A Brief History of Neoliberalism
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A Brief History of Neoliberalism

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  1,733 ratings  ·  119 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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 22nd 2005 by OUP Oxford (first published 2005)
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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
Alex Hiatt
Dec 19, 2009 Alex Hiatt rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition 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...more

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...more
Rob Kitchin
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
PSKPI Indonesia
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
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
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
Jul 27, 2007 Doug rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition 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...more
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
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...more
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...more
Edd Yerburgh
An expertly written book on an incredibly relevant subject. Harvey 's presentation of neoliberalism is the definitive book on the subject, and you would be hard pressed to find a recent account of neoliberalism without reference to Harvey's seminal work.

Not only is this subject presented in laymen's terms, avoiding the 'obfuscation' many academic texts fall pray to, but its content is undeniably accurate and of valuable interest to the young academic.

I would thoroughly recommend this book, not...more
Read this after the Shock Doctrine. This is a pretty good work if you want to understand the economics behind the Shock Doctrine. Get ready for a serious dose of Friedman and von Hayek in this though.
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
Kind of dull, a bit too academic, and very depressing. Not a very inspiring book. It certainly was brief, but clearly Harvey was more interested in, well, giving a brief history of neoliberalism than in making a more hopeful book.

oh, and the book is so boring that I feel like I've wasted my time on it. This book took up a good two or three hours I'll never get back, telling me things I already knew. I actually got the book to read a bit about opposition to neoliberalism, but Harvey's an economis...more
Great book, argument is persuasive. Link between ideology and economy, from my point of view is described better than in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Best part, I think is gradual transition from keynsianism to neoliberalism in the 1970s.
Though when it comes to solutions, dr. Harvey is way too soft. Well, it seems like he knows it, and has to excuse himself every time he tries to prove that gender and identity struggle and handing out leaflets won't help against bombs gu...more
Joel Rubin
Explains in about 200 pages how the modern conventional economic wisdom came to be, and its many consequences. Why is everything made in China? What is globalism? What is "free trade"? Why has union power declined in the US? Why have the rich gotten so much richer since the 80s? Etc, etc. If you have ever noticed that in the US there seems to be a conflation of supposedly "progressive" ideals of individual freedom and liberty with the un-progressive "freedom" of financiers and corporations from...more
Adrian Alvarez
"US leaders have, with considerable domestic public support, projected upon the world the idea that American neoliberal values of freedom are universal and supreme, and that such values are to die for. The world is in a position to reject that imperialist gesture and refract back into the heartland of neoliberal and neoconservative capitalism a completely different set of values: those of an open democracy dedicated to the achievement of social equality coupled with economic, political, and cult...more
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...more
Harvey's book is a really good examination of a economic ideology that has become the dominant cultural, economic, political, and imperial force since the late 1970s. He examines how the theory of neoliberalism--that free markets are the only ethical means of governance, that individual private property and accumulation rights are inviolate, and that everything is or should be commodified--has played out in practice to (re)establish a ruling class with incredible wealth at the expense of the mas...more
John David
David Harvey, whose professional background as a geographer has slowly led him astray into the fields of economics and cultural criticism, has written a interesting, if dense, intellectual history of neoliberalism, in both theory and practice. While not nearly as consequential as some of his other work (especially “The Condition of Postmodernity” and “The Limits to Capital”), it is nevertheless a highly compelling, critical account of the prevailing economic ideology of our time. As someone with...more
A friend once noted that Marxists are great at deconstructing ideas they disagree with but "are shit prescriptivists." Certainly true here. But that itself wouldn't necessarily be a huge problem. A critique can be a great thing, and there is certainly much to criticize in the current socioeconomic order, both in theory and as applied. Here, though, David Harvey spends much of the latter two-thirds of the book straddling—and often crossing—the line between being disingenuous and being flatly dish...more
As Harvey (2007) suggests, "[c]ultural and traditional values (such as belief in God and country or views on the position of women in society) and fears (of communists, immigrants, strangers, or 'others') can be mobilized to mask other realities (39)."

This is apparent in the current political climate in the US. Through time, conservative Christianity and the Republic party began to become more affiliated, despite the separation of Church and State; soon many of the US hardships became viewed no...more
... and thus begins my awkward attempt to formulate some understanding of global economics, political science, etc!

