David Harvey is a Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the City University of New York. In "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" he provides a Marxist interpretation of this form of capitalism from the 1970s to the early twenty-first century. It's a fairly short read but Harvey provides ample evidence that neoliberalism is either a failure as a utopian economic system which promises personal freedom, dignity and wealth for the middle class or a success as a project to recreate (or create, in the case of nations like China and Russia) economic and political power of the wealthy minority. If you believe the propaganda about neoliberal policies then you have to conclude that neoliberalism is a failure as economic inequality increases, unemployment and poverty increase in all areas of the world and individual freedom decreases due to the need of the neoliberal state to use the police and the courts to keep a lid on the resulting social discontent. If you see neoliberalism as a project by the wealthy elite to regain the power and the privilege which it held prior to the Great Depression and the Second World War, a project to defeat Keynesian policies at the expense of the rest of society, then you have to conclude that neoliberalism is a success.
Harvey provides a brief history of the 1947 meeting of Friedrich von Hayek, Ludvig von Mises, Milton Friedman and others which established the theory of neoliberalism. Beginning with the 1973 coup in Chile which overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende and installed a military dictatorship Harvey traces the history of the actual imposition of neoliberal practices. From Chile the reader visits other jurisdictions which were given the neoliberal treatment, including New York City, Great Britain (under Thatcher) and the USA (under Reagan). Deng Xiaoping's 1979 introduction of market values to China and the resulting economic growth and the growth of inequality and massive unemployment in China is discussed in a separate chapter. Mention is made of the neoliberal shock treatment administered by the IMF to the former states of the Soviet Union and the resulting rise of the oligarchs. Harvey also discusses the relationship between neoliberalism and neoconservatism which is one of the most interesting aspects of this book and could have been discussed in greater detail; maybe in another book, though. The inherent contradictions within neoliberalism and within the neoliberal state are covered as well.
A short book, but well worth reading in order to better understand what has been happening economically and socially in the West and around the world over the last forty or so years. The book includes an extensive bibliography, endnotes and index.
on July 31, 2010
I watched David Harvey in an online video interview. He made several interesting points about the nature of our social system with special reference to how economic concerns of elites had, through manipulation of non-elites, trumped all other concerns. Curious to know more, I purchased this book. I was not disappointed. Harvey is a smart fellow with a good grasp of both history and economics. His analysis of the rise of liberalism, neoliberalism, and neoconservatism is detailed and persuasive. While I recommend the book, I confess that at times I felt he was too academic, preferring to match some often important insight he was making with his strict Marxist outlook. These moments are few and the book is not the worse for them. If you can, please search him out online for interviews, forums, and such. He is a better, more interesting, speaker than a writer.
on July 2, 2009
The author gives an explanation of what could best be described as "neoliberal" ecopolinomics (Political economics? Economic politics?) and its history. Not difficult to read for a well-read person. This book exposes the root causes of the world wide capitalistic failures, especially the current financial one. It is not anti-capitalist; it just shows how the dominance of world affairs by relatively few powerful capitalists has been to the detriment of this planet and its life forms. Humans are no different from other creatures in their quest to survive, even at the expense of their fellow creatures.
I give it 1 star short of 5 stars because it is not suitable for general public reading. Get your dictionary out for unusual words on about every 3rd page.
The International Simultaneous Policy Organisation (ISPO at Simpol.org) provides a profound worldwide solution to worldwide abusive capitalism.