Rex’s recent post on “neoliberalism” sparked some good discussion, but much of it was focused on trying to define the term rather than understanding the phenomenon. In a comment Rex tried to refocus the discussion:
Let me try rephrasing: is this conjunction of stuff indicative of a moment (perhaps passed) in anthropology? And if so, why are these two well-known authors thinking about it now, given that (as many of the comments on this channel have indicated) ‘neoliberalism’ has probably been around for decades?
One way of examining the question is to use the excellent database provided by AnthroSource. While somewhat limited in scope, it should be able to reveal broad trends in the discipline. Accordingly, I searched for all articles (in the past 100 years) that used “neoliberalism” in the title. The total number of results was 25 articles, of which over half were published in the past three years! Eleven were published in just the past year and a half. I’d say that’s a trend! The oldest article dates to 1996. [NOTE: Some of these are book reviews, I didn’t see any reason to treat them separately. The full list is below the fold.]
In my own comments on Rex’s thread I suggested that one of the reasons for this trend might be a rethinking of “globalization” and “transnationalism” in which scholars are moving away from issues of consumption and trying to focus on the impact of the organizations responsible for global governance, such as the IMF and WTO.
Of particular importance is the so-called “Washington Consensus“, defined by Wikipedia as:
a set of policies promulgated by many neoliberal economists as a formula for promoting economic growth in many parts of Latin America and other parts of the world. The Washington Consensus policies propose to introduce various free market oriented economic reforms which are theoretically designed to make the target economy more like that of First World countries such as the United States.
The Washington Consensus is the target of sharp criticism by both individuals and groups, who claim that it is a way to funnel economic productivity from less developed Latin American countries to large multinational companies and their wealthy owners in advanced First World economies. As of 2005, several Latin American countries are led by socialist governments that openly oppose the Washington Consensus, and many more are ambivalent. Critics frequently cite the Argentine economic crisis of 1999-2002 as the case in point of why the Washington Consensus policies are flawed, as Argentina had previously implemented most of the Washington Consensus policies as directed.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that over half of the articles using the term have followed in the wake of the Argentina crisis and the rise of left-leaning governments in Latin America. Although some of them date from all the way back in the 1990s, over half of the list of AnthroSource articles are related to Latin America.
The full list of AnthroSource titles containing the word “neoliberalism”:
Sawyer, Suzana. 2006. Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Journal of Latin American Anthropology 11 (1): 238-40.
LEWELLEN, TED. 2006. The Anthropology of Development and Globalization: From Classical Political Economy to Contemporary Neoliberalism the Anthropology of Development and Globalization: From Classical Political Economy to Contemporary Neoliberalism. Marc Edelman and Angelique Haugerud, Eds. Oxford : Blackwell Publishers, 2005. 406 Pp. American Anthropologist 108 (1): 240-41.
Sharma, Aradhana. 2006. Crossbreeding Institutions, Breeding Struggle: Women’s Empowerment, Neoliberal Governmentality, and State (Re)Formation in India. Cultural Anthropology 21 (1): 60-95.
Whitehead, Judy. 2005. The Neoliberal State in Disaster Management. Anthropology News 46 (9): 18-18.
GREENHOUSE, CAROL, J. 2005. Hegemony and Hidden Transcripts: The Discursive Arts of Neoliberal Legitimation. American Anthropologist 107 (3): 356-68.
FERGUSON, JAMES. 2005. Seeing Like an Oil Company: Space, Security, and Global Capital in Neoliberal Africa. American Anthropologist 107 (3): 377-82.
PEREZ, GINA, M. 2005. Barrio Dreams: Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and the Neoliberal City. American Anthropologist 107 (3): 517-18.
GONZALEZ, M., ALFREDO. 2005. Inequality, Poverty, and Neoliberal Governance: Activist Ethnography in the Homeless Sheltering Industry. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 19 (3): 360-63.
Speed, Shannon. 2005. Dangerous Discourseshuman Rights and Multiculturalism in Neoliberal Mexico. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 28 (1): 29-51.
Hale, Charles, R. 2005. Neoliberal Multiculturalismthe Remaking of Cultural Rights and Racial Dominance in Central America. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 28 (1): 10-19.
Smith, James, H. 2005. Buying a Better Witch Doctor: Witch-Finding, Neoliberalism, and the Development Imagination in the Taita Hills, Kenya. American Ethnologist 32 (1): 141-58.
