[Marxism] David Harvey's new book "NeoLiberalism"

Yvonne Liu yl90 at columbia.edu
Tue Nov 1 10:03:04 MST 2005

Hi everyone,

I took notes at yesterday's panel.  It may be interesting for other  
folks.  Sorry if there are misspellings (how does one spell "bandung"?).

Leo Pavitch: Talked about class power in the process of creating US  
hegemony.  Best chapters are on the neoliberal state and China.***   
American hegemony underscored by finances?  Thinks that US is not  
declining in financial wealth.  Volume of US exports has grown but  
deficit is because of mass influx of imports.  Harvey argues in the  
end of the book that it’s the collapse of the US hegemony – is simply  
wrong.  Thinks the opposite is true.  Because of the degree of  
integration of the world bourgeoisie with neoliberalism, i.e.  
disagreements over Iraq were covered when UK and France supported the  
occupation after the fact in the UN.  Social Democracy provided real  
reforms after the war, but extremely compromised in its alliance with  
capitalism.  Allowed multinational corp. to grow.  Allowed new class  
actors to enter.  The Social Democratic movement stressed PLANNING  
over democracy, was bureaucratic.  The New Left who challenged the  
old Social Democracy was kept isolated and away, not allowed to  
reinvigorate the institutions for class power.  There are limits to  
class power and working class politics.  Not enough to look towards a  
new Social Democracy.

Katherine V.: 1) The state, and 2) Ethnography
1) Thinking about the state – will coteach with David.  The argument  
in the book presents that neoliberalism has its own state, it is an  
IT.  Inconsistencies in practice with neoliberal theory, esp in  
Bush.  Disaggregate the state into its functions, and looking for  
changing alliances among executors.
2) Ethnography – Where’s the ethnography?  But the book provides a  
possible frame for possible ethnography.  Her book “The Vanishing  
Hectare,” is one such ethnography.
p. 144 – Restore class power in China, urbanization movement.  But  
proletarianization of migrants is not a new form of class  
organization.  They remain embedded in the family back home, which  
affect their proletarian consciousness.  Address “false consciousness.”
p. 139 – China’s economic growth and dramatic pace, the demand for  
scrap metal in China raised prices all over the world.  Through what  
networks does iron flow out to China, from iron stripped from public  
space in Eastern Europe.  Juana Mattias has done ethnographies on  
scrap metal, scrap metal mafia steals metal from signs, etc.  “Scrap  
iron rush” – commoditization from below.  Is it possible to ask  
China’s rapid rise to scrap metal mafia in Romania?  Or the new rich  
in Romania based on stealing scrap metal.

Doug Henwood: Neoliberalism useful to describe the capital shift in  
the 1970s and 80s.  But danger in that world, same as with  
globalization, is exaggerating the break and the discontinuity.  Also  
known as imperialism and empire.  But all of these concepts have been  
with us for some time.  There was a break in the 70s, a class war  
from above, the fiscal crisis of the 1970s was a broader dress  
rehearsal for the broader neoliberal project.  If NYC can offer  
reduced social services without resistance, then we can “scale up”  
the strategy a few years later.  An increase in crime comes with  
neoliberal restructuring.  This was true in the early years, but  
crime has been falling ever since.  Which has opened neighborhoods  
for gentrification.  Harvey calls for a New New Deal, the original  
one happened because the US economy collapsed and had the USSR as a  
model.  But now, capital is triumphant, and we are unable to imagine  
a new deal.  We cannot hope for a reformist agenda from 70 years  
ago.  Thatcher was trying to change the soul.  But her soul  
transformation has succeeded, that’s why we can’t articulate the  
alternative.  U.S. debt owned by Chinese banks – is not predicting a  
large economic crisis.  Bush regime more concerned with military  
power and not economic and financial power.  Doesn’t think that  
neoliberalism will die of its own contradictions, but the left  
doesn’t have the tools to that.

