Neo- and Post-

by John Q on June 6, 2011

At afternoon tea today, one of my colleagues raised the point that, particularly in Europe, the prefix neo- is automatically taken to be pejorative, with neo-liberal as the obvious illustration. It struck us that the corresponding, positively weighted prefix is post- , as in post-Keynesian, post-Communist and so on. [1]

My thought on this is it reflects an underlying progressivist assumption, shared even by many people who would reject explicit claims about historical progress. Given this assumption “post-X” is good, since it represents an advance on X, while “neo-X” is bad since it represents a reversion to X, implying the existence of some Y which must be post-X.

Feel free to provide counterexamples, contrary explanations and so on

fn1. The exception that proves the rule is post-modern, which is now often pejorative, but was entirely positive when it was coined.



Andrew 06.06.11 at 7:35 am

A great example is the framing of the resurgence of religion as “post-secularism” rather than “neo-religiosity.”


John Holbo 06.06.11 at 7:43 am

In “The Matrix” Neo is good, but turns out to be a reversion to something that has existed several times before. So I’ll give you half a point for that one.


Neville Morley 06.06.11 at 7:46 am

I’ve been trying to think of examples where most of the work is indeed being done by the prefix, rather than the meaning being determined primarily by the associations of the main word – and hence its positive or negative charge coming from different evaluations of the concept or phenomenon. In one tradition of aesthetic practice, for example, both neo-classical and post-classical are bad, since both represent deviation from the truly classical, but neo-classical is definitely preferable (I should emphasise that I personally can’t stand it, but this is a common enough view).

Even restricting discussion to contemporary discource, ‘post-feminist’ makes me grind my teeth and mutter, but for plenty of deluded people this appears to be a basically good thing. In terms of ideas of historical development in political theory, presumably a lot depends on whether you regard a particular position as having continued validity (so the implicit claim that we’re past it is problematic and ideological, and we’d be in favour of reverting to it) or as being pernicious and/or defunct.

The emphasis in Andrew’s rather good example is on the idea that secularism was an unfortunate phase that we’ve now grown out of – returning to religion as it always has been rather than religion as something that needs reinvention.


bad Jim 06.06.11 at 8:00 am

It depends on whether X is considered good or bad: feudalism, fascism, communism, modernism, minimalism.

Neoclassical and postclassical are nearly equivalent. It’s difficult to gauge the appeal of post-capitalism when it’s not in prospect. Is the difference between neo-romanticism and post-romanticism more than a smoke afterwards?


Phil 06.06.11 at 8:14 am

To me they both say “count the spoons”. “Post-X” is almost overtly facing two ways at once. It asserts that plain ordinary X has been superseded, but doesn’t give any clues to what by (Ernesto Laclau, Alan Johnson and Alfred Sherman can all be called ‘post-Marxist’, at least in lifecourse terms). At the same time, it relies on evoking X as a source of value – better to be a post-Marxist than never to be Marxist at all. “Neo-X” does something similar with a slightly different emphasis – as if it’s important to preserve the value represented by X, but also to replace the content of X with something new. All very Hegelian I guess, but in a rather arbitrary and solipsistic way.

As for why two very similar obfuscatory strategies get different receptions, I suspect it’s partly the contingency that the “post-” prefix has been applied to things that people on the Left sympathise with but find a bit difficult, while “neo-” has been applied to things that people on the Right have similar conflicted feelings about. Or perhaps that’s actually an effect of the ‘progressive’/’reactionary’ overtones identified in the OP.


krhasan 06.06.11 at 8:17 am

“Neo” is a reversion to the past, albeit with some modification or updating, whereas “post” implies something new, moving beyond.


Henri Vieuxtemps 06.06.11 at 8:31 am

Post-apocalyptic world you see in the movies is usually not that great.


NomadUK 06.06.11 at 8:36 am

It’s not clear that a neo-apocalyptic world would be much better.


Akshay 06.06.11 at 8:46 am

I have heard “Neofeminism” used to designate a religiously inspired return to traditional ideals of womanhood. “Postfeminism” would have been more accurate, but I suppose was intentionally not used in order to rhetorically imply amity with ideals of female ‘equality’. See Phil@4: [Hegel X Orwell?]

