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A Brief History of Neoliberalism

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,644 Ratings  ·  164 Reviews
Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of wher ...more
Paperback, 247 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2005)
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Maru Kun
"...There is no such thing as society, only individuals..."

"...greed, for lack of a better word, is good..."

Margret Thatcher and Gordon Gekko together summed up the essence of neo-liberalism in two quotes. This book is an excellent summary of the history and damage done by the impoverished ideology of these two neo-liberal icons.

Harvey's "Brief History of Neoliberalism" reads like a true-life detective story investigating the mugging of the world economy in autumn 2008. What's unusual about Harv
Apr 08, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it
Harvey has performed a rather impressive feat here: in a dimpled gumdrop over two hundred pages he has summarized - with a scope and depth that belies its brevity - the forty years of political-economic development labelled Neoliberalism - or globalism - that has, in fitful and uneven, but always steady, progression, become the dominant meme throughout the world. The basic plot has been tackled by many others*: Hayekian/Friedmanite Monetarism challenges the postwar Keynesian Embedded Liberalism ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Sarah rated it it was ok
A Brief History of Neoliberalism was written shortly before the current economic recession, and has become even more 'appealing' at a time when many are searching for both answers and blame. To be sure, critique of the current system and its damage is important. However, this critique falls into the category of 'sloppy and lazy,' and I have a tough time giving Harvey the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his intellectual honesty.

Let me say that I fully appreciate the central criticism of joi
Alex Hiatt
Dec 19, 2009 Alex Hiatt rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone concerned with the state of the world.
David Harvey's A Brief History of Neoliberalism is an invaluable survey of neoliberal theory and practice. It begins with the intellectual roots of the theory in the 1930's and continues through the complex and often antithetical realities of neoliberal development since the late 1970's.

He characterizes neoliberalism as an economic system, however one which requires a complementary political component, that has either sought to, or has in certain cases merely facilitated the conditions to, recon
Come on, admit it, you don’t really know much about neoliberalism do you?

Well, I won’t tell anyone. This here though is an admirably short history of how the elite got, get, and are getting so filthy (rich) while the lower classes eat deeper layers of dirt in our neoliberal age. Harvey calls the process 'accumulation by dispossession'. Neoliberals call it freeing up the market. It certainly does free…although perhaps not in the way we would like.

Well, the story goes something like this…

once up
Sep 28, 2011 Simone rated it really liked it

Ok, let me be honest. Would I have read this book if it hadn't been assigned for class? Maybe? But probably not. That being said, I am really glad I took this class and I'm glad she us start with this book. I wouldn't have been able to articulate neoliberalism before this book. Harvey deftly traces the history and emergence of neoliberal policies, mainly the privatization of industry, the opening of the market, and the financialization / globalization.

"It has been part of the genius of neoliber
Jan 10, 2015 sologdin rated it liked it
similar to callinicos' Against the Third Way, chomsky's Profits over People, and other lefty discussions of neoliberalism. informative, committed, and so on.
Jun 08, 2014 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: empire
The economy as a zero-sum game

[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns and in 2013 posted revenues for $74 billion and $274 million profits. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the company's sites.]

Or the c
Rob Kitchin
May 13, 2012 Rob Kitchin rated it really liked it
A brief review to go with a brief history. David Harvey, one of the world’s leading social scientists, details the dominant political ideology shaping a number of Western countries, with its tentacles ever more influencing the political and economic relations of just about all countries as they become bound up in the global markets and global forms of economic governance such as the IMF and World Bank. At its heart, neoliberalism promotes the logic of the free market; that the state is inherentl ...more
Feb 20, 2012 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
I remember reading this while lying on the beach in El Segundo next to the power station when I was preparing my big return to academia. For that purpose it was fantastic, though I won't pretend I didn't nod off to the sound of waves... As a basic summary of a very influential strand of political economy it’s great, David Harvey writes clearly and well, with a passionate interest that I find very engaging and decades of experience in wrestling with these issues, so on that level alone I would re ...more
More or less the same argument that Naomi Klein presented in The Shock Doctrine-- neoliberalism is by no means necessarily paired with democracy. Harvey, however, presents it in a more intellectually rigorous, less journalistic fashion. I'm very OK with this-- it's what one would expect from a widely regarded academic, and something I would hope for from someone whose intellect I admire as much as David Harvey's.

