The chapters in this collection address three key issues for middle-income countries. First, how can neoliberalism be defined and distinguished from other phases, stages or configurations of capitalism. This includes the relationship between neoliberalism, markets, society and the state, neoliberalism and economic policy, and neoliberalism and globalisation. Second, how to interpret the transition to neoliberalism and the transformative processes that have ensued from it, as well as the resistance against it in eight middle-income countries (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and Venezuela).1 Third, what are the prospects for the neoliberal order and for resistance in these countries, given the ongoing crisis of global capitalism. It would have been impossible to impose a narrow interpretative framework across all chapters included in this book because the transition to neoliberalism, the performance of the neoliberal regimes and the resistance against neoliberalism are context-specific. Nevertheless, the contributors to this volume depart from a set of common perspectives which facilitates cross-country comparisons. Neoliberalism is the contemporary form of capitalism, and it is based on the systematic use of state power to impose, under the veil of ‘non-intervention’, a hegemonic project of recomposition of the rule of capital in most areas of social life. This project emerged gradually after the partial disintegration of post-war Keynesianism and developmentalism in the 1970s and 1980s, and it has led to the reconstitution of economic and social relations of subordination in those countries where neoliberalism has been imposed. The tensions and displacements embedded within global neoliberalism are nowhere more evident than in the middle-income countries. At the domestic level, the neoliberal transitions have transformed the material basis of social reproduction in these countries. These changes include shifts in economic and social policy, property rights, the country’s insertion into the international economy, and the modalities of exploitation and social domination. The political counterpart of these processes is the incremental limitation of the domestic political sphere through the insulation of ‘markets’ and investors from democratic and social accountability, and the imposition of a stronger imperative of labour control allegedly to promote international competitiveness. These economic and political shifts have reduced the scope for universal welfare provision
and led to regressive distributive shifts and higher unemployment and job insecurity in most countries. They have also created an income-concentrating dynamics of accumulation that is largely immune to (marginal) Keynesian and reformist interventions. The inability of the neoliberal reforms to support higher levels of investment, growth and welfare provision for the majority of the population is well known. However, this is not sufficient to demonstrate the ‘failure’ of neoliberalism. For the primary purpose of the neoliberal reforms, although presented otherwise, is not to promote faster growth, reduce inflation or even to increase the portfolio choices of the financial institutions. It is to subordinate local working classes and domestic accumulation to international imperatives, promote the microeconomic integration between competing capitals, and expand the scope for financial system intermediation of the three key sources of capital in the economy: the state budget, the banking system and the balance of payments. Resistance against neoliberalism has taken a plurality of forms, including mass revolt and the development and implementation of alternative institutions and frameworks for economic and social policy. This book examines these challenges both analytically and empirically in specific contexts. Correspondingly, the chapters are grouped into two parts, ‘Neoliberalism and globalisation’ and ‘Country experiences’. In the first chapter in Part I, ‘Neoliberalism as financialisation’, Ben Fine offers a broad-ranging review of neoliberalism and the current crisis. He argues that the current financial crisis has exposed the contradictions of neoliberalism, not simply as a dysfunctional economic system but equally as a hegemonic ideological project. Paradoxically, the state intervention to rescue finance appears both to conform and to break with neoliberalism in terms of its breach with the market, and the priority of support offered to the most parasitic forms of capital. This paradox is resolved through the prism of three separate perspectives. First, the scholarship, rhetoric and policies of neoliberalism are not necessarily consistent with one another and have a shifting relation to one another. Second, neoliberalism has gone through two phases, both actively promoting the ‘market’, but the later and current phase witnessing explicit calls upon the state to underpin the process and moderate its effects. Third, that the duration of neoliberalism across its two phases and its articulation of scholarship, rhetoric and policy are underpinned by the process of financialisation. In Chapter 2, ‘The continuing ecological dominance of neoliberalism in the crisis’, Bob Jessop distinguishes four main forms of neoliberalism and relates them to the logic of capital accumulation and the territorial logic of imperialism within the world market and the interstate system. Although the high-point of neoliberalism occurred in 1985-97, neoliberalism continues to exercise ‘ecological dominance’ over the world market through its crisis-tendencies and pathdependent policy effects. This chapter defines ecological dominance, and shows how financial capital can be interpreted as ecologically dominant in this context. It also suggests how the logic of the neoliberal regime shift in the United States has been shaped by the ecological dominance of finance and how this, in turn,
