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A Brief History of Neoliberalism$
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David Harvey

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199283262

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199283262.001.0001

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Uneven Geographical Developments

Uneven Geographical Developments

4 (p.87) Uneven Geographical Developments
A Brief History of Neoliberalism

David Harvey

Oxford University Press

A moving map of the progress of neoliberalization on the world stage since 1970 would be hard to construct. To begin with, most states that have taken the neoliberal turn have done so only partially–– the introduction of greater flexibility into labour markets here, a deregulation of financial operations and embrace of monetarism there, a move towards privatization of state-owned sectors somewhere else. Wholesale changes in the wake of crises (such as the collapse of the Soviet Union) can be followed by slow reversals as the unpalatable aspects of neoliberalism become more evident. And in the struggle to restore or establish a distinctive upper-class power all manner of twists and turns occur as political powers change hands and as the instruments of influence are weakened here or strengthened there. Any moving map would therefore feature turbulent currents of uneven geographical development that need to be tracked in order to understand how local transformations relate to broader trends. Competition between territories (states, regions, or cities) as to who had the best model for economic development or the best business climate was relatively insignificant in the 1950s and 1960s. Competition of this sort heightened in the more fluid and open systems of trading relations established after 1970. The general progress of neoliberalization has therefore been increasingly impelled through mechanisms of uneven geographical developments. Successful states or regions put pressure on everyone else to follow their lead. Leapfrogging innovations put this or that state (Japan, Germany, Taiwan, the US, or China), region (Silicon Valley, Bavaria, Third Italy, Bangalore, the Pearl River delta, or Botswana), or even city (Boston, San Francisco, Shanghai, or Munich) in the vanguard of capital accumulation. But the competitive advantages all too often prove ephemeral, introducing an extraordinary volatility into global capitalism. Yet it is also true that powerful impulses of neoliberalization have emanated, and even been orchestrated, from a few major epicentres. Clearly, the UK and the US led the way. But in neither country was the turn unproblematic. While Thatcher could successfully privatize social housing and the public utilities, core public services such as the national health-care system and public education remained largely immune.

Keywords:   austerity programme, casual labour, deregulation, export-led growth, flexible labour, hedging, interest rates, land tenure, media, nationalization

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