Situated against the backdrop of a widespread and growing interest in the linkages between neoliberalism and welfare, this paper introduces the lens of neoliberalism as a conceptual strategy for thinking about contemporary issues in education policy. Through charting the historic rise of unfettered market institutions and practices in the context of 1980s England, it highlights the cultural and geopolitical specificity affixed to nation-based articulations and translations of neoliberalism. Building on this perspective, it considers how market discourses with its pedagogy of the consumer shape a plurality of education sites and practices. To follow, it sets out the specific contributions by authors to this interdisciplinary collection of papers on the themed issue of neoliberalism, pedagogy and curriculum. It identifies the contexts for their analyses and discusses the implications of their approaches for better mapping the ‘global’ impact of neoliberalism on welfare states and peoples, specifically the full range of policy enactments and disciplinary practices shaping education customs of pedagogy and curriculum.