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5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief History of Neoliberalism, 3 April 2011
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This review is from: A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Paperback)
David Harvey's book "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" is exactly that. It traces the origins of neoliberalism in the attempt of the capitalist class to reform itself and find a new class consciousness after the stagnation of the 1970s had ended the one great boom period of capitalist history (1950s-1970s). Neoliberalism is and was the project of destroying the power of organized labor and the social-democratic consensus in order to reconstitute the capitalist class as a power controlling and dominating all societies and the world. This is not a question of conspiracy, but a matter of the capitalists of different countries responding in similar ways to similar challenges to the accumulation of capital and the maintenance of their power over production and distribution; both the timing and the success of their endeavours vary by country and this is not to be assumed to be the product of some worldwide coordinated effort. But the policies and rhetoric in each case are largely the same, a combination of extreme liberalization and commodification with a strong emphasis on freedom in rhetoric and on authoritarian exercise of state power and nationalism in practice. This allows us to identify neoliberalism as one clear movement across the globe, from China to Chile and from the US to Sweden. It also allows us to identify neoconservatism, as it is called in America, as neoliberalism armed for conquest.

As David Harvey chronicles, far from actually increasing the freedom and wealth of all individuals, neoliberalism has failed to perform on all counts. It has devastated environments, destroyed the rights and position of labor, massively increased inequality and precariousness, led to an upsurge of crime and the 'informal economy', made many countries bankrupt while enriching the rich few in the Western world, and so forth. It has decreased our liberties by implementing ever more aggressive state postures against the inevitable backlash from the people, whether it is in the form of stringent anti-terrorism laws or the explosive increase in the proportion of the population that is imprisoned in the most neoliberal countries. It has shortened life expectancies and decreased social and health indicators. It has, moreover, failed even by its own test: worldwide growth rates have stagnated significantly in the period of neoliberalism compared to the semi-Keyenesian boom period after the war, with average worldwide annual growth rates declining from 3.5% pa to less than 1%. In fact, if it weren't for the reproletarianization and commodification of China, this worldwide growth might well be zero. So even by the standards of capital accumulation, it has not succeeded. David Harvey correctly emphasizes therefore that neoliberalism is not first and foremost a theory of economic policy, nor is it a philosophy like Hayek's; first and foremost it is using such policies and philosophies for the purpose of reconstituting and re-empowering the capitalist class, an ever smaller minority with ever greater wealth. It is for this reason above all that neoliberalism is a threat to the interests of the great majority everywhere in the world, and must always be defeated. Another world is possible.
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