If you are a heterodox economist, New Keynesianism might be another Orwellian coinage of what would be better called Post-Keynesianism. Post-Keynesians, who might have been happier to call themselves Neo-Keynesians, then had to pick “post” since the “new/neo” tag had been taken.


Daniel 06.06.11 at 8:52 am

I think I’d rather live in a neo-industrial urban region than a post-industrial one.


deliasmith 06.06.11 at 8:53 am

As an editor: what about the hyphen?
Always ‘postmodern’, surely, and ‘neoliberal’; always ‘post-Keynesian’, though.
The hyphen adds a certain respectable, lace-curtain tone: the post-war settlement – NHS, social housing … whereas in the American paleopathology text I am working on, postmortem is the word – very CSI.
And don’t get me started on capitals: Pre-Columbian is not the same as pre-Columbian.


John Holbo 06.06.11 at 9:01 am

“To me they both say “count the spoons”.”

Neo: “There is no spoon!”


Alex 06.06.11 at 9:02 am

Italy has a political party (the Northern League) that can be characterised as either post-fascist or neo-fascist, depending on whether you support it or not. In fact it’s probably true to say that it is both, and that its supporters hope it offers the good bits of fascism while its opponents fear it is actually just a return to fascism.


John Holbo 06.06.11 at 9:04 am

Neo-Hegelianism was, I think, a non-pejorative usage, when it was a usage:

I think I do overall agree that neo tends to be bad and post good.


Alex 06.06.11 at 9:21 am

[Further comment withdrawn in the interests of my blog]


Henri Vieuxtemps 06.06.11 at 9:31 am

How’s Lega Nord fascist? It is racist and xenophobic, but it’s also anti-statist, anti-corporatist, libertarian. A garden variety populist response to globalization.


Jack Strocchi 06.06.11 at 9:49 am

Pr Q said:

the prefix neo- is automatically taken to be pejorative

Not automatically, it took time for neo- chickens to come home to roost. Neo-conservative and neo-liberal were both okay in the beginning until the later disciples went and spoiled it all. All intellectual doctrines undergo this progressive degeneration. eg je ne suis pas Marxiste.

Neo-classical economics is neutral to positive. Not to piss in his pocket, but one of the charms of Pr Q’s work is that he manages to turn neo-classical economics into somewhat bolshie political ethics. Marx did much the same thing to classical economics.

Its a satisfying bit of intellectual ju-jitsu to perform a reductio ad ratio, turning the adversary’s first principles onto him.


Alex 06.06.11 at 10:23 am

@18: Ah, I was thinking of the Alleanza Nazionale, but I confused two bunches of contemptible apologists.


ajay 06.06.11 at 10:41 am

Neo-Darwinism – the ‘modern synthesis’ of natural selection and Mendelian genetics – is positive.
And I think that if you describe, say, a public building or city centre in Britain as “post-war” it warns visitors to prepare for the worst.


Brett Bellmore 06.06.11 at 11:05 am

Geeze, do I have to be the one to say this? Taken as pejorative by whom? You’re looking for an explanation for what you take to be a universal phenomenon, when all you’re doing is revealing that you hang out with like-minded people…


Alex Gregory 06.06.11 at 11:09 am

Here’s a guess: ‘Neo-X’ sounds too much like trying to do two things at once, being both completely new and a version of X (cf. “new and improved!”). ‘Post-X’ on the other hand indicates that what we’ve got is something that builds on X, but which isn’t itself a kind of X at all.


Andrew F. 06.06.11 at 11:50 am

A search for neo* at the site returned 42,200 results (excluding some categories of irrelevant results). Some of these are still irrelevant, but most are not. They range from neo-aramaic to neo-zionism, and include words like neocerebellum, neo-thomism, neonatal, neo-nazi, and neonomian.

I’d suggest then that it’s simply a few salient neo words that have a pejorative connotation for you (e.g. neoconservative) and that this is not significantly ascribable to the prefix.


