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Market-Driven Politics: Neoliberal Democracy and the Public Interest [Paperback]

Colin Leys
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

17 July 2003
"...[P]olitics everywhere are now market-driven. It is not just that governments can no longer 'manage' their national economies; to survive in office they must increasingly 'manage' national politics in such a way as to adapt them to the pressures of transnational market forces." Market-driven Politics is an empirical examination of the extent to which politics and policy are conditioned, or even determined, by global economic forces. It is a multi-level study which moves between an analysis of those global forces, through national politics, to the changes occurring week by week in two fields of public life that are both fundamentally important and familiar to everyone - television broadcasting and healthcare. The focus is Britain, but the arguments apply in many other contexts. Public services like health care and broadcasting play an important role, because they affect the legitimacy of the government of the day; in market-driven politics such domains become political flashpoints because they are also targets for global capital. Colin leys agues lucidly that we are witnessing a fundamental shift in the relationship between politics and economics. His original analysis of the key processes of commodification of public services, the conversion of public-service workforces into employees motivated to general profit, and the role of the state in absorbing risk is critically important, not just for an analysis of market-driven politics but also for longer-term defence of democracy and the collective values on which it depends.


Product details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; New edition edition (17 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859844979
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859844977
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 15.3 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,021,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

""Neoliberal democracy is arguably the most important political notion of our age, yet it is one that is very poorly understood. Colin Leys has come to our rescue with a brilliant and accessible presentation of the concept, chock full of hard empirical data and case studies. I strongly urge all who are concerned with the future of democracy to read this book."" -- Robert W. McChesney, author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy Collin Leys's book drives a hole through the politics of the third way and the assertion by its government and multinational backers that it is possible to have universal services like the BBC and the NHS delivered in the marketplace. It cannot be praised highly enough."" -- Allyson Pollock, School of Public Policy, University College, London

From the Back Cover

'Neoliberal democracy is arguably the most important political notion of our age, yet it is one that is very poorly understood. Colin Leys has come to our rescue with a brilliant and accessible presentation of the concept, chock full of hard empirical data and case studies. I strongly urge all who are concerned with the future of democracy to read this book.' Robert W McChesney, author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy

'Colin Leys's book drives a hole through the politics of the third way and the assertion by its government and multinational backers that it is possible to have universal services like the BBC and NHS delivered in the marketplace. It cannot be praised highly enough.' Alison Pollock, School of Public Policy, University College London

'...[P]olitics everywhere are now market-driven. It is not just that governments no longer 'manage' their national economies; to survive in office they must increasingly 'manage' national politics in such a way as to ademp them ot the pressures of transnational market forces.'

Market-driven Politics is an empirical examination of the extent to which politics and policy are conditioned, or even determined, by global economic forces. It is a multi-level study which moves between an analysis of those global forces, through national politics, to the changes occurring week by week in two fields of public life that are both fundamentally important and familiar to everyone - television broadcasting and health care. The focus is Britain, but the arguments apply in many other contexts. Public services like health care and broadcasting play an important role, because they effect the legitimacy of the government of the day; in market-driven politics such domains become political flashpoints because they are also targets for global capital.

Colin Leys argues lucidly that we are witnessing a fundamental shift in the relationship between politics and economics. His original analysis of the key processes of commodification of public services, the conversion of public-service workforces into employees motivated to generate profit, and the role of the state in absorbing risk is critically important, not just for an analysis of market-driven politics but also for the longer-term defence of democracy and the collective values on which it depends. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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5.0 out of 5 stars The Public Domain Under Seige 9 Dec 2013
By S Wood TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was aware of Colin Leys from his fine indictment (along with Stewart Player) of the on-going dismemberment of the NHS by "our" governments over the last decade or two - The Plot Against the NHS - and so had no hesitation about reading his account of the effect that the Neo-Liberal era has had on our democracy and our democratic institutions.