Giovanni Arrighi: “Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System”  
with Beverley Silver.  1) Agree with Doug, David deals with  
globalization in the footnote, saying that the literature is too  
vast.  But neolib and glob are KINDRED TERMS, and equally confusing.   
Neoliberal ideology by Hayek and Friedman, Chicago Boys.  Then, the  
practices of neoliberalism carried out under the cover of neolib  
ideology.  But often in sharp contrast to the theories themselves,  
both Reagan and Bush Jr. have been ultra-Keynesians.  Voluntary  
export restraints have only emerged in the 1970s and 80s, restraining  
themselves in exporting “voluntarily,” actually a lot of arm  
twisting.  The practice is at variance with the ideology.  Then,  
practices not carried out under neolib, but under other ideologies,  
include export industrialization.  A practice under diverse  
ideologies, include market socialism and developmentalism.  But, what  
opens economies and market mech has nothing to do with neolib  
ideology.  There is a long imperial tradition of rule through the  
market in CHINA.  Has nothing to do with neolib.  Problem when  
discussing the origins of neolib.  Agrees with David’s central  
thesis, not as Leo said, not a mistaken idea or utopia, but it was a  
power project.  A project of restoration/creation of an elite class  
power.  Not just Russia and China where new capitalist classes are  
emerging.  We cannot ignore that there has been a bourgeoisie  
creation all over the place.  The danger of using summary indicators  
of inequality.  A lot of neolib ideology was not about restoring the  
power of classes, but also NEW CLASSES emerging and trying to be  
accommodated in the elite ruling classes.  In the 1970s and 80s,  
intensification of competition and financialization, this context and  
moment of volatility, also a time of struggles that are class  
struggles and COMPETITIVE POWER STRUGGLES, not just class power  
struggles.  Agrees kinda with Leo.  There was not just a class  
challenge: question of putting the Third World and global south in  
its place.  You cant disentangle the two,  a RESTORATION OF CLASS at  
LARGE.  In the Anglo Saxon world, US and UK, were well positioned  
into exploiting the tendencies towards financialization, for  
restoring class power, and restoring northern power in the world at  
large.  The neolib turn, or counter-revolution of 1970s, was these  
two things.

Important in assessing how successful neolib has been: if just focus  
on class power WITHIN nations, the first purpose of the  
counterrevolution, it has been successful.  BUT, if you also look at  
the geopolitical product, geo* and global aspects of it, then not  
successful.  U.S. hegemony in a Gramscian sense is dead.  But, should  
look carefully at the north-south relation.  It was tremendous in the  
short term, victory when Third World destroyed and Second World  
disappeared.  The rise of Anglo saxon power in the 1980s and 90s.   
BUT, CLEARLY THIS IS OVER.  Inequality and relocation of industrial  
capabilities from NORTH to SOUTH.  The beginning (Brazil, S. Africa,  
India, China) of A NEW BANDUNG.  (Like a Kondratieff cycle.)

The first bandung was an ideo project, no economic foundation and  
easily undermined.  1979-82.  But in the meantime, extension of  
regional power of CHINA.  The Third World has long been financing the  
north.  But in tech, labor, capital – more in the south developing  
autonomously, linking closely with the north but creating south-south  
links.  This is TRANSFORMING slowly, and behind how L. America the  
legitimacy of the US to est. the traditional relations are in total  
disarray.  Or of US to set India vs China are not happening.  Opening  
spaces for the south itself to create linkages, not a socialist  
revolution.  But there is an issue of POWER.  2/3 of global  
inequality is BETWEEN countries, 1/3 is WITHIN.

Harvey: Doug mentioned Thatcher out to change the soul.  We have to  
recognize that are all of us neoliberal.  We take it as natural that  
flexibility and privatization is natural.  The rights discourse is  
within the neoliberal frame.  Damaging effect of neolib:  
environmental, etc.  The prob isn’t simply Bush, the high point of  
neolib was Clinton.  Nostalgia for Social Democracy and Roosevelt:  
not nostalgic for Roos.  He did save capitalism.  In 1935, sent a  
message to Congress about “undue private power.”  If social forces  
were arranged around that, that would be crucial.  He is scared about  
a COLLAPSE.  The Economist had an overview of instability in the  
global economy a few months ago, we need to dramatize this.  A  
serious kind of problem.  Who’s benefiting from these crises?  The  
rich always comes off well.  Who really gets hurt are the poor.  The  
ex is New Orleans.  Not just saving capitalism from its own  
stupidity, but also the deprivation of what happened in Argentina or  
Indonesia.  The 1997-98was close to bringing the whole pack of cards  

“Spaces of Hope” – hope is memory that desires (Balzac)
Goes back to the memory of the Social Democrats, if you start from  
nothing then you won’t go so far.  You have a rich past of struggle.   
We need to situate ourselves in this history, but doesn’t like  
nostalgia.  Likes collective memory, one which was systematically  
erased since the 1960s and 70s.  Neolib took the 1968 movement which  
was about liberty and justice, gave it liberty in consumer markets at  
the price of social justice.

Argentina – Don’t just blame the IMF, what about the internal elite  
that stole the money.  Complicated class relationships.

We have absorbed a Thatcherite common sense.

Everyone talks about neolib in market terms, not class terms.  The  
left has stopped talking about class.  Class is more important than  
race, gender, identity, etc.

How do we mobilize a different kind of political desire?

On Nov 1, 2005, at 2:29 AM, acpollack2 at juno.com wrote:

> ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
> I am writing from the absolutely jam-packed reception at the CUNY Grad
> Center on 5th Ave. & 34th St. in NYC for marxist geographer David
> Harvey, his 70th birthday and celebration of his new (and excellent)
> book, "Neo-Liberalism".

vox: 646.321.5710
aim/skype: whyloo

"The philosophers have already interpreted the world, in various  
ways; the point is to change it." -- Karl Marx, 1845, Theses On  

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