Phil 06.06.11 at 12:13 pm

The whole of Italian politics is post-Fascist, apart from the very small area with a credible claim to be post-Resistance. The MSI, AN’s precursor, was crypto-neo-Fascist, but AN in its current form is quite definitely post-crypto-neo-Fascist (Fini denouncing Fascism tout court as “absolute evil” should have been a clue). Genealogy apart, the Lega fits much more comfortably into the contemporary European quasi-Fascist family.


bert 06.06.11 at 12:26 pm

This strikes me as easier than you’re making it.
Post means “after”. It’s different in some unspecified way from what preceded it. Obviously, if it was in no way different, you wouldn’t need the ‘post-‘ bit at all. Beyond that, it makes no other claim. Any value weighting, positive or negative, comes from usage.
Neo means “new”. It’s a revised version of what preceded it. Obviously it too differs in some unspecified way, otherwise the ‘neo-‘ bit would be unnecessary. But by default, it inherits the content and value weightings of its predecessor (these, too, acquired from usage).

For example, “post-communism” differs from communism in a very different way than “neo-fascism” differs from fascism.



bert 06.06.11 at 12:40 pm

Hang on, there is one claim that’s involved when you attach ‘post-‘ to something. It’s that what follows the hyphen belongs to the past. However, that doesn’t affect what I wrote a few minutes ago, seems to me.


Lemuel Pitkin 06.06.11 at 1:20 pm

It’s kind of a relief that it took a full 23 comments for someone to make the (neo-)autistic argument that human languages are just like computer languages. Connotation? Never heard of it. Usedto be on the Internet that would happen much quicker.

Also, Delia @11 says post-Keynesian always takes a hyphen, but it doesn’t. Matter of fact, Paul Davidson, editor of the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, is quite insistent on “Post Keynesian” – two caps, no hyphen.


Empty inbox 06.06.11 at 2:21 pm

All I can say is that Paul Davidson, then, is no editor.

I mean, consider the statement “X is a second class post Keynesian”


william u. 06.06.11 at 2:24 pm

Neo-Keynesian is now old (paleo-?), while the Post Keynesians purport to be Keynes-ier than the New Keynesians.

Meanwhile, I’ve taken to call myself a Post-Christian, both for the LOLz, and as ‘atheist’ now carries Harris-Dawkins Internet Brigade associations.


chris y 06.06.11 at 2:36 pm

I mean, consider the statement “X is a second class post Keynesian”

An advocate of active fiscal policy who takes a few days to get there?


hix 06.06.11 at 3:26 pm

At least in Germany, neoliberal is not always used prejorative. Most of the time yes, not always.


Matt McIrvin 06.06.11 at 3:53 pm

For a while during the Bush years, I saw “neocon” used by some American liberals as a pejorative term for all conservatives, including Moral Majority types who weren’t particularly neocons by any previous definition.

I always assumed that pejorative “neo” came from “neo-Nazi”. But in this case, the expansion of “neocon” probably came from the prominent role neocons had in Bush war policy.


Matt McIrvin 06.06.11 at 3:56 pm

How’s Lega Nord fascist?

I kept reading that as “Nega Lord” which would be an awesome name for somebody.


Dave Maier 06.06.11 at 4:23 pm

“Neopragmatist” is positive, negative, or neutral depending on how the writer feels about Richard Rorty.

In music, “post-classical” and “neoclassical” have interesting uses (there are others, as mentioned above). “Post-classical” means something like “eclectic downtown types like Meredith Monk or the Bang on a Can guys” (not Jon Hassell, who is eclectic but not downtown enough, unless you mean his string quartet). I’ve seen “neoclassical” used to mean “ambient music with lots of strings and especially piano” like Max Richter or Goldmund. Both are fairly neutral to vaguely positive.


