Democracy’s promise is that citizens hold the ultimate power in government. However, the ascension of neoliberal rationality, an economic rationality that focuses primarily on economic growth with political activity being secondary or merely instrumental to economic growth, acts as a threat to that promise. This paper offers a critical analysis of political participation in a democracy, using two theoretical frameworks, liberalism and neoliberalism. Based in these theoretical frameworks, it provides an analysis of how changes in individual conceptions of self have institutional effects on politics. Laying out the framework of neoliberalism, tracing its ideological roots in liberalism and its subsequent transformations in a United States context, I illustrate these effects through examples of court decisions, public statements by politicians, and newspaper reporting on corporate activity. I then offer two suggestions on how to mitigate neoliberalism’s dominance in the public sphere through an emphasis on a plurality of modes of reason. My primary research question is this: Has neoliberal rationality altered the motivations and actions associated with political participation in the United States, and how has this affected the vitality of democracy?


Weber, Désirée


Political Science


Political Theory


Neoliberalism, political participation, political theory, Marxism

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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