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A Brief History of Neoliberalism

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  5,340 ratings  ·  388 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 wh ...more
Paperback, 247 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 12th 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
Jan 23, 2014 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. 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 joint state-cor
Roy Lotz
It is one thing to maintain, for example, that my health-care status is my personal choice and responsibility, but quite another when the only way I can satisfy my needs in the market is through paying exorbitant premiums to inefficient, gargantuan, highly bureaucratized but also highly profitable insurance companies.

Neoliberalism is a term that is often thrown about; and yet, like socialism and capitalism, I often feel that I do not quite know what it means. Its common definition—the prefer
May 舞
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
And so it has been: a horror story of the most repulsive sort -except that it's not fiction; that's the reality we live in.

This brief history of Neo-Liberalism has left a bad taste in my mouth. The more I read, the more I felt overwhelming disgust towards those advocating and propagating this pernicious system of gross inequality, upper class enrichment, labour exploitation, and environmental degradation.
"...neo-liberalization was from the very beginning a project to achieve the restoration of
The primary Western Leftist text on how capitalist power was reconstituted following the capitalist accumulation/regulatory crises in the 60-70’s…

The Essentials:
--As you can see from the amount of reviews for a nonfiction on “Neoliberalism”, this book is the go-to Western Leftist critique. While Harvey piles on a litany of characteristics and events, the central thesis is clear: following the 1960-70s crises in global capitalism, Neoliberalism was a response to rebuild capitalist class power.
Jul 08, 2010 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
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ok, first off, let me give you a bit of full disclosure. I am 100% behind globalization and free trade. These are essential tenets for me in my economic philosophy. In my estimation globalization and free trade are the best tools in growing economies and maximizing the total wealth pie. Although I have to say that protective barriers are sometimes warranted given certain unfair practices like US/Europe subsidizing their agricultural industries, which in turn decimates agricultural industries in ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book was written during the Bush presidency, but it predicts everything--financial crisis, rising nationalism, crisis response, etc. And we did not go the route suggested, but only doubled down on neoliberalism and added some xenophobia and nationalism. It's time to talk about class politics without caricatures ...more
Peter Mathews
I've read some insubstantial reviews of this book on Goodreads that accuse this book of being insubstantial. Mouth breathers, every one.

It's true that there is a certain political angle to Harvey's analysis, but the facts stand firmly with him. Primary among those facts are the massive transfers of wealth that have widened the gap between rich and poor in the contemporary world. That's not a political opinion, it's a fact.

Secondly, there is the demonstrably negative effects that these transfers
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
Dec 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein as a 19-year old was a profoundly radicalizing experience. This book by David Harvey could be counted as a more academic version of that work, published around the same time and making the same general critique of neoliberal economics and its political enablers. But while Klein’s book focused on the role that crises played in pushing forward laissez faire economic policies, Harvey's book dives deeper into the mechanics and goals of neoliberal theories ...more
Alex Hiatt
Nov 22, 2009 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
W.D. Clarke
Sep 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
[Review thingy forthcoming placeholder]
Dec 07, 2014 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. ...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
Anand Gopal
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The key point in this book is that neoliberalism isn't just a failed economic policy (as Stiglitz and others claim) but a deliberate attempt to steal wealth from the poor. In other words, neoliberalism is class warfare, waged since the 1970s. ...more
Sep 28, 2011 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
Alexander Popov
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Neoliberal concern for the individual trumps social democratic concern for equality, democracy, and social solidarities."

This was written in 2005 or even earlier. OK, yes, it is a silly coincidence of a pun, but, coincidentally, it pretty succinctly captures 2016. More importantly, the rest of the book provides a framework within which Trump and Brexit are not surprising at all, they emerge as events that are a natural development under the current reckless course of globalization and capital a
Aug 06, 2015 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
Joseph Stieb
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
A book that is stronger when it is a history and less valuable as a political critique. This is one of those books that sets down historiographical markers effectively but it limited by the fact that the author's goal is to criticize and replace neoliberalism as much as it is to explain it. The main argument, which I partially buy, is that neoliberalism was embraced and promoted starting in the 1970s as a response to various economic crises but also as a way for the economic elite of Western soc ...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
Kate Savage
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Economic theory always numbs my brain. And this book wasn't as accessibly-written as I expected. I had to keep Wikipedia up so I could remember what monitarism means or what financialization refers to.

The most interesting part for me was the penultimate chapter, "Neoliberalism on Trial." Harvey fully sets out the evidence that Neoliberalism is merely a retrenchment of power for the capitalist class, clothed in empty words of freedom.

It was written during the Bush years. It was an eerie and depr
Oct 18, 2009 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
Sigurjón Guðjónsson
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
A dry read but helps you understand why the world is the way it is. Remarkable how the author predicted the 2008 economic crash along with the rise of figures such as Bernie and Trump.
Amber Lea
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The perfect companion piece for The System by Robert B. Reich.

It's the same idea. The rich are stealing all the wealth and hoarding it and making us fight for scraps while telling us it's in our best interest. #freedom

This was written during the Bush-era. I'm like oh man, 2007 David Harvey you are about to go on a wild ride.
Jan 06, 2014 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
Aug 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book should be called The Anti-Neoliberalists Guide to Neoliberalism by an Unhinged Liberal.
The book starts off well enough, but the author's strong bias against neoliberalism (or conservatism or classical liberalism or Republican principles or the US in general) is revealed more and more with each chapter. The author is so cynical I often found myself laughing out loud.
Just by way of example: the author repeatedly states his belief that the whole goal of the Reagan Revolution, Thatcher's
Jesse Field
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I can’t remember if David Harvey was such a powerful prose stylist in his earlier works, like The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change— the graduate school years when I first examined such materials fade ever further into the past! In any case, the 2007 Brief History of Neoliberalism is a pleasure in its tight formulations and sensible narrative, as if wrangling in magical words the complexity, or even chaos, of history since the 1970s.

The neoliberal state i
Oct 03, 2014 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... ...more
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Reads like a conspiracy history of economics manual. He calls everything neoliberal, from religious revivals to "the creation of new drugs for new illnesses" to gerrymandering to new musical forms, which weakens his case dramatically. He also doesn't explain why "embedded liberalism" worked the way it did, or why it failed. The only interesting chapter was the one on China. ...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

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10 likes · 2 comments
“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.” 29 likes
“Neoliberalization has meant ,in short,the financialization of everything.There was unquestionably a power shift away from production to the world of finance.” 27 likes
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