Savage Minds 1, Anthopology News 0

Ok ok I know it is a snarky title, but I can’t help but notice that the “latest issue”: of Anthropology News has a special section on ‘neoliberalism’, a topic Savage Minds first covered four months ago. At this rate we should see papers in Anthropology News on the concept of assemblage, friction, the ethnography of the state, and Moving To Finland in the next six months or so.

Of course, to be fair Savage Minds comes with bonus typos, and neoliberalism has been on anthropology’s radar for just about a decade now. But still.

UPDATE: As requested, here are links to entries on neoliberalism:
“Neoliberalism: Good. Spy Museum: Better”:/2005/12/06/neoliberalism-good-spy-museum-better/ (this is actually from December, so farther back than I originally mentioned)
“Neoliberalism: The Awakening”:/2006/05/16/neoliberalism-the-awakening/
“Neoliberalism in Anthropology”:/2006/05/16/neoliberalism-in-anthropology/
“The Genealogy of Neoliberal Capitalism and the Slave Trade”:/2005/07/20/the-genealogy-of-neoliberal-capitalism-and-the-atlantic-slave-trade/


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

11 thoughts on “Savage Minds 1, Anthopology News 0

  1. Hey Rex,
    As you know, I’m a slave to fashion — academic or otherwise — and beauty knows no pain. So I’m putting together in my department an informal discussion group on neoliberalism in order to read around in the topic, explore its intellectual/institutional roots and frankly to assess its usefulness as an analytic. Too ‘meta’? Too political-economic? Another ‘global’ narrative? Wrong about what’s happening? That kind of thing. I found the previous SM discussion pretty useful in thinking about the parameters of discussion. I would love to hear from folks on ideas about particular *cases* to explore the rubric; i.e., instances of privatization, structural adjustment, corporatization, or what-have-you that might make for good discussion. For example: Argentina 2001 or Washington’s dreams for post-war Iraq (mini-malls and Walmart anchor stores).

  2. just an idea, but aswell as the score why dont you but a link to the savage mind topic entry in your comment. Save us short attention span people the bother of looking for it.

  3. just an idea, but aswell as the score why dont you put a link to the savage mind topic entry in your comment. Save us short attention span people having to look for it. Ta.

  4. Uh, well, Anthropology News doesn’t come out during the monghts of June, July & August, so I wouldn’t get too proud about the 4-month gap. It is likely that the pieces in question were written in April or May.

  5. Heh — _you_ try writing blog entries during the months of June, July and August (and the other nine months) and then tell me it’s not something to be proud of! Running a blog like this takes a lot of time and energy year-round, and I think our efforts to do so on a volunteer basis are exactly one of the things we ought to be proud of.

    But beyond that, the point is only partly that we ‘got neoliberalism first’ since, as I mention in the article, anthropologists have been studying it for a decade. The point is the way (and speed!) in which this blog and anthropology news publicize and are attuned to wider trends in the discipline today. Frankly, in terms of timing _and_ content I think SM stands up pretty well. The life of the mind doesn’t take a summer break and neither do we.

    And — I’ll say it once again — a major reason for this is the fact that several of those entries were essentially written by the community of commentors on the pieces.

  6. Well, the “Late Liberalism Project” (like “Late Capitalism,” is this just blatant wishful thinking?) had a big conference in 2001, and heavy hitters like Beth Povinelli from Anthro and Lauren Berlant from English were involved. But as an extracurricular, sorry, “interdisciplinary” project, it might have been off the radar of people who had a lot of work to do…I never know who’s talking to who around there.

  7. AH! Well this is an interesting question. I think we can actually pull apart a couple of different strands of thought here:

    1. Millennial capitalism: This is the post-Cold War sense that our new unthethered global age is fulling of flowing fractal scapes cosmopolitan goodness. You might see associate this with the Comaroffs in “Occult Economy” mode. Politicized, it includes the Seattle WTO protests and is concerned with ‘Neoliberalism’ in the sense of ‘the companies are taking over and the nation state is disappearing.’

    2. Culture of liberalism: This is critique of multiculturalism for the way that forces difference to inhabit a gride of Acceptable Difference. I vaguely associate this with advocacy for queer subjectivities and indigenous rites. This is the Povinelli stuff you refer to. It’s concerned with ‘neoliberalism’ in the sense that it is concerned with the ideals and ideologies of liberal polities today (hence ‘late’ or ‘neo’ or just plain ‘liberalism’)

    3. Neoliberalism as imperialism: This refers to what Duffield calls ‘the merging of development and security’ — the sense that the state is not so much withering away as being taken over by other states, or being compromised by NGOs working in the interest of ‘Northern’ countries which fund them.

    The third one got a shot in the arm by 9/11. The first one seems a little dated and a bit breathless today (at least to me). The middle one has weathered geopolitical shifts pretty well as it has incorporated new(ish) topics — such as immigration and white imagination of brown Muslims — pretty well.

    Uh… how is that for a schematic overview?

  8. I think this typology nails it, or at least comes closer to clarification than anything else I’ve seen. I was finding the term “neoliberalism” often more polemical than analytical (though never forgetting my favorite neocon government prof’s assertion that all real theory is polemical, in wanting to clear away the rubble of previous thought). As Silverstein would no doubt say, “Ah, you mean neoliberalism[subscript 3]!”

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