making people better-off would be sufficient for social harmony.) There are a number of reasons for this, but I think the biggest is recent economic research that has laid bare the depth and breadth of problems like racism and sexism that were easier to sweep under the rug in the past. There has been a similar shift on environmental issues because of the unique danger posed by climate change.
Because they are defined by pragmatism more than anything else, neoliberals catch a lot of hate from ideologically-driven groups like environmentalists, conservatives, Marxists, etc., who perceive neoliberalism (liberalism in general, really) as heartless, mercenary, or fake in some proportion. Current world leaders that I would describe as neoliberal include Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. The most neoliberal figures in American politics today would include establishment Democrats like Obama and Clinton as well as moderate Republicans like Kasich and Huntsman, although the latter group are hobbled greatly by their party's values-based approach to issues like climate change and gay marriage.