- Constructions of Neoliberal Reason
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- J. Peck (2010). Constructions of Neoliberal Reason.
Constructions of Neoliberal Reason
Jeffrey K. First described in the s, the number of diagnoses has increased in recent decades, with the most recent UK and the USA prevalence estimates hovering around 1 per cent. This increased visibility of autism, much debated epidemiologically, has latterly attracted interest from scholars in the social sciences and the humanities. These relations none the less have at times been quite close, within certain sociological strands of bio-friendly or bio-social thinking at least.
So what then are we to make of all this? On the flip side of the balance sheet, however, the book is not without its shortcomings alas, particularly as far as sociological engagements with the neurosciences go. Even on its own terms of reference, important controversies within the neurosciences are largely glossed or glided over altogether, perhaps the most serious in this case, given the grand claims Franks makes about them in the book, pertaining to very nature and status of mirror neurons in humans see Tallis Aping Mankind, for example.
Is it simply a case, for example, of sociologists trading relevant insights with social neuroscientists across extant disciplinary boundaries, or does neurosociology imply or include more genuinely interdisciplinary if not trans- or post- disciplinary endeavours. The latter, to be sure, is a far bigger ask than the former, given the huge linguistic, conceptual and methodological issues involved see J. Despite these shortcomings none the less, not to mention the steep hardback only price tag, I would still recommend this book to the interested reader.
Simon J. Williams University of Warwick Gordin, M. I would argue that the introductory chapter of the book really merits extension into a study of its own. As the authors note, this is a project rarely undertaken in the critical literature, but which is very important for understanding why utopian dreamworlds often seem to collapse into dystopic catastrophes upon realization. Moving beyond the introduction, there is interesting work in every chapter of the book. Fredric Jameson, who is still one of the big names in utopian studies, kicks off the collection by discussing the idea of utopia as method.
Against this problematic of what he calls the enclave structure of utopia, which sees conditions such as over-population become markers of dystopia, Jameson takes the examples of the capitalist monolith Wal-Mart and the anti-capitalist idea of the multitude, in order to think about whether it is possible to save utopian hope from the dystopia of excessive quantity. Considering Wal-Mart, the largest corporation in the world, and signifier of the ultra-capitalist dystopia that has no concern for humanity, he explains that we must search for a kind of utopian unconscious within apparently dystopic formations.
In this way Jameson reads the dystopia of Wal-Mart as containing the utopian potential to oppose the social and political uncertainty that colours dystopic visions of processes of globalization. Regarding this dystopic vision, he then shifts his focus to the anti-capitalist idea of the multitude, which appears in the works of the Italian autonomist Paolo Virno as well as the now famous books of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, to show how dystopic notions of over-population and social fragmentation can be read utopically to signify social possibility and revolutionary potential.
In conclusion, Jameson suggests that this move, which entails re-thinking the Heideggerian problem of homelessness in terms of the Deleuzean possibility of nomadism, may sum up the essential method of utopianism today — the method of excavating hope from the most dire of circumstances. Although these pieces are interesting in themselves, it is never really clear how they plug into the overall project of the book. Glossing the traditional Marxist theory of the emergence of class struggle based around the relations of production contained within the factory, Mitchell argues that the turn to coal produced a highly political working class of miners who were characterized by critical thought by virtue of need to employ independence in their work.
I found this thesis, which suggests that while the factory worker was created as a kind of subordinate drone by virtue of his alienation from praxis, the miner was transformed into a free thinker because of the necessity of making judgments about the locations of cuts and so on that would avoid cave-ins, very persuasive because of the ways it suggests a broadening of traditional accounts for the emergence of the labour movement as being rooted in the experience of immiseration.
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Against the coal powered-welfare utopia that eventually became a kind of unionized dystopia for capitalists, Mitchell moves on to show how the oil utopia was far more friendly to business interests because the basic stuff of this energetic utopia, oil, was far easier to transport than its predecessor, coal.
The result of the transition from coal to oil power was, therefore, the decline of a major pillar of the union movement, the mining union, especially in the original industrial powers where the welfare state was found in its most developed form, and the emergence of the pure capitalist model premised on limitless growth. Although Mitchell could have been more explicit about the relationship between the turn to oil, the decline of labour politics, and the rise of the neo-liberal model of capitalism with its utopian notion of limitless production, consumption, and value generation, he skips over this work to conclude by showing how the hydro-carbon utopia eventually ran up against its own dystopic limit in the idea of limited energy resources, the nightmare scenario of the militarization of fossil fuels, and the related environmental utopia proposing alternative ways of living.
Beyond this chapter, the collection moves on with chapters relating to the idea of utopian construction and the limits of this project. Although chapters by Krige on the utopian- dystopianism of atomic power and Shore on the notion of cosmopolitanism in central Europe are interesting in themselves, they fail to capture the movement of the dialectic of utopianism which was so well illustrated in the Mitchell chapter. Pinder is more successful in this respect and his piece on the struggle between two different variants of urban utopianism is the stand-out chapter in this section of the book.
Still on familiar ground, Halfin considers the utopian-dystopian dimensions of the Stalinist show trial. Although this material is extremely interesting, and notions of the futