"The strategic dimension of neoliberal policies has paradoxically been neglected in the standard 'anti-liberal' critique, in as much as from the outset this dimension formed part of a global rationality that has gone unspotted.
"What, precisely, is to be understood by 'strategy'? In its most common meaning, the term refers to 'the means employed to attain a certain end'. The turn of the 1970s and 80s undeniably employed a whole range of means to achieve as rapidly as possible certain well-defined objectives (dismantlement of the social state, privatisation of public enterprises, etc.). In this sense, it is therefore perfectly legitimate to refer to a 'neoliberal strategy'. By it is to be understood the set of discourses, practices and power apparatuses aiming to establish new political conditions, to alter the rules of economic functioning, to transform social relations in such a way as to attain these objectives. However, although legitimate, this use of the term 'strategy' could be taken to imply that the objective of generalised competition between enterprises, economies and states was itself developed on the basis of a well-thought-out project, as if it was the subject of a choice just as rational and controlled as the means put at the disposal of the initial objectives. It is only a short step from this to thinking in terms of a 'conspiracy', which some have quickly taken, especially on the Left. Instead, it seems to us that the objective of a new regulation through competition did not pre-exist the struggle against the welfare state in which, by turns or simultaneously, intellectual circles, professional groups, and social and political forces engaged, often for different reasons. The turn began under the pressure of certain conditions, without anyone yet dreaming of a new, world-wide mode of regulation. Our thesis is that this objective was formed in the course of the confrontation itself; that it imposed itself on very different forces by dint of the logic of the confrontation; and that it thereafter played the role of a catalyst, offering a rallying point for hitherto relatively scattered forces. To seek to account for the emergence of the objective on the basis of the conditions of a confrontation that was already underway, we must resort to a different sense of the word 'strategy' - on that does not derive it from the will of a strategist or the intentionality of a subject. It was precisely this idea of a 'strategy without a subject' or 'without a strategist' that was developed by Foucault. Taking the example of the strategic objective of moralising the working class in the 1830s, he argued that it produced the bourgeoisie as the agent of its implementation, it being far from the case that the bourgeois class, as a pre-constituted subject, conceived this objective on the basis of an already developed ideology. What is involved here is thinking a certain 'logic of practices'. In the first instance, there are practices, often disparate, which employ techniques of power (in the first rank of which are disciplinary techniques); and it is the multiplication and generalisation of such techniques that gradually imparts an overall direction, without anyone being the instigator of this 'push towards a strategic objective'. There can be no better formulation of the way that competition was constituted as a new global norm on the basis of certain relations between social forces and economic conditions, without having been 'chosen' in premeditated fashion by some 'general staff'. To bring out the strategic dimension of neoliberal policies is therefore to reveal not only how they result from the selection of certain means (in the first sense of the term 'strategy'), but also the strategic character (in the second sense of the word) of the generalised competition that made it possible to confer overall coherence on those means."
- Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, The New Way of the World: On a Neoliberal Society, Verso, London & New York, 2013, pp. 148-150.