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Ethnographies of Neoliberalism

Ethnographies of Neoliberalism

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Ethnographies of Neoliberalism
    Book Description:

    Since 2008, the global economic crisis has exposed and deepened the tensions between austerity and social security-not just as competing paradigms of recovery but also as fundamentally different visions of governmental and personal responsibility. In this sense, the core premise of neoliberalism-the dominant approach to government around the world since the 1980s-may by now have reached a certain political limit. Based on the premise that markets are more efficient than government, neoliberal reforms were pushed by powerful national and transnational organizations as conditions of investment, lending, and trade, often in the name of freedom. In the same spirit, governments increasingly turned to the private sector for what were formerly state functions. While it has become a commonplace to observe that neoliberalism refashioned citizenship around consumption, the essays in this volume demonstrate the incompleteness of that image-as the social limits of neoliberalism are inherent in its very practice. Ethnographies of Neoliberalism collects original ethnographic case studies of the effects of neoliberal reform on the conditions of social participation, such as new understandings of community, family, and gender roles, the commodification of learning, new forms of protest against corporate power, and the restructuring of local political institutions. Carol J. Greenhouse has brought together scholars in anthropology, communications, education, English, music, political science, religion, and sociology to focus on the emergent conditions of political agency under neoliberal regimes. This is the first volume to address the effects of neoliberal reform on people's self-understandings as social and political actors. The essayists consider both the positive and negative unintended results of neoliberal reform, and the theoretical contradictions within neoliberalism, as illuminated by circumstances on the ground in Africa, Europe, South America, Japan, Russia, and the United States. With an emphasis on the value of ethnographic methods for understanding neoliberalism's effects around the world in our own times, Ethnographies of Neoliberalism uncovers how people realize for themselves the limits of the market and act accordingly from their own understandings of partnership and solidarity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0001-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Carol J. Greenhouse

    “During the second half of the twentieth century,” Timothy Mitchell writes, “economics established its claim to be the true political science” (Mitchell 2002: 272). Neoliberalism—the prevailing approach (for now) to government that supplants regulation by law with market forces, and government functions (especially in the service sector) by private enterprise—brings economics and politics together in even more encompassing terms. In its ideological coherence around the primacy of the private sector, the release of organizations and industries from government regulation, the creation of powerful nonstate transnational institutions and global market regimes, and the assurance of the market’s self-regulating character,...

  4. Part I. State Investments in Insecurity

    • Chapter 1 Security and the Neoliberal State: British Political Imaginaries After 7/7
      (pp. 13-27)
      Kathleen Hall

      In his essay on the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, entitled “The Silence of Words: On Terror and War,” Ulrich Beck writes, “the suicide terror attacks, even months after they happened, remain incomprehensible: the difference between war and peace, the military and the police, war and crime, and national and international security are, from within and without, completely annulled” (2003: 256). And in this time of crisis, he goes on to argue, “Neoliberalism clearly stands without any political answers …. The terrorist threat renders elementary truths conscious again, truths that have been repressed by the neoliberal victory...

    • Chapter 2 The War on Terror and the Paradox of Sovereignty: Declining States and States of Exception
      (pp. 28-43)
      Joseba Zulaika

      If you are an anthropologist working at the periphery of a European nation-state, say in the Catalan or the Basque region of Spain, you are confronted from the outset with the massive presence of American neoliberal hegemony. In the cultural order, for example, take the flashy and much-celebrated Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. You will discover that it is a franchised satellite of the New York museum, established in Bilbao after the city paid a $20 million fee for the brand name and surrendered control over its programmatic decisions to New York. This museum has been the main cultural and urban renovation...

    • Chapter 3 Liberalism Against Neoliberalism: Resistance to Structural Adjustment and the Fragmentation of the State in Russia and Hungary
      (pp. 44-59)
      Kim Lane Scheppele

      For much of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union provided an economic and ideological alternative to capitalism and its liberal foundations. As a result, hard-edged liberalism in the capitalist world was often softened by socialist touches to win the global competition for hearts and minds of the poor. The economic catastrophes of the 1930s had demonstrated to the capitalist countries of the world that they could only assure the stability of both state and economy if they provided for the desperate. As a result, the welfare state emerged first as a pragmatic solution to the problem of system collapse in...

