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An impressive piece of work, to be taken with a grain of salt.
on 23 December 2010
For me, the content in this book falls into three categories.
First, Harvey's accounts of neoliberalism in China; neoliberalism's relationship with the environment and with human rights culture; and his prescient remarks about a looming crisis are superb - informative, original and carefully argued.
Second, there is the main thrust of the book: a succinct "world tour" of neoliberalization. It's cogently structured and while it strikes me as a little unbalanced, Harvey certainly backs up his ideas with sources and statistics. Overall, it's a good counterpoint to some of neoliberalism's overly idealistic rhetoric.
Third, is the book's critique of neoliberalism itself and its supposedly deliberate immiseration of the lower classes. While interesting, this is the least convincing of the book's strands. For example, neoliberalism is supposedly hostile to democracy since the people could democratically opt for collectivism. By the same token, New Labour is hostile to democracy since the people could democratically opt to vote Conservative. It just does not quite ring true.
Two final criticisms:
1) At times the author's conspiratorial tone becomes a bit too much. For instance, we learn in one of the book's rare unsupported passages (p.164) that the "Right to Buy" scheme, rather than being one of Thatcher's most humane policies, was in fact part of a heinous capitalist plot to force the working class into homelessness for the sake of gentrification.
2) This book talks very little about the history of neoliberalism (i.e. the theoretical roots). It could be better entitled "A Brief History of Neoliberalization in Practice".
Don't get me wrong, this is a good book, just one that requires careful reading.