has the most significant impact on the unfolding crisis. The chapter concludes with remarks on the contradictions and limits of US domination. Ergin Yıldızoğlu examines ‘Globalisation as a crisis form’ in Chapter 3. This chapter claims that globalisation is a manifestation of the recurring crises of the capitalist mode of production, and that neoliberal globalisation emerged, originally, as a mode of crisis management. It eventually exhausted itself after transferring enormous wealth and power to the top echelons of society. With the arrival of the current financial crisis, the credit crunch and the post-bubble depression economy, this era is ending, and a new period of uncertainty is unfolding. In Chapter 4, Ngai-Ling Sum reviews the ‘Cultural political economy of neoliberalism’. This chapter applies cultural political economy to the recent emergence of competitiveness as a transnational constellation of hegemonic discourses and practices. This approach takes a cultural-discursive turn analysing the processes and mechanisms whereby hegemony is constituted and negotiated in and across (trans-)national institutional orders and civil society. It then turns to the role of economic imaginaries about competitiveness in constituting objects of economic calculation, management, governance, and so on. The Harvard Business School variant of competitiveness analysis provides a case study. This has moved from a theoretical paradigm to a policy paradigm and, most recently, a knowledge brand with significant effects in the neoliberal (re-) making of social relations. The chapter explores how this knowledge brand has been extended globally via knowledge apparatuses and other technologies of power, especially in East Asia. It then describes how this hegemonic logic of competitiveness is being challenged and negotiated. Susanne Soederberg analyses, in Chapter 5, ‘Socially responsible investment and neoliberal discipline in emerging markets’. Since the early 1990s, private investment flows have dominated global development finance. Alongside foreign direct investment, equity finance has become an important source of capital for corporations in the middle-income countries. Western institutional investors, primarily US-based pension funds, dominate this new geography of equity financing. The US-based public pension fund, California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) is one of the largest pension funds in the world, but also the first institutional investor to employ a benchmarking strategy based on both financial and non-financial (social) criteria. This chapter contextualises CalPERS’ benchmarking strategy, or the ‘Permissible Country Index’ (PCI), within the official development agenda. It is argued that the PCI mirrors neoliberal-led discourses and policies. It aims not only to encourage a greater involvement of the private sector in development, but also to legitimate deepening forms of dependency on, and discipline of, foreign capital in emerging markets. In the sixth chapter, ‘Global unions and global capitalism’, Seyhan Erdoğdu examines the international unionism as represented by the ICFTU/ICTU and the global union federations. In the early 1980s, these organisations tried to develop a global Keynesianism to confront the emerging neoliberal globalisation. This short-lived project was replaced by a liberal reformist approach in the 1990s,
which conceived globalisation as an irreversible challenge with potential benefits, and tried to reform its negative aspects by adding a social dimension without altering its basic structure. Since the turn of the century, as it became increasingly evident that neoliberal globalisation generates unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, changes have emerged in the discourse of the global union movement. However, the practical implications of this social reformism remain to be seen. In the final chapter of Part I, Filiz Zabcı examines ‘Neoliberalism and the politics of war’. This chapter argues that the occupation of Iraq offers a striking example of the relationship between war and politics, because it demonstrates that war has become a key mechanism for the expansion of neoliberal policies and financialisation. US strategy aims not only to control energy sources but, more broadly, to support the expansion of corporate capitalism to regions where neoliberal policies have yet to be implemented. In the case of Iraq, the invasion was an instrument of toppling Saddam Hussein’s interventionist state and implementing neoliberal economic policies. The new economic agenda and new economic laws imposed in the country paved the way for the privatisation of Iraqi oil, and opened the market for foreign oil companies. In the first chapter in Part II, ‘State, class and the discourse’, Pınar Bedirhanoğlu and Galip L. Yalman identify the processes and strategies that have put an end to class-based politics in the neoliberal period in Turkey. They focus on the implications of the 1980 coup d’état, 1989 capital account liberalisation, the rise of ethnic, religious and nationalist conflicts, and the anti-statist hegemonic discourse. This chapter argues that the neoliberal authoritarian form which the state acquired in the 1980s has persisted through the powerful articulation of economic, political and cultural processes. It is also claimed that the AKP promises to reproduce neoliberal authoritarianism in Turkey in a liberal-Islamist-cum-conservative form, suggesting that it represents continuity in terms of state-class relations whilst claiming to initiate radical changes in state-society relations. In Chapter 9, Alessandra Mezzadri examines ‘Neoliberalism, industrial restructuring and labour’. The rise of globalisation has triggered a process of economic restructuring which profoundly impacted the industrial trajectories of the middle-income countries. The shift to export-oriented industrialisation, in particular, meant that several countries became production nodes within global manufacturing chains, mainly competing according to their comparative advantage in cheap labour. Examining the Delhi garment industry, this chapter shows the complexities behind the provision of cheap labour for neoliberal global production. Indian exporters reproduce their comparative advantage through a wide variety of social institutions and structural differences, ranging across mobility, gender, age and geographical provenance. On the one hand, exporters’ strategies to minimise labour costs trigger a process of commodification of labour power which exploits the social profile of the workers even before they enter the labour market. On the other hand, in the context of such strategies, Indian social institutions and structures are transnationalised and acquire broader regulatory meanings in the context of neoliberal global production.