Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (656.26 kB)

Discourses of Neo-Liberalisation in New Zealand: From the ‘Managed Economy’ to the ‘Mum and Dad Investor’, Prime Ministers’ Speeches of 1987-2011 (a Critical Discourse Analysis)

Download (656.26 kB)
posted on 2021-11-13, 12:55 authored by Hughes, Owen William

In this project I aim to challenge the conception of neo-liberalism as a monolithic ideology and theory of state practice. To achieve this, I use Norman Fairclough’s ‘order of discourse’ model of critical discourse analysis to examine seven speeches delivered by New Zealand Prime Ministers of 1987 to 2011. Using these speeches I chart a number of breaks, shifts, contradictions, and instabilities between both Prime Ministers and Governments, which are often specific to New Zealand. The analyses of the seven speeches highlight the contradictions and tensions inherent in on-going processes of neo-liberalisation in New Zealand. Among other instabilities and contradictions, I examine David Lange’s conflicting articulations of economic management in market-led governing. I note the role of technocracy under Geoffrey Palmer, and the inconsistencies in his push to institutionalise the Treaty of Waitangi while decentralising the role of the state in governing. I outline the specificities of New Zealand as a colonial settler society through the signifier “battler” deployed by Mike Moore. I also sketch the functions of Jim Bolger’s communitarianism, and the way it flanks the market logics deployed by Minister of Finance Ruth Richardson, between 1990 and 1993. The effect and significance of Jenny Shipley’s ‘Code of Social and Family Responsibility’ is examined, noting the way it crystallises the role of social capital in practices of governing. The impact of Helen Clark’s Third Way and ‘inclusive’ neo-liberalism are then charted. Clark’s use of diverse ideological forms suggests a mobile and mediating moment in neo-liberalism, which attempts to overcome some of the problems generated by earlier speakers. I finally cover the way that John Key’s anti-ideological position results in what is labelled the ‘market ideology’, crystallising market logic as a rubric for governing through terms like the “mum and dad investor”, and the “kiwi”. I then offer some concluding comments and note the project’s limitations, before offering some tentative prospects of neo-liberalism’s fortune in a post-2008 crisis world.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


el-Ojeili, Chamsy