Herman 06.06.11 at 4:28 pm

One could argue that neo-aestheticism might be preferred to post-aestheticism…


Bruce Wilder 06.06.11 at 4:43 pm

I’ll give a shoutout to Stirling Newberry’s partially opaque take on this:

If there is something to the cycles of history thing, then certainly, living in the post-WWII world, more than 60 years after, is straining our collective vocabulary for ideas and movements. Ditto for living in the 250th year of the industrial revolution (dating from the opening of the Bridgewater Canal, which halved the cost of coal to central Manchester). Even as the accelerating computer/communications revolution wipes out iconic institutions and artifacts at a more rapid pace than the 19th created them, we’re having a bit more difficulty than our 19th century ancestors optimistically peering into the future.


Lemuel Pitkin 06.06.11 at 6:28 pm

Even as the accelerating computer/communications revolution wipes out iconic institutions and artifacts at a more rapid pace than the 19th created them

Do you really think that’s true? Really?


geo 06.06.11 at 6:44 pm

krhasan @6: “post” implies something new, moving beyond.

How about “post-consumer waste”?


Salient 06.06.11 at 7:06 pm

How about “post-consumer waste”?

That’s an anagram for “true news as compost”


mds 06.06.11 at 7:14 pm

Genealogy apart, the Lega fits much more comfortably into the contemporary European quasi-Fascist family.

Except that as Mr. Vieuxtemps points out @ 16, Lega Nord isn’t particularly fascist, merely a party seeking to gain political power by appeals to racism, xenophobia, and populism against sinister international economic elites. On the other hand, their apparent goal is the dismantlement of Italy, which would be more New Holy Roman Empire than New Roman Empire.

Anyway, how does neopaganism / neo-paganism fit? Certainly, I use it pejoratively, but that’s mainly a tone of voice thing, as I believe practitioners also embrace the term.

“true news as compost”: virtual kisses for Salient, as usual.


AntiAlias 06.06.11 at 7:30 pm

Not that I like nuclear, but post-nuclear sucks big time.


spyder 06.06.11 at 7:58 pm

In the early 80s, I described my students at functionally post-literate; that was before 4G cellphones with 200k apps. Now I would suggest they are neo-literate; not necessarily a bad thing, but not all that good either.


geo 06.06.11 at 8:43 pm

If you make up a word after dinner, it’s a post-prandial neologism.


Henri Vieuxtemps 06.06.11 at 8:49 pm

I’m glad we agree that there’s more than one way to be a xenophobic populist, mds.


AntiAlias 06.06.11 at 9:05 pm

@ 39:

That would be post-Italian or neo-Roman?


geo 06.06.11 at 9:05 pm

Cavemen on vacation sent Neolithic postcards.


Greg B 06.06.11 at 9:09 pm

If we’re playing the anagram game, neo- and post- combine harmodiously:
One-Stop-Marxism, anyone?


Philip 06.06.11 at 9:51 pm

What Bert said at 24 but ISTM ‘neo’ is used as a prefix more on the right and ‘post’ more on the left. Maybe ‘neo’ is more conservative and suggests incremental development and ‘post’ suggests a more radical change.


geo 06.06.11 at 11:16 pm

Tous les eveques a la lanterne! updated = “Hang all hedge fund managers from neon lampposts!”


Yarrow 06.06.11 at 11:45 pm

mds @ 39: how does neopaganism / neo-paganism fit? Certainly, I use it pejoratively, but that’s mainly a tone of voice thing, as I believe practitioners also embrace the term.

Yes, though we’re more likely to use “Pagan” than “Neopagan” (and some don’t like either word, not wanting to lump all of our various religions together). Post-Pagan would be an odd usage (for recent millennia) — I don’t think we’ve been around for sufficiently long this go round for post-Pagan to mean much.


mds 06.07.11 at 12:05 am

Post-Pagan would be an odd usage

Post-monotheist? Post-Technocratic-Union?


Castorp 06.07.11 at 12:23 am


Do you have even one example of a German using neo-liberal non-perjoratively? I have never heard it used that way there. I think the conventions basically the same, it is a word someone else uses to describe someone, not a word one uses to describe oneself. (Unless maybe ironically.)