(i probably should have began with smith or marx, but i figured i'd dive into something i'd been eyeing for a while anyway.)

i found harvey's arguments convincing and refreshing. he spends a good bit of time lamenting the european welfare state in a pragmatic manner, and the philosophical lineage he follows points towards keynes, polanyi and FDR more than marx or trotsky (harvey is a...more
After Bretton Woods, an uneasy compromise resulted in an economic order that consolidated monetary hegemony with the United States via fixed exchange rates, produced sustained high levels of growth, which lead in turn to demands by the productive classes for a guaranteed social wage and a very high level of welfare, and set the stage for proletarianization on a global level through the export of Fordist wage regimes, Taylorist methods, and Keynesian financial policy. By the late 1960s, through,...more
Lisa Munro
I had been teaching about neo-liberal economic theory in my class and thought I should probably read this book to understand it better. I'm glad I did. In addition to explaining the nuts and bolts of neo-liberalism, Harvey also argues that neo-liberal rhetoric is, at heart, a disguise for its underlying project: the restoration [or creation] of class power. Harvey convincingly argues that neo-liberalism, despite its claims of the pursuit of freedom, is actually profoundly undemocratic. Harvey, a...more
Harvey here provides an compact--and cogent--summary of the theory and history neoliberalism, aka free-market fundamentalism. Harvey persuasively makes the following case: that neoliberal theory and real-world neoliberalization, which often deviated from theory in significant ways, constitute a form of (often-open) class warfare and wealth-transfer from the world's poorest to the world's richest. Not a surprising thesis, but this book outlines the precise ways--especially in the realm of finance...more
Aug 12, 2009 Mike rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: socialists, people who work, those who despise Reagan
Neoliberalism, as defined in A Brief History of Neoliberalism, is the motive of recent (since Reagan/Thatcher/Pinochet) economic policy around the world by which wealth is distributed to favored sectors of the economy (primarily the financial sector) often at the expense of others (like manufacturing). The author shows that its stated economic objectives (deregulation, free flow of capital) are only followed when said objectives further the interests of the financial class. He talks about the ca...more
Judith Rodenbeck
Jul 26, 2007 Judith Rodenbeck rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: everyone
I am working my way through this during subway rides to the dentist. Harvey provides an historical breakdown of neoliberal policy and effects since Bretton Woods, and concentrates especially on the recent rapid accumulation of capital among a tiny economic elite. This book gives a broad-brush picture of the motivations behind particular socioeconomic decisions, and though he doesn't go into depth about the effects of those decisions he does point to the overarching thematics of the neoliberal "r...more
Grenville Bevan
Jun 01, 2008 Grenville Bevan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone wanting to know about the problems about today
David Harvey examines the post 1970's rise of neo-liberal/neo-conservative policies. These policies are better known as Thatcherism,Bushism,Blairism, but Pinochet
Chile was where 'letting the market' be freer of elected government promises to the electorate began. Privatization of public assets,legally reducing employee and consumer protections,increasing the inequality of incomes between social groups were carried through following a military coup overthrowing a democratically elected government...more
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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
More about David Harvey...
The Condition of Postmodernity The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism A Companion to Marx's Capital Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution The New Imperialism

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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.” 10 likes
“Beyond the speculative and often fraudulent froth that characterizes much of neoliberal financial manipulation, there lies a deeper process that entails the springing of ‘the debt trap’ as a primary means of accumulation by dispossession. Crisis creation, management, and manipulation on the world stage has evolved into the fine art of deliberative redistribution of wealth from poor countries to the rich. I documented the impact of Volcker’s interest rate increase on Mexico earlier. While proclaiming its role as a noble leader organizing ‘bail-outs’ to keep global capital accumulation on track, the US paved the way to pillage the Mexican economy. This was what the US Treasury–Wall Street–IMF complex became expert at doing everywhere. Greenspan at the Federal Reserve deployed the same Volcker tactic several times in the 1990s. Debt crises in individual countries, uncommon during the 1960s, became very frequent during the 1980s and 1990s. Hardly any developing country remained untouched, and in some cases, as in Latin America, such crises became endemic. These debt crises were orchestrated, managed, and controlled both to rationalize the system and to redistribute assets. Since 1980, it has been calculated, ‘over fifty Marshall Plans (over $4.6 trillion) have been sent by the peoples at the Periphery to their creditors in the Center’. ‘What a peculiar world’, sighs Stiglitz, ‘in which the poor countries are in effect subsidizing the richest.” 3 likes
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