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A Brief History of Neoliberalism

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A Brief History of Neoliberalism

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

International neoliberalism has undermined social structures, shaped markets and created a few very rich beneficiaries.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


This is an essential, thought-provoking book for anyone engaged in international business, the media, corporate strategy and governance. It fills the gaps between what you see in the media and what you experience as a citizen and businessperson by very ably explaining the theory and practice of neoliberalism. This philosophy has largely replaced liberalism as a popular political doctrine. The results are not very impressive from a democratic perspective, according to this analysis by author David Harvey. Armed with a different perspective and interesting sources, he puts neoliberal political thought and practice into its modern context, in everything from foreign policy, to how the media (led by Fox News) presents events, to the emergence of the new super wealthy class built on huge profits raked in by select corporations. He dedicates a chapter to the way this policy has worked in China, and frequently cites its effects in other countries. getAbstract thinks this well-documented short book makes it easier for readers to understand contemporary events and recommends it to business strategists, media professionals and concerned world citizens.


Dignity and Freedom

When U.S. and coalition forces entered the Iraq War, one stated reason was to free the Iraqi people from a dictator’s rule, but another was to free the country’s entire business structure. In military orders signed in September 2003, the head of coalition forces announced that Iraq’s public businesses would be privatized, foreign companies would have full ownership rights, including rights to company profits and all trade barriers would be removed. The new policy would apply to all industries, except the oil industry. With this sweeping change, Iraq’s business structure was opened to foreign control. Other changes included a national flat tax on Iraqis and a clamp down on Iraqi labor activities, including a ban on strikes and organizing.

In effect, these military orders made Iraq into a neoliberal state. The orders created a structure where national and foreign corporations could do business, while emphasizing the importance of private property, multinationals and financial investment. What happened in Iraq was very similar to what happened in Chile in 1973, when the CIA and U.S. corporations - threatened by the Chilean president’s socialist agenda...

About the Author

David Harvey is a professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has written extensively on the political economy of globalization, urbanization and cultural change.

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