The first two parts of the book ("The Global Economy and National Politics" & "British politics in a Global Economy") are succinct and quite brilliant expositions of the development of the post-World War 2 Global Economy, in particular its post Bretton Woods mutation, and the particular experiences of Britain during that period, and the effect that it has had on State Institutions, Political Parties and participation in Politics. The third part "Markets, Commodities and commodification" looks at the relationships between actually existing markets (as opposed to the fairy tale varieties one finds in Economic textbooks) and politics, and at the process/implications of the commodification of services, specifically at how this relates to two parts of the service sector that have been regarded as public services in the UK: Broadcasting and Health.

The fourth and fifth parts go into these two examples in greater detail, looking at the experience of Public Service Television and the National Health Service in the post war 2 era.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars market-driven politics-part one of review 15 Feb 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Market-driven politics
Followers of the debates on globalisation will be well aware of a surge of recent books associated with the anti-globalisation movement which explore corporate brands have reshaped consumption and culture (Naomi Klein's No Logo) have infiltrated the state (Noreena Hertz Silent Takeover: Global Capitalism and the Death of Democracy)and have also consumed political parties and refashioned them in their own image (George Monbiot's Captive State).
Colin Leys, the reputed scholar of third world development and of British politics, has entered the fray on behalf of a socialist alternative with an investigation of the response of national politics to global economic forces. He uses the experience of Britain for this project, but his story spans the world and is of world-wide relevance. The book moves its lens systematically from the global system towards the detail of rapidly proliferating real markets. Leys peers through two key holes to see the politics involved in the penetration by markets of areas of society formerly ring-fenced for non-market forms of provision and values. The two cases are public service broadcasting and health care; both regulated in distinctively British ways but now being privatised and commercialised in ways only too familiar worldwide.
Leys starts where most critics of globalisation leave off. The economy is replacing society as the subject of politics. In low intensity democracies (the phrase is Samir Amin's) ruling parties find it increasingly difficult to direct the terms on which governments regulate the economy, though there are conditions under which some do it better than others. Their politics is driven by corporates which operate not nationally but globally. Leys has a wealth of evidence with which he fleshes out this profoundly political process (globally in chapter 2 and in Britain in chapter 3).He asks: how do states get voters to endorse policies which meet the demands of capital? How do states pull off the theft of sovereignty from their citizens? How are markets to be naturalised and democratic politics to be insulated from demos? This book answers such questions.

