Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David…

A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005)

by David Harvey

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
709713,323 (3.87)3



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 3 mentions

English (6)  German (1)  All languages (7)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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 Marxist cultural geographer, makes no bones about his beliefs about the dangers and failures of neo-liberalism and argues for a return to the "embedded" liberalism of the post-1945 era.

I was a little bit afraid that this book would be filled with economic jargon, but I found it quite readable. I got a little bit lost in his discussions about China, as I'm just not familiar enough with macro-economic theories to understand exactly how neo-liberalism would play out there. I was also hoping for an epilogue or an updated prologue with information about the 2008 economic crisis in the US, which seemed to conform to Harvey's predictions. Harvey shines in his analysis of the UK and US situations and I was glad to see that he included a fair amount of information on Latin America as well, as it often seems to be a laboratory for economic theories.

This book asks some profoundly troubling but very necessary questions about our conceptions of freedom and democracy. ( )
1 vote lisamunro | Dec 8, 2013 |
Very clear examination of what neoliberalism is, where it came from, and what's problematic about it. ( )
  KatrinkaV | Apr 24, 2012 |
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 a much greater interest in the theoretical side of matters than the pragmatics, I was somewhat disappointed that Harvey spent a lot of time discussing what neoliberal policies have perpetrated in various countries (Chile, China, the United States, and Sweden) as opposed to focusing on its formation and instantiation about a generation ago. The theory, for the most part, is discussed only in the first two chapters, while the rest of the book is dedicated its various effects.

According to Harvey, after the end of World War II, the social democracies of Western Europe were dominated by what he calls "embedded liberalism," an amalgam of "state, market, and democratic institutions to guarantee peace, inclusion, well-being, and stability," and which was marked by the regulation of free trade and the belief that full employment and the social welfare of the citizenry were at the heart of a healthy economy." The postwar economies that operated under embedded liberalism saw gradual growth and prosperity throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but eventually began to falter under a new set of emergent economic ideas.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s in China, England, and the United States, the shift away from policy finally began to catch up to the growing disenchantment among elites with embedded liberalism. The markers on the way to a final transition were obvious: in 1973, a U.S.-led coup in Chile in which we provided the economic minds to completely deregulate Allende's social-democratic system and install a fascist who respected no boundary between the state and the corporation; in 1979, a total restructuring of U.S. monetary policy under the direction of Paul Volcker (who still rears his head in policy-making decisions three decades later); and soon afterward the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The changes, too, were just as apparent: the increasing amounts of deregulation in private enterprise, the investment of capital in foreign economies, and the promotion of a regressive tax structure in which the super-rich pay the same percentage in taxes as the poor.

Harvey explicitly makes two arguments about the pervasive growth of neoliberalism: 1) some of the ways in which it is practiced making it a veritable contradiction in terms, and 2) neoliberalism has successfully rebuilt and sustained a lasting class differential and formation of capitalist class power which the working poor and middle classes have to continually fund. First, while one of the main tenets of the neoliberalism is to keep state interference in the economy to an absolute minimum, it turns out that the state conveniently intervenes when it is in the best interest of economic elites who run the system (see Paul Bremer's opening up of the Iraqi economy and banking system to foreign investment and business, as well as the aforementioned United States intervention in Chile). Secondly, the idea of continued and increased economic growth is a shibboleth. Aggregate growth rates after the inception of neoliberalism - which declined from 3.5% in the 1960s to a current approximate 1% after 2000 - show it to be less and less a set of economic policies which actually produce wealth in an egalitarian manner. While a formation of an ultra-rich capitalist class would have been unheard of in socialist China or Russia forty years ago, the vastly uneven distributions of wealth have allowed for exactly that.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is when Harvey discussed neoliberalism is when he talks about how the concept of "freedom" is deployed to rhetorically shore it up. Whenever you hear neoliberal policies discussed by politicians, you always hear about how open markets create more "freedom," which Harvey does not admit is true, at least in a sense. What he does emphasize is that it excludes other notions of freedom, such as access to a wide array of social services, the ability to collectively negotiate for wages, and appropriate working conditions.

This comes highly recommended for anyone interested in left-wing politics, criticism of the economic policies of international institutions (especially the International Monetary Fund and World Bank), and an answer to laissez-faire capitalism broadly speaking. ( )
1 vote kant1066 | Oct 14, 2011 |
Reviewed here.
  scott.neigh | Jan 25, 2010 |
david harvey critically examines post'70's neo-liberal (neo-conservative) policies. He argues that the richest within global societies had experienced a decline in their power to distribute wealth to favour their interests upto the '70's. That neo-liberalist policies have gone a long way to re-establish
their dominance by re-distributing wealth back to themselves at a level approaching that of the 1920's. Globalization,privatization of publicly owned assets he sees as vehicles which have brought about that re-distribution.
His argument here relates to his writing in his other works, where he sees
a rolling crisis within capitalism and so for everyone involved. With others he relates this to the 'over-accumulation' of productive capacity,including investment in china.
1 vote intersicezon | Jun 1, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Es könnte durchaus sein, dass künftige Historiker die Jahre 1978 bis 1980 als einen revolutionären Wendepunkt in der globalen Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeschichte interpretieren.
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Neoliberalismus bedeutet kurz und knapp: Finanzmärkte über alles. (S. 45)

...die liberale Utopie [ist] einzig und allein durch Macht, Gewalt und ein autoritäres System aufrechtzuerhalten. Nach Polanyi ist der liberale oder neoliberale Utopismus also dazu verdammt, in einem autoritären System oder gar im offenen Faschismus zu enden. (S. 50)
Last words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199283273, Paperback)

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 where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:58 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

David Harvey, author of 'The New Imperialism' and 'The Condition of Postmodernity', tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalisation came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Originally published: 2005.

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
111 wanted3 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.87)
2 3
3 16
3.5 10
4 22
4.5 5
5 15

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,867,310 books! | Top bar: Always visible