Martin Bento 06.07.11 at 12:38 am

FWIW, I’ve always thought that “post” indicated that something had been superceded but was a necessary part of the background of the new thing. No postmodernism without modernism, post-Marxism without Marxism, that sort of thing. Behind this, an implicit notion that there was value in the superceded thing, but it no longer suffices for the new context. And an implicit historicism: we may no longer be structuralist, but poststructuralist theories emerge from a path that has crossed through structuralism. FWIW, I think this a bit of a cop-out, as it tends to leave aside discussion of what was or was not valid about the superceded thing, and just stipulate that it was great for its day, but this new day needs something else that still acknowledges the previous thing. It does give ideas an evolutionary history that provides richness, but it would also seem to impose a lot of path-dependence.


Myles 06.07.11 at 12:40 am

If you make up a word after dinner, it’s a post-prandial neologism.

That’s actually brilliant! Although still doesn’t match the Queen of Hearts.

Do you have even one example of a German using neo-liberal non-perjoratively?

Question: does this include FDP members? (I quite like the FDP when it comes to Germany.) They just call themselves Die Liberalen, but still.

Except that as Mr. Vieuxtemps points out @ 16, Lega Nord isn’t particularly fascist, merely a party seeking to gain political power by appeals to racism, xenophobia, and populism against sinister international economic elites.

I have heard very reputable people describe Berlusconi of all people as quasi-Fascist, which proves that the word fascism simply means “stuff I don’t like.”

And no video can be possibly better for this discussion than this:


Greg Hays 06.07.11 at 1:43 am

If you’re a Homeric scholar it’s okay to be a neo-analyst. (But if you’re an analyst they’ll all move away from you on the bench.)

What about “neoplatonism”?


Tony Lynch 06.07.11 at 2:31 am

You still have the time (& the place) for afternoon tea? Been gone from here (UNE) for at least 15 years…


John Quiggin 06.07.11 at 3:01 am

@55 We are very well set up here at UQ. The Faculty set up its own rooftop coffee shop in our building, which has been ranked as serving the best coffee on campus. I buy my own beans from them, and they do a great doppio espresso.

In my dialect “afternoon tea” means “any of the three or four trips downstairs* for coffee I take in a normal afternoon, with whoever I can rope in”

* Just to confuse everyone, the building layout is such that the rooftop cafe is downstairs relative to my office.


Substance McGravitas 06.07.11 at 3:10 am


Gene O'Grady 06.07.11 at 3:14 am

NeoPlatonism used to be an insult, not so much any more.

The story may be a cliche everyone knows, but apparently an Oxford classicist went against the grain ca. 1915 by offering a course on neoPlatonism, drawing only two students, one being E R Dodds, the other T S Eliot. I think Dodds little book on Select Documents Relating to NeoPlatonism of 1923 was the beginning of its intellectual respectability in the English speaking world.

Something similar has happened with Seneca in my own lifetime (justification: I have jokingly referred to myself as a neoStoic on occasion ); my Oxford trained undergraduate Latin professor basically refused to let him in our epistolography course, but now he’s both academically respectable and popular. A couple of years ago someone in the post office noticed I was carrying a volume of Seneca and gushed about him for five minutes.


bert 06.07.11 at 7:33 am

I don’t think the idea that words have meanings is necessarily autistic, Lemuel (#26).
Of course the intricacies of usage as applied in the wild may be what you find most interesting, and I would imagine John had that in mind when he wrote the original post. But I think you’ll struggle to get beyond general statements based on anecdotal evidence.
If you do manage to work up a sturdy typology, be sure and post it.
Until then, another example:
Very different.


Phil 06.07.11 at 7:39 am

mds and Henri – throughout the Lega’s tortuous history, racism, xenophobia and right-wing populist ressentiment have been absolutely consistent elements of its programme, and they’ve been rooted in a certain idea of nationality (a very largely insane idea, admittedly). The AN under Fini has officially repudiated racism and xenophobia, and only hits the populism button very sparingly – 90% of the time you could be listening to a right-wing Christian Democrat, or a particularly traditionalist Tory.