There is a general logic to the process: capital must expand. `Accumulate, accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets'! proclaimed Karl Marx. Capital expands in many ways, some primitive (resources are seized by force, peasants shoved off the land) others are sophisticated and carefully planned (the seething life cycles of products and their substitutes). Markets appear to slither into households (domestic service) and out again (`DIY', but read the book, for DIY is not what it seems..). Markets proliferate (markets for derivatives, markets for advertising, for management consultancy, legal advice, repairs..).
Leys follows markets expanding into the non-market public sphere. This is the arena for public goods, for national culture and for democratic expressions of citizenship. The novel insight powering Leys' analysis of market-driven politics is as follows. For markets to take over, four political conditions have to be achieved. First, public services have to be broken down into sets of private commodities (hip replacements, laundering, current affairs programmes popular with advertisers....) each of which can be supplied at (more or less) known prices. Second, needs and delights have to be reworked into effective demand expressed through purchasing power alone. Third, workers with collective values and a public service vocation have to be transformed into profit-makers and on less secure terms. Lastly, business requires and usually gets the risks of this transformation to be underwritten by the state. Those remnants of public services that cannot be completely abolished will be left as services of the last resort.
After this first phase looks like being successful, the general dynamic starts to grind; the costs of labour can be reduced; less specialised labour may be shed, components may be subcontracted to cheap sites. Products will be standardised for scale economies and a mass market. `Flexible production' usually masks a standardised technological core. All other labour, all other costs, will be transferred to consumers. (And the buck stops with women.)
Private contractors do not have to be efficient to notch up rates of profit attractive to shareholders. Public resources will be transferred to retain poorly functioning private firms up to the point where the costs of maintaining an inefficient status quo exceed those of exposing deficiency or delinquence, together with the transactions costs of replacing the contract.
- to be continued - in part two of review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars market-driven politics - part two of review 15 Feb 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Market-driven politics - part two of review
There is a great wood and trees problem in understanding the politics of this process. Unlike the textbook models of markets, every single real market has its own unique features. Individual cases then enable us to see some of the common features of this process. Leys does not make the case that each of the four conditions have a distinctive politics. Instead he shows the roles of lobbies, of personal networks of influence, of political funding, of the infiltration of political parties, the state and institutions of global regulation, of the resourcing of partisan research and think tanks, of the interested peopling of advisory councils and public boards. Their purposes, in a spectacular denial of conflicts of interest, are to weaken public regulation in relentless cycles of pressures for incremental change, to weaken enforcement and/or quality standards (but to apply them selectively to disadvantage public services), to weaken sources of resistance and stoke support, to restrict public capital and current expenditure, to re-structure the sources of public revenue, to claim risk-minimising contracts with residual state providers, to present the transformations of service into commodities, supply and demand as a `technology' transfer and abolish the concepts of public service. In both broadcasting and health conglomerates diversified, concentrated and differentiated; pay became spectacularly more unequal, product quality was shaped by commercial interests and residual services deteriorated and were rationed. New labour politicians, whose party is increasingly funded by corporate interests, operate in centralised and `depoliticised' ways which take them away from the electorate, unions and activists and enable them to naturalise markets and audit and to de-democratise the state..
At a time when Tony Blair has called public service unions `wreckers', Colin Leys shows just who the real wreckers are. He argues that public services are a key aspect of a democratic society; they express such a society's collective interests and they help shape it at the same time. There is never no alternative. Public services can be provided in many ways, from voluntary work, through non-profit trusts to state provision. These can be more efficient - not simply in costs but also in the quality of outcomes - than are firms dominated by short-term shareholder interests. Leys indicates what is to be done: public services need a clear philosophy that is publicised, celebrated and funded through taxation. They need practical policy, encouraging innovation and dynamism where it can be justified on public service grounds. They need active political protection and defence from the constant attempts to invade which `markets', aka capital, are bound to make.
This is a richly researched, well structured, beautifully written and compellingly argued book, and one which offers an original analysis of the hegemonic politics of markets. It could not be more relevant to our times. Buy this book, but do not add it to the gently groaning shelf. Keep it much closer to hand; read, reflect and act on it.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Public Domain Under Seige 17 Jan 2014
By S Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I was aware of Colin Leys from his fine indictment (along with Stewart Player) of the on-going dismemberment of the NHS by "our" governments over the last decade or two - The Plot Against the NHS - and so had no hesitation about reading his account of the effect that the Neo-Liberal era has had on our democracy and our democratic institutions.

The first two parts of the book ("The Global Economy and National Politics" & "British politics in a Global Economy") are succinct and quite brilliant expositions of the development of the post-World War 2 Global Economy, in particular its post Bretton Woods mutation, and the particular experiences of Britain during that period, and the effect that it has had on State Institutions, Political Parties and participation in Politics. The third part "Markets, Commodities and commodification" looks at the relationships between actually existing markets (as opposed to the fairy tale varieties one finds in Economic textbooks) and politics, and at the process/implications of the commodification of services, specifically at how this relates to two parts of the service sector that have been regarded as public services in the UK: Broadcasting and Health.

The fourth and fifth parts go into these two examples in greater detail, looking at the experience of Public Service Television and the National Health Service in the post war 2 era. The accounts of the sectors experiences, initially in the public domain, gradually being prised open to private interests, are clear and give an excellent idea of how the process of small openings inexorably leads to greater and greater opportunities to eat further and further into areas that were once regarded as off limits to private capital seeking out profits. Also made clear is the effect that turning over services from the public domain to the private sector has in terms of access, cost, the degree of democratic control, and the quality and quantity of employment.
Finally in "Market-Driven Politics and the Public Interest" Leys recapitulates the arguments and asks a number of questions about the implications of the Neo-Liberal era for the Public Domain, Public Institutions, Democracy and the Public Interest.

To call this book essential understates its importance. "Market-Driven Politics" is a clearly written and precisely argued account of the dynamic process by which Private capital has inexorably refashioned politics and the state in its own interests at the expense of the public's interest. Though initially published in 2003 it is still enormously relevant and easily the best account of the implications of the Neo-Liberal era at the national political level.
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