    • Chapter 4 Japan as Mirror: Neoliberalism’s Promise and Costs
      (pp. 60-74)
      Amy Borovoy

      Japan’s postwar emergence as the world’s second largest economy and America’s role in shaping it have made it a compelling reflecting glass for American capitalism. And yet American commentators have varied widely with respect to what they see when gazing into this mirror. At the height of Japan’s economic prominence, many saw simply a “better” version of the United States, an advanced capitalist system rooted in the free market, with admirable systems of education, manufacturing, and management. But later, in the wake of the bursting of the economic bubble in the early 1990s, U.S. economists emphasized Japan’s differences, notably the...

  5. Part II. Politics in the Public-Private Divide

    • Chapter 5 Local Political Geography and American Political Identity
      (pp. 77-95)
      Robert R. Rodgers and Stephen Macedo

      Alexis de Tocqueville famously argued for the importance of local politics as a school of national citizenship: “Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within people’s reach; they teach people to appreciate its peaceful enjoyment and accustom them to make use of it. Without local institutions a nation may give itself a free government, but it has not the spirit of liberty” (Tocqueville 1969: 63). A high degree of administrative decentralization in the United States helped keep government close and accessible to ordinary citizens, Tocqueville observed. Because citizens naturally take an interest in...

    • Chapter 6 Urbanizing the San Juan Fiesta: Civil Society and Cultural Identity in the Barrios of Caracas
      (pp. 96-111)
      Sujatha Fernandes

      “Que venga, que venga, que venga la policia. Que no me tengo miedo” (Let them come, let them come, let the police come. I don’t have no fear). The chant came from a group of residents celebrating the popular religious fiesta of San Juan in a sector known as Las Casitas in the Caracas parish of La Vega. The predominantly black and mestizo barrio residents suffer constant harassment by the metropolitan police, known locally as the “Metropolitana.” Just a week earlier, the Metropolitana had pursued three barrio youth up into Las Casitas, killing the youth and injuring innocent bystanders. But...

    • Chapter 7 Neoliberalism, Satirical Protest, and the 2004 U.S. Presidential Campaign
      (pp. 112-128)
      Angelique Haugerud

      Neoliberalism has sparked a stunning array of popular countermovements.¹ Playful costumes, street theater, colorful giant puppets, music, and a festive spirit enliven these protests. Political street theater and other nonformal “politics that doesn’t look like politics”² have a long history. Some contemporary protest styles continue the spirit of medieval carnival or “festivals of resistance,” or they evoke Brechtian tactics, the 1960s guerrilla theater of the Yippies, or the Bread and Puppet Theater activism of the 1960s and 1970s. During the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, fair trade and debt relief for poor nations have attracted celebrity advocates such as...

  6. Part III. Markets for Cultural Diversity

    • Chapter 8 The Question of Freedom: Post-Emancipation South Africa in a Neoliberal Age
      (pp. 131-145)
      Anne-Maria Makhulu

      The early 1990s saw one chapter in world history coming to a close and another just as surely beginning. After the fall of the Wall, the collapse of communism, and European unification, changes on a planetary scale, the new era promised both uncertainty and possibility. Yet while it may have appeared that such a revolution in politics and economy was limited to the North, other such changes were unfolding to the South. In South Africa, the end of apartheid and the collapse of minority rule raised questions about that postcolony’s place in the new geopolitical configuration and the vulnerability of...

    • Chapter 9 Neoliberal Cultural Heritage and Bolivia’s New Indigenous Public
      (pp. 146-161)
      Robert Albro

      In 1985, Bolivia’s national project radically shifted its purpose. In response to snowballing economic misfortune, the government applied an “orthodox shock”—faithfully following the Washington Consensus formula under the rubric of the “New Economic Policy.” As in other countries adopting neoliberal reforms, the new policy grafted free market goals of fiscal austerity onto an ongoing democratization,¹ but eventually combining them with significant top-down multicultural reforms. The New Economic Policy brought a record inflation under control by dramatically shrinking Bolivia’s public sector, privatizing state-owned industries, decentralizing government, and deregulating trade. These reforms shifted the economic environment from one of Fordist production...