Which is why I said that, genealogy apart (I realise that the Lega doesn’t have neo-Fascist roots) the Lega fits much more comfortably (than the AN) into the contemporary European quasi-Fascist family (in terms of policies, and an overall political approach, which Le Penists, Fortuynites and Haiderians would feel comfortable with).


Phil 06.07.11 at 7:48 am

Gene – I read Seneca’s Tragedies (all of ’em) when I was preparing for Cambridge entrance (I’m not old enough to remember the compulsory Classics paper, but there was a compulsory language paper & I opted for Latin). I haven’t really given them a thought since, not even while I was at Cambridge. I remember them as dry, prolix and incredibly gory – there’s a description of reading the entrails of a calf that I couldn’t get out of my head for weeks. (Steam, he puts in the steam.) Does his return to favour extend to the dramatic works? It’d be great if I could get a paper out of him after all these years.


ajay 06.07.11 at 8:59 am

56: I buy my own beans from them, and they do a great doppio espresso.
In my dialect “afternoon tea” means “any of the three or four trips downstairs* for coffee I take in a normal afternoon

Secret of productivity there: three or four doppio espressos per afternoon. Wow. JQ is clearly a post-sleep philosopher.


Harald Korneliussen 06.07.11 at 12:07 pm

Akshay: “Even restricting discussion to contemporary discource, ‘post-feminist’ makes me grind my teeth and mutter, but for plenty of deluded people this appears to be a basically good thing. ”

Not all that many people, I would think. At least here in Norway, feminism is such a nice word that lately, just about all parties, including the Conservatives, are fighting over it, trying to define their gender-related policies as feminism.

(I’m not too unhappy about that. It’s certainly better than leaving the word in the hands of academia and the fringe left, where it seems its goodwill is wasted and it can do real damage.)

I think that whether post- or neo- is best, depends mostly on the word’s initial connotations, with the exception that in Hegel-inspired parts of academia, post- still has a good ring in itself.


Castorp 06.07.11 at 1:46 pm

They just call themselves Die Liberalen, but still.

Yeah, that is the point. “Liberal” is preferred by those agree with the FDP. For example, in today’s FAZ an analysis piece on Portugal’s elections calls Pedro Passos Coelho a “bürgerlich-liberale Sozialdemokrat.” Neo-liberal is pejorative in German too. Quiggin’s theory seems to hold there as well.


Zamfir 06.07.11 at 2:44 pm

Do we have example of political “neo” forms that predate the nice alliteration of neo-nazi? The older forms like neoclassical don’t seem nearly as negative in connotation.

If all political ‘neo’ forms derive directly or indirectly from the example of neo-nazi, there is a reasonable claim that the negative connotaion doesn’t come from neo itself. The negative connotation of “fucking [something]” doesn’t really come from negative views about fucking either.


Myles 06.07.11 at 3:15 pm

For example, in today’s FAZ an analysis piece on Portugal’s elections calls Pedro Passos Coelho a “bürgerlich-liberale Sozialdemokrat.”

Wait what is this? Civil-libertarian social democrat? (I don’t speak German.)


Matt Heath 06.07.11 at 3:32 pm

Castorp @64: Is referring to people one approves of as “bürgerlich” normal for German liberals?

Also calling Passos a Sozialdemokrat is just wrong. The German for “social-democrata” ought to be “Christdemokrat”

@Myles: “bourgeois-liberal social democrat”. He isn’t the latter, but it’s the name of his party (the main centre-right party since the revolution). It’s for historical reasons; the founder intended it to actually be a social-democratic party (and a member of the SI) but that position was taken so they fell into an available niche to the right. Nobody wanted to admit to being on the right after decades of right-wing dictatorship (the furtherest right party in parliament are “people’s” and “centre”) so they stuck with the leftish name.


Platonist 06.07.11 at 4:45 pm

I think the negative connotation of the ‘neo’ prefix follows necessarily from its intrinsically self-negating structure: new-x implies there’s something wrong with x, that x needs to be replaced. And if there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with x, it is implied that new-x is a distortion of x.

