Neoliberalism Resurgent? Market Rule after the Great Recession

By Jamie Pack, Nik Theodore and Neil Brenner:


“Advocates of progressive alternatives to neoliberalism must contend with the fact that, in a deeply interconnected world, no policy making place is an island anymore. “Local alternatives” remain important, but on their own they are not enough. Increasingly, fast-traveling global policy models have become the international currency of reform — be these New York–style policing strategies, Mexican social programs, Bangladeshi microcredit schemes, or American urban designs. Vectors of late neoliberalization, these have proliferated within an increasingly cosmopolitan policy culture, comprising multilateral aid agencies, think tanks, governmental entrepreneurs, gurus and experts, multinational consulting firms, learning networks, global advocacy movements, and so on. It should come as no surprise that this would-be global policy market is stacked in favor of neoliberal interests or that those policy models that travel farthest and fastest are those designed to adjust or extend the status quo, not to overturn it. The commanding heights of the neoliberal project may have been discredited by the failures of structural adjustment policies in the global South and by deregulatory overreach in the global North, but at the level of globalizing policy practice the recalibrated project continues to roll on—almost as the default setting for policy making, where it is associated with ideologically bounded forms of experimentation.

This may be a challenging terrain for progressive social movements and policy advocates, but it is far from a hopeless one. For a start, neoliberal experiments —let’s not forget — continue to fail. That is why there is so much experimentation, after all. They must always be contested, both at the level of implementation and in terms of the very meaning of “success.” This means that the often unglamorous, daily work of policy contestation may come to serve a vital, wider function, especially in those cases where more concerted forms of “push-back” against neoliberal incursions begin to build. Strategically more important, arguably, is the propagation and promotion of alternatives. This calls for some adjustments to Left practice, which has traditionally tended to value homegrown and organic initiatives, grassroots innovation, and socially embedded strategies. (…)

Read full article at South Atlantic Quarterly, 2012, Volume 111, Number 2: 265-288.

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