Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Michaele Ferguson

Second Advisor

Jennifer Fitzgerald

Third Advisor

Rolf Norgaard


Neoliberalism is undoubtedly the hegemonic governing rationality of the early 21st century. However, despite its apparent infiltration into various spheres, such as education, scholars have often understood it as a monolithic phenomenon. Because of this, the rise of Donald Trump has been difficult to explain. While Trump certainly fits into the standard neoliberal definition in many regards, there are areas where his political ideology is less explicable–his positions on trade, and his authoritarianism, for example. This thesis argues that Trump represents a new trend in neoliberalism –renegade neoliberalism. Using higher education as a case study, it argues that renegade neoliberalism is characterized by anti-intellectualism, demagogy, and authoritarianism, among other traits. In doing so, it maintains that neoliberalism’s theorizations thus far are limited, in that they conceptualize neoliberalism as a static rather than developing ideology. Finally, it compares and contrasts the respective higher education policies of the Trump and the Obama Administrations in order to analyze how two “neoliberal” figures can express neoliberalism in vastly different ways.