So, for those sympathetic to x, “neo” necessarily comes to mean “phony.” And for those antagonistic to x, “neo” necessarily comes to mean “regression to.”

There’s no positive way to make sense of the simultaneous rejection and affirmation of whatever “neo” is attached to.


Castorp 06.07.11 at 4:49 pm

“Is referring to people one approves of as “bürgerlich” normal for German liberals?”

It is in FAZ, which is conservative. More generally if you want to say something is bourgeois in a negative sense in German you usually say “Spiessig” or “Spiessbürgerlich.”

“Also calling Passos a Sozialdemokrat is just wrong. The German for “social-democrata” ought to be “Christdemokrat””

You answered your own point in response to Myles. They use the proper name of the party but put adjectives in front to alert you that it isn’t a traditional Social Democratic party.


Bexley 06.07.11 at 6:22 pm

So how does the company Neopost fit into this?


Cahal 06.07.11 at 7:58 pm

This is probably just me, but I see neo as a synonym for pseudo. Neoclassical economics is nothing like classical economics, and nor is neoliberal economics like liberalism. That’s probably where it came from.


chris 06.07.11 at 8:24 pm

@Platonist: I think “neo-” is sometimes an attempt to imply that something like a Hegelian dialectic has occurred: “sure, we’re aware of the criticisms of X, but we’re neo-X, we’ve fixed those problems while retaining X’s good features.”

This is, of course, not always true. But ISTM to be the implicit claim made by the label.


Phil 06.07.11 at 10:25 pm

As I said back at #5, I think ‘neo-‘ and ‘post-‘ both work this trick of invoking a Hegelian supersession, with differences of emphasis – ‘neo-‘ says “abolished but preserved!”, ‘post-‘ says “preserved but abolished!” I think ‘trick’ is the word, though – in most cases the use of these prefixes has more to do with marketing than philosophy.


Nemo 06.08.11 at 1:42 am

The refrences to Neo-Platonism above made me think of Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie (1871-1940), a Scottish born American Episcopal priest (and much else) who had the truly quixotic notion that in the first half of the 20th Century Neo=Platonism had much to offer the average man.

Kenneth’s brother, William Norman Guthrie, was also an Episcopal priest. His accomplishments are less impressive that his brother’s, bu William at least managed to get in trouble with his bishop for holding pagan rituals in his church.


Sev 06.08.11 at 2:12 am

Harvested from Krugman’s comments:
“No reason not to keep on tellin’ the truth, but don’t expect Ryan, or Brooks for that matter, to wilt in the face of documented facts. In a post-Rovian world, facts don’t matter.”

Hmmm. A post-Rovian world. Where we live now, though I wouldn’t want to visit.


Lemuel Pitkin 06.08.11 at 2:58 am

Spoke with a friend just now who was weighing joining a “post-Trotskyist” organization. When I was a teenager, I hung out with anarchists who called themselves post-situationists. On the other hand, the urban guerillas of the alternate-reality LA of Southland Tales are called neo-Marxists, and they seem to be the good guys. But given the rest of the movie, it’s very possible Richard Kelly was just confused.


John Quiggin 06.08.11 at 7:47 am

Looking at Wikipedia “very few people call themselves neo-Marxist” whereas post-Marxist seems to be widely used as a self-description.


Random lurker 06.08.11 at 10:28 am

@Phil, mds and Henri

OT: Alleanza Nazionale doesn’t exist’s anymore because a few years ago melted with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, creating the PDL party.


Chris Bertram 06.08.11 at 11:49 am

Neo-gothic and Gothic-revival seem to be synonyms, but Zizek strikes me as a Lenin-revivalist (in a pastichey sort of way) but definitely not a neo-Leninist.