    • Chapter 10 Neoliberal Education: Preparing the Student for the New Workplace
      (pp. 162-176)
      Bonnie Urciuoli

      As Pierre Bourdieu (1998) put it, neoliberalism has become a “free trade faith.” As such, its tenets go beyond policies for privatization and profit maximizing into a reimagining of one’s very condition. The impact of neoliberalism, most strongly articulated in the corporate sector, has since the early 1980s come to saturate all other sectors, including government, nonprofit, health, and, as concerns me here, education. Americans have long perceived higher education as a vehicle for career preparation, but in the last quarter century, higher education, like U.S. education generally, has become increasingly restructured, reexamined, and subjected to outcomes-oriented and cost-reduction assessment....

    • Chapter 11 Harlem’s Pasts in Its Present
      (pp. 177-192)
      Sandhya Shukla

      The presentism of political-economic ideologies like neoliberalism has always frustrated scholars who seek to understand culture. Even anthropologists who are singularly oriented toward the everyday of ethnography confront the power of historical myth and memory in the lives of individuals and communities. To suggest that new forms of organization wipe the slate clean of long-standing investments is at least as untenable as the proposition that such newness is, necessarily, widely desired or freely chosen. The subject of the city brings such complexities to the fore. The nitty-gritty of urban existence (survival, economic activity, pressing political problems) often inspires a deeply...

  7. Part IV. Agency and Ambivalence

    • Chapter 12 Performing Laïcité: Gender, Agency, and Neoliberalism Among Algerians in France
      (pp. 195-206)
      Jane E. Goodman

      In March 1994, the phone rang in my host family’s apartment in the suburbs of Paris, where I had been staying since escalating civil conflict had forced me to leave the Algerian Berber village I call Amkan (a pseudonym) the previous December. On the line was Kamal (a pseudonym), one of Amkan’s more than two thousand immigrants living in Paris.¹ He had been thinking, he told me, that younger immigrants from Amkan—many born and raised in France—needed a way to get to know each other. He had a vision of a new kind of organization—in his words,...

    • Chapter 13 The “Daughters of Soul” Tour and the Politics and Possibilities of Black Music
      (pp. 207-220)
      Maureen Mahon

      In the spring of 2004, I received an e-mail announcing a concert called “Daughters of Soul.” As a fan, I found the tour description enticing. As a cultural anthropologist who studies contemporary African American musicians, I was curious about what the Daughters of Soul might mean in academic terms. Examining the ways and reasons cultural producers use artistic forms for expressive purposes—be they aesthetic, political, or both—is a central research concern for me. The arts and media are moneymaking businesses and sites of consumer entertainment, but they are also arenas in which definitions of identity and relations of...

    • Chapter 14 Rags to Riches: Religion, Media, and the Performance of Wealth in a Neoliberal Age
      (pp. 221-237)
      Marla Frederick

      Minister Leslie’s story is perhaps unexpected but not necessarily unusual for Halifax County, a rural northeastern region of North Carolina. Near the border of Virginia, this is the next-to-last stop in the Carolinas for travelers heading north on Interstate 95. Historically dominated by agriculture, the economy of the region today is driven more or less by neoliberal processes that draw upon manufacturing industries (textiles, poultry, and meatpacking plants) and government contributions to public sector infrastructure (Holland et al. 2007). With a population of around 57,000, the county has about 52.6 percent of inhabitants who identify as African American, 42.6 percent...

    • Chapter 15 The Temporality of No Hope
      (pp. 238-250)
      Hirokazu Miyazaki

      The anthropologist and prominent Australian public intellectual Ghassan Hage has recently drawn attention to the changing character of capitalism and the increasing unequal distribution of hope following neoliberal reform. Hage writes, “Capitalist societies are characterised by a deep inequality in their distribution of hope, and when such inequality reaches an extreme, certain groups are not offered any hope at all” (2003: 17). According to Hage, as a result of the expansion of transnational firms, the character of capitalism has profoundly changed. Global capitalism in turn changed the way the state relates to society: “National and sub-national (such as State or...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 251-266)
  9. References
    (pp. 267-298)
  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 299-300)
  11. Index
    (pp. 301-313)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 314-314)