Hairong, Yan. 2003. Neoliberal Governmentality and Neohumanism: Organizing Suzhi/Value Flow Through Labor Recruitment Networks. Cultural Anthropology 18 (4): 493-523.
Hauser, Ewa, Krystyna. 2003. After Revolution: Mapping Gender and Cultural Politics in Neoliberal Nicaragua.; Reproducing Gender: Politics, Publics and Everyday Life After Socialism. After Revolution: Mapping Gender and Cultural Politics in Neoliberal Nicaragua. Florence E. Babb. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. 304 Pp. Reproducing Gender: Politics, Publics and Everyday Life After Socialism. Susan Gal and Gail Kligman, Eds. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. 443 Pp. American Anthropologist 105 (2): 372-74.
Karam, John, Tofik. 2003. Intensified Eth(N)Ics: Arab Brazilians and the “Imagined State” in Neoliberal SÃO Paulo. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 26 (1): 1-27.
Graeber, David. 2002. The Anthropology of Globalization (With Notes on Neomedievalism, and the End of the Chinese Model of the Nation-State) Millennial Capitalism and the Culture of Neoliberalism. Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff. Durham, Nc: Duke University Press, 2001. 320 Pp. Consumers and Citizens: Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. NÉStor GarcÍa Canclini. George YÚDice, Trans. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001. 200 Pp. The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader. Jonathan Xavier Inda and Renato Rosaldo, Eds. London: Blackwell Publishers, 2002. 498 Pp. American Anthropologist 104 (4): 1222-27.
Ferguson, James, and Akhil Gupta. 2002. Spatializing States: Toward an Ethnography of Neoliberal Governmentality. American Ethnologist 29 (4): 981-1002.
Byrnes, Dolores. 2002. After Revolution: Mapping Gender and Cultural Politics in Neoliberal Nicaragua After Revolution: Mapping Gender and Cultural Politics in Neoliberal Nicaragua. Florence E. Babb. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. Vii + 304 Pp., Photographs, Notes, Bibliography, Index. American Ethnologist 29 (4): 1046-48.
Colloredo-Mansfeld, Rudi. 2002. Don’t be Lazy, Don’t Lie, Don’t Steal”: Community Justice in the Neoliberal Andes. American Ethnologist 29 (3): 637-62.
Guano, Emanuela. 2002. Spectacles of Modernity: Transnational Imagination and Local Hegemonies in Neoliberal Buenos Aires. Cultural Anthropology 17 (2): 181-209.
Sawyer, Suzana. 2001. Fictions of Sovereignly: Of Prosthetic Petro-Capitalism, Neoliberal States, and Phantom-Like Citizens in Ecuador. Journal of Latin American Anthropology 6 (1): 156-97.
Stevenson, Mark, A. 1999. German Cultural Policy and Neo-Liberal Zeitgeist. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 22 (2): 64-79.
Babb, Florence, E. 1999. Managua is Nicaragua” the Making of a Neoliberal City. City & Society 11 (1-2): 27-48.
Smith-Nonini, Sandy. 1998. Health ‘Anti-Reform’ in El Salvador: Community Health Ngos and the State in the Neoliberal Era. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 21 (1): 99-113.
Roseberry, William. 1998. Neoliberalism. Transnationalization, and Rural Poverty: A Case Study of Michoacan, Mexico Neoliberalism. Transnationalization, and Rural Poverty: A Case Study of Michoacan, Mexico. John Gledhill. Boulder, Co. Westview Press, 1995. Xi + 243 Pp., Figures, Tables, References, Index. American Ethnologist 25 (1): 53-54.
Kearney, Michael. 1996. Post-Melting-Pot Realism Neoliberalism, Transnationalization and Rural Poverty: A Case Study of Michoacan Mexico. John Gledhill American Dreaming: Immigrant Life on the Margins. Sarah Mahler. American Anthropologist 98 (4): 867-69.
UPDATE: Looks like the last two are reviews of the same book. But that doesn’t seem to change much. Although it might mean that John Gledhill is the one to blame for this trend.
I’m also wondering if one couldn’t use AnthroSource’s RSS feeds to create an automatic Trend Watcher™ that could alert one to new Anthropological fads?