Phil 06.08.11 at 12:02 pm

Random lurker – thanks, I’m an idiot. Although even your update is a bit out of date – Fini has subsequently left the PdL to form a new group, generally seen as being a bit to the Left of Berlusconi, called Futuro e Libertà per l’Italia.


dsquared 06.08.11 at 12:41 pm

I’d say Zizek was post-Leninist but neo-Lacanian.


bert 06.08.11 at 12:45 pm

Ed Balls was in the news over the weekend.
Can’t think why I didn’t think of this before:


chris 06.08.11 at 1:04 pm

@Phil: I think “post” implies more rejection of the thing you are post. Postmodernism isn’t a kind of modernism, it’s a reaction against modernism. Postsecularism is a rejection, even a condemnation of secularism. Etc.


belle le triste 06.08.11 at 1:14 pm

Except Postmodernism is a kind of modernism.


Chris Bertram 06.08.11 at 1:24 pm

#81 Or post-Marxist but neo-Grouchian?


Phil 06.08.11 at 1:36 pm

People calling themselves post-Marxist are generally on the Left & claim their politics basically preserves all the good bits of Marxism; similarly post-structuralists, as far as I understand them. Post-modernism means so many different things, some of them purely chronological (e.g. the assertion that there was a modern period but it ended with the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe, or whatever), that I hesitate to base any argument on it.


Sev 06.08.11 at 1:57 pm

#45 “Cavemen on vacation sent Neolithic postcards.”

If you are laid off, and sending resumes from your location on the street, can you describe your present situation as “neolithic/post office,” or would that require your delivery system to involve rocks?


roger 06.08.11 at 4:03 pm

It’s all the crisis of allochrony, innit? Having seized on a temporal description to distinguish coeval societies – the modern as opposed to the primitive,, for instance – the poor old West has been running out of temporal markers. Such at least is the theory of Johannes Fabian, the go to man about these questions.


geo 06.08.11 at 4:29 pm

A tax on wine is a vin(e)ous impost.


bert 06.08.11 at 8:07 pm

In a feeble echo of the great vilanelle, I sheepishly copy and paste the following, which is apparently the work of the provost of Oriel College, Oxford. No kidding.

Ode to Post-Neoclassical Endogenous Growth Theory

Men often think of Halcyon days of long ago
But much past time was dreary, nasty, full of woe
And for this problem no one could think of any good solution
Until one day, along came the Industrial Revolution

Man’s labour, engines and his keenest wit
Produced all manner of goods, some welded, others knit
And in this way Man’s welfare grew at a rapid rate
Saving many from a much more horrible fate

Bright Scotsmen, and some English too
Studied hard; and so they thought they knew
That this was not just something plainly magical
But was due to free markets – and explanation quite classical

But when, later, wise men asked where all the growth came from
Then many, even great economists, were struck dumb
All the statistics that they gathered were quite clear
The hard toil of people and machinery were small beer

Only inventions seemed to have any effect
And from where these arose everyone was quite bereft
So people then began to get rather weary
Of the once almighty neoclassical growth theory

But then new analyese, oh do subtle
Questioned all this and led to its rebuttal
A new explanation arrived, over which there was quite a fuss
Technical progress – innovation, ideas – were “endogenous”

Invention was crucial but needed embodiment
In people – in skills – and in capital investment
So these were important to make growth shine
Although others had known this for a very long time

All this was important to men in Whitehall
Who hadn’t had much luck with growth rates at all
Now they had reason to spend on capital, education and skills
And made sure this happened through many Parliamentary Acts and Bills

This was very much favoured by one Gordon Brown
Who soon became much the biggest man in town
And if critics did all this approach then query
He answered “it’s post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory”


John Quiggin 06.09.11 at 11:28 am

@bert – Very nice, thanks


morzer 06.09.11 at 10:14 pm

Neo-Kantian, neonatal, Neo-Geo.. speaking as a good European I don’t think people see “neo” as marking something negative automatically. It’s often seen as a rebranding exercise, and people are somewhat cynical about those, but not all that is neo is presumed to be bad.


geo 06.09.11 at 11:31 pm

not all that is neo is presumed to be bad

Maybe not, but “Neo-Geo” sounds ominous to me. What’s wrong with plain old Geo?


william u. 06.10.11 at 12:30 am

I don’t think the Neo-Geo sold too well in U.S.:


Eli Rabett 06.11.11 at 1:21 am

Post-Toasties. Opinions vary

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