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'Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainity and agitation distinquish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones ... All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.' Marx

Harvey on neo-liberalism « Previous | |Next »
April 21, 2010

There has been an emphatic turn towards neoliberalism in political-economic practices and thinking since the 1970s; a turn characterized by deregulation, privatization, and withdrawal of the state from many areas of social provision. The assumption that individual freedoms are guaranteed by freedom of the market and of trade is a deep assumption of a neoliberal mode of governance.

Since neo-liberalism stands in opposition to social democracy and corporatism---it is deeply opposed to socialism, state planning and Keynesian state interventionism--- it can be interpreted as a political project to re-establish the conditions for capital accumulation and to restore the power of economic elites with assaults on the powers of organized labour. Planning and control are attacked as a denial of freedom.

In his A Brief History of Neoliberalism David Harvey says that:

Neoliberalism is in the first instance 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 . ... It must also set up those military, defence, police, and legal structures and functions required to secure private property rights and to guarantee, by force if need be, the proper functioning of markets. Furthermore, if markets do not exist (in areas such as land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution) then they must be created, by state action if necessary. But beyond these tasks the state should not venture. State interventions in markets (once created) must be kept to a bare minimum because, according to the theory, the state cannot possibly possess enough information to second-guess market signals (prices) and because powerful interest groups will inevitably distort and bias state interventions (particularly in democracies) for their own benefit.

Neoliberalism holds that the social good will be maximized by maximizing the reach and frequency of market transactions, and it seeks to bring all human action into the domain of the market. We have seen this with respect to water, prisons and health care in Australia and it appears to be done with political consent.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:02 AM |