Posts Tagged ‘neoliberalism’

William Carroll and Murray Shaw “Consolidating Policy Neoliberal Bloc in Canada, 1976 to 1996”

In the entries in this series I am writing about my current readings on left writings relating to neoliberalism in Canada.

William Carroll and Murray Shaw’s essay “Consolidating Policy Neoliberal Bloc in Canada, 1976 to 1996”1 interrogates the activism of five prominent organizations that led, and continue to lead, the “consolidation of neoliberal hegemony in Canadian public policy”(195). These five organizations are the Conference Board of Canada, the C.D. Howe Institute, the Business Coalition on National Issues, the Fraser Institute, and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. Carroll and Shaw outline political and policy backgrounds of these five organizations, with a focus on the contexts that gave rise to each organization, and on the particular niche role that each organization plays in advancing neoliberal policy. For example, the Fraser Institute functions to create more legitimacy for far-right views by publishing a lot of material and disseminating it widely; the C.D. Howe Institute, in contrast, has an image of more academic rigour and functions as a mainstream legitimator of the economic principles of neoliberalism (fiscal responsibility, international competitiveness, etc.). In the final section of the paper, Carroll and Shaw, both sociologists, undertake to map the connections in the “corporate policy network,” particularly the instances of interlocking directorships between the five main policy activist groups and leading corporations. This is reminiscent of Ryerson’s analysis in ___, but with a focus on connections to neoliberal policy leaders. The study is also situated within a Gramscian framework, which the authors describe on pp 196-197, specifically outlining “four concepts which converge on a view of neoliberalism as a political and cultural accomplishment: a hegemonic accomplishment” (196).

  1. Carroll, William and Murray Shaw. “Consolidating a Neoliberal Policy Bloc in Canada, 1976 to 1996.” Canadian Public Policy 27, no. 2 (2001). []

Alfredo Saad-Filho “Marxian and Keynesian Critiques of Neoliberalism”

In the entries in this series I am writing about my current readings on left writings relating to neoliberalism in Canada.

In Alfredo Saad-Filho’s essay “Marxian and Keynesian Critiques of Neoliberalism,”1 he outlines the main thrusts of these two political-economic systems and assesses their relative strengths, accuracy, and usefulness. His point of departure is the observation that despite its recent unpopularity and political defeat in some parts of the world, neoliberalism remains “the dominant modality of social and economic reproduction in most countries” (337). Saad-Filho argues that by delineating the analyses of Keynesians and Marxists it becomes clear that only Marxism can adequately understand the continued dominance of neoliberalism. Specifically, Keynesianism fails in its level of analysis, in its underestimation of the agency of neoliberals in support of their (class) interests, and in its prescription for overcoming neoliberalism. Keynesianism analysis does not go deep enough in understanding the influence of neoliberalism: “Keynesian analyses tend to describe conflicts around the process of accumulation, while obscuring or ignoring completely conflicts about the nature of capitalist accumulation” (341). As a result it does not criticize capitalism. Keynesianism fails to appreciate the extent of the agency of those promoting neoliberalism, who will act in their own interests to ensure their continued wealth. Neoliberalism is “not merely a set of economic and social policies,” it “combines an accumulation strategy, a mode of social and economic reproduction and a mode of exploitation and social domination based on the systematic use of state power to impose…a hegemonic project of recomposition of the rule of capital in all areas of social life” (342). Finally, Keynesianism predicts that a strong government with the correct policies could overcome the neoliberal agenda. This both ignores the embeddeness of the state in the social, political, and economic forces that have been taken over by neoliberalism. Recognition of this embededness means acknowledging that change must involve popular movements that challenge the state.

  1. Saad-Filho, Alfredo. “Marxian and Keynesian Critiques of Neoliberalism.” Socialist Register, 2008: 337-345. []



From A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey (2007).

After the implementatino of neoliberal policities in the late 1970s, the share of national [USA] income of the top 1 percent of income earners in the US soared, to reach 15 per cent (very close to its pre-Second World War share) by the end of the century. THe top 0.1 per cent of income earners in the US increased their share of the national income from 2 per cent in 1978 to over 6 per cent by 1999, while the ratio of the median compensation of workers to the salaries of CEOS increased from jus over 30 to 1 in 1970 to nearly 500 to 1 by 2000. Almost certainly, with the Bush administration’s tax reforms now taking effect, the concentration of income and wealth in te upper echelons of society is continuing apace because the estate tax (a tax on wealth) is being phased out and taxation on income from investments and capital gains is being diminished, while taxation on wages and salaries is maintained.” (16-17)

T.H. Marshall, the welfare state, and citizenship

A theme in the readings from the first week of the class called “Critical Perspectives on Citizenship” was the ideas of T.H. Marshall. Basically, Marshall describes the welfare state as having come out of a progression of rights, starting with civil rights (to own property, equal treatment under the law, etc.) in the 18th century, then political rights (to vote, run for office, etc.) in the 18th century, and finally social rights (the right to demand certain provisions from government, i.e. welfare) in the 20th century. The climax of this progression is what Marshall calls ‘social citizenship,’

Marshall can be situated/explained in part by looking at the time at which he was writing, the post war era, when the UN, human rights, bigger social programs in Europe and other places, etc. were all at their apex. In the last 20 years neoliberal ideology has taken over, with a corresponding decline in the rights associated with social citizenship, namely the right to the collective provision of a certain level of basic needs. Janine Brodie in ‘The Social in Citizenship’ (ch. 2 of a book called __),  describes how Marshall’s description of ‘the social’ as only reaching existence /importance in the 20th century is false. Rather the social, or rather “social problems” really came into existence in the 19th century as fissures in society opened up due to the explosion of capitalism and the “industrial revolution,” creating a poor class (=lumpenproletariat?). This process is described most well/famously by two thinkers, one of whom I am already very fond of, and the other I am coming to appreciate immensely: Karl Polanyi and Michel Foucault.

So, the neoliberal destruction of ‘social citizenship,’ through the so-called ‘hand up vs hand out’ approach (also called entrepreneurial citizenship) applies market values to all social institutions and actions, creating a situation where, “citizens are released from social entitlements and obligations as they maximize their choice and capacities for self-sufficiency.” (41) Neoliberals do this in a number of basically sneaky ways, culminating in the goal of “individualization.” Individualization, “places steeply rising demands on people to find personal causes and responses to what are, in effect, collective social problems.” Thereby, “responsibility for social crises that find their genesis in such macro processes as structural unemployment, racism, or unequal gender orders is put onto the shoulders of individuals.” (41)

So, and this is basically what Polanyi describes, the neo/liberals and neoconservatives are attempting to subordinate the social to the economic, a task that is, in my opinion and Polanyi’s (at least), doomed to eventual failure.

Thats it on this for now.