The basic point is that we should all reject neoliberalism, and that in the past 20
Jan 11, 2016 Stephen rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who desire a better understanding of the wreck the world has become.
Recommended to Stephen by: no sure, I read about it somewhere. And Goodreads had good comments
I have never been in this position when having to rate a book. I hated this book, so should I give it one star. But I liked the book in that I am glad that I read the book, so should I give it four stars? I am glad I read this book. I think any person who possesses any critical thinking skills needs to read this book and get so angry that there will be an uprising, no, a revolution to change the system, because, from my comfortable perch of upper-class-ness as a property owner, with a second hom ...more
Feb 17, 2015 Stefanos rated it really liked it
David Harvey undertook a difficult project. He tried to unravel the complicated story of neoliberalism and to give an enlightening narrative account of how it originated theoretically, how it was practiced and what have been the results. And in my opinion he did a great job!

Concerning the first question - he acknowledges that there are many different theoretical versions but he is mostly concerned with the ‘Hayek version’ since it’s the most well-known and influential. It was Friedrich Hayek, Mi
PSKPI Indonesia
Apr 22, 2011 PSKPI Indonesia rated it it was amazing
Harvey argues in line with the conclusion made by Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy that "neoliberalization was from the very beginning a project to achieve the restoration of class power" (p.16), utilizing the uneven development to insert their interests (p.87). This insertion interplays with time and place. Consequently, the materialization of the neoliberalization is uneven (p.118). It is so dependent on the internal class structure of a nation and its relation to the transnational condition ...more
Kevin Lawrence
Sep 29, 2013 Kevin Lawrence rated it really liked it
While reading Harvey's book was nothing less than a worthwhile and beneficial experience, I do think think the book is a bit dated now and needs to be reissued with a new introduction that takes into account the events of the 2008 global financial crisis to hear how Harvey squares his main ideas about neoliberalism with that economic/social/political dynamic (does it show a resilience for neoliberalism that Harvey perhaps underestimated? Does it confirm or intensify some of the analytical conclu ...more
Jan 09, 2014 Jon rated it liked it
Harvey certainly gives a convincing account of neoliberalism. The style he writes in is very readable and lucid. However, I think this account, though convincing, lacks some credibility. It's all very well and good making the claim that the neoliberal ideology only exists to satisfy the interests of the upper class and create a system that redistributes wealth upwards. Undoubtedly this is what neoliberalism has done. But, I think this account errs a bit on the side of conspiracy. I thinks its ev ...more
Jul 27, 2007 Doug rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in political economy
Harvey argues that neoliberalism gained favor among the ruling classes during the economic crises of the 1970s. Simply put, the social contract agreed upon in a post WWII world worked for elites as long as the economy kept expanding. In the 1970s, the global crisis in capitalism kept economic growth stagnant. In other words, they were fine with a fixed percentage of the economic pie as long as the pie kept getting bigger. Once the pie stopped expanding, the elites wanted a bigger piece.

To incre
Bro_Pair أعرف
As a layman, this text was extremely accessible and informative. Unlike most political economists/geographers, he is compulsively readable, and has a flair for narrative and scope. As for his political and economic judgment, it is stunning to see how accurately in 2005 he anticipated the 2008 financial collapse, and more impressively, the concomitant state coercion used against the global protest movement that emerged from the depression. Harvey never descends into histrionics, but his attitude ...more
Aug 01, 2015 Marc-André rated it really liked it
Argues efficiently that neoliberalism was pushed to restore the power of an elite of investors and industrials. It goes very much against the tendancy to impute current world trends like poverty, insecurity and inequalities to defect in the practical application of neoliberalism. Rather, it analyse these trends as a deliberate choice to favorise the few at the cost of the many. It seems hard to argue against the facts and the numbers used to support this claim.
Dave Riley
Nov 24, 2013 Dave Riley rated it it was amazing
This has to be a must read for anyone seeking to understand where the politics of 'now' came from. Harvey charts a thorough analysis of the genesis and course of the ideology and consequences of neoliberalism.

He does it -- given that his reputation rests with his 'reading' of Marx's Capital (and that ain't an easy read) the big surprise is that this book is extremely accessible.

As a "brief history' it is indeed neolibearlism for beginners. If you suspect that you don't like anything whatsoever
Ismael Galvan
Oct 11, 2012 Ismael Galvan rated it really liked it
Damn, what a tough read. But also, how enlightening!This book has thrown light on what Neoliberalism is, how it functions, and its history. Harvey backs up everything he says with a lengthy works cited section in the back in case you want to cross check facts. I had read some Noam Chomsky and other similar writers, yet this book greatly stood out for me as to laying out how Neoliberalism began as just an idea to becoming a world wide ethic.

The only thing I'm going to fault this guy on is his "pr
Jun 03, 2015 Kristin rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-nerd-books
i'd give this closer to 3.5 stars (WHY NO HALF STARS, GOODREADS?!?!). its a fairly accessible read, and covers some basic tenets of neoliberalism. i agree with some of the other reviewers that his analysis seems driven by an existing ideological opposition to neoliberalism, and therefore some of his claims lack some credibility. its tough to judge the quality/rigor of information that i'm getting from a book like this that doesn't clearly outline how (and why) he collected the data that support ...more
Wayne Craske
Jan 16, 2016 Wayne Craske rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book, well written and informative.
The writing is lucid and flows easily, the charts and graphs are enlightening, and there are no divergences from the thrust of each chapter.
This is exactly what it says it is: a history of neoliberalism. There is plenty of analysis- extremely critical analysis, but it is first and foremost a history of the development of neoliberal thought and practice.
The usual suspects are all here: the IMF, WTO, the world bank.
The main argument of the bo
Matthew Maclean
May 09, 2014 Matthew Maclean rated it liked it
Readable (for Harvey) and concise description of the basic ideas of neoliberalism, its various beginnings and increasing entrenchment across the world, and an assessment of just what it has actually managed to achieve.

Many of the topics - aspects of neoclassical economic theory, the story of the Thatcher and Reagan governments, for example - are covered in much greater detail in other books. In fact, I doubt there is much that is original here, but that is not really the intention as the word "
Kelly Jackson
Aug 12, 2013 Kelly Jackson rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening, heart-wrenching, breathtaking explanation of capitalism as we now know it. Harvey walks his readers through the history of neoliberal politics and explains not only WHAT happened, but HOW and WHY. Unlike other books of its kind, "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" also offers solutions through theory AND activism. Anyone who is even tangentially interested in the world as we know it ABSOLUTELY MUST READ THIS BOOK!
Jan 05, 2015 Carrie added it
One of the ideas that struck me the most in this book is the idea that social justice cannot really coexist with individualism. Because if you really want social justice in the world you have to repress personal desires. Not sure I really buy it but I did also recently come across the comment "Individualism is part of Colonialism" in a discussion on indigenous rights...
Jan 21, 2015 Paula rated it really liked it
It seems unlikely that a group of wealthy individuals meet together to plot their own greedy rise to unconscionable wealth, while the rest of the world crashes and burns. However, the effects on the rise of the wealthy class, and the expansion of the poor class over the last several decades has been the same whether it was intentional or not. It is certain that a few economists have had a profound impact on the world economy. Their theories, designated in this book and elsewhere as Neoliberalism ...more
Dan Prisk
Feb 02, 2016 Dan Prisk rated it it was amazing
In 'A Brief History of Neoliberalism' Harvey paints a broad picture of the rise, and effects, of neoliberalism. Touching on it's impact on the political, economic, and social spheres, he places at it's core the restoration and accumulation of class power.

It's a fantastic read, that covers some really interesting ground in mapping the state of our current world, it's deeply entwined political and financial spheres, and the alienation they create.

Perhaps the one weak section was the chapter on C
Mar 13, 2015 Joshua rated it liked it
I was most intrigued by the discussion of the historical trends and focused political energies that lead to the emergence of the neoliberal consensus. The critique of neoliberalism's failings would require greater knowledge of economics for me to properly assess, but it is convincing enough to feed my long-held skepticism towards neoliberalism. Nonetheless, I'd have to do more research before I could wholeheartedly support the book's conclusions. This relatively short book is nonetheless packed ...more
Billie Pritchett
Feb 05, 2016 Billie Pritchett rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, history
The world since the 1970s has been in a new economic era sometimes called the era of financialization or finance capitalism. This involved mainly making money through trades, investments, and loans and not through productive capitalism. In many respects, the new era of finance capitalism is exploitative because it allows people to make profits off of other people's industries, ordinary people's taxes, and government subsidies, and not through real profits through labor or production.

The ideology
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David Harvey (born 1935) is the Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A leading social theorist of international standing, he graduated from University of Cambridge with a PhD in Geography in 1961. He is the world's most cited academic geographer (according to Andrew Bodman, see Transactions of the IBG, 1991,1992), and the author ...more
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“Neoliberalization has not been very effective in revitalizing global capital accumulation, but it has succeeded remarkably well in restoring, or in some instances (as in Russia and China) creating, the power of an economic elite. The theoretical utopianism of neoliberal argument has, I conclude, primarily worked as a system of justification and legitimation for whatever needed to be done to achieve this goal.” 18 likes
“Neoliberalization has meant ,in short,the financialization of everything.There was unquestionably a power shift away from production to the world of finance.” 11 likes
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