This month’s Annals of the AAG carries a book review essay by Ron Johnston which discusses four recent books by David Harvey on neoliberalism. It might be interesting to read these books against Birth of Biopolitics.
For instance, Harvey defines neoliberalism as:
a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices.
Which is fair enough but note the huge role of the state that is adopted here. The neoliberal response to this role is suspicion:
The neoconservative, neoliberal response to this is to become increasingly authoritarian, at the same time putting more of what was formerly part of the state apparatus, such as the central bank that sets interest rates, outside electoral-political control and into the new elite’s hands (thereby creating a “democratic deficit.”
Following the Conservative party’s long stint in government during the 80s and 90s, which while neoliberal was not programmatically so (Johnston argues Thatcher was too much of a pragmatist to be doctrinaire), the Kinnock/Smith/Blair Labour party adopted neoliberalism in order to become electable. (One would suspect that Harvey would situate Obama in this category as well.)
Johnston doesn’t conclude with any definitive trends from Harvey, although he does cite six reasons why neoliberalism may fail (#4, the US is “free-falling into indebtedness” sounds familiar). But “change” (an overworked word during the presidential campaign), “is accelerating” so who knows?
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