Where in the World Does Neoliberalism Come From

Today my department launched its Progress in Political Economy Blog, run by the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. My first post for the blog is on Raewyn Connell and Nour Dados’s recent article  ‘Where in the World Does Neoliberalism Come From‘.

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Only days after her ‘official’ retirement Raewyn Connell was back in the Merewether building to speak to the Political Economy Research Students’ Journal Club, the location she first worked from at the University of Sydney. The article up for discussion was her recent publication (co-authored with Nour Dados) titled ‘Where in the World Does Neoliberalism Come From: The Market Agenda in Southern Perspective‘. This paper was my choice – we take it in turns to select an article – as it argues a crucial point about how the literature on neoliberalism privileges the experiences of certain locations to construct an ‘origin’ story.

In their article Connell and Dados argue that mainstream theoretical work on the emergence and transmission of neoliberalism is dominated by two narratives: 1) that neoliberalism is about the spread of certain ideas amongst a network of right-wing intellectuals (based in Europe and the United States); or 2) that it is a mutation of capitalism resulting from a crisis of profitability. As a result, the story of neoliberalism in mainstream theory is of a phenomenon arising in the global North (and the US & UK in particular) and later exported to the global South. Such an interpretation places the global North at the centre of the account of the development of neoliberalism and, they argue, eschews the experience of the global South. Moreover, and as Raewyn emphasised in the discussion, it fails to emphasise that neoliberalism was a global process from the start.

The article (published in Theory & Society this year) mobilises both the experience of the global South and the analysis of Southern theorists, to argue that in those locations neoliberalism should be understood as a development strategy – and as a new development strategy supplanting those pursued prior to the 1970s. By placing the global South at the centre of their analysis, Connell and Dados then identify a set of issues fundamental to neoliberalism in those locations: the formative role of the state and military; the expansion of world commodity trade and mineral extraction; and agriculture, informality, and the transformation of rural society.

Read the rest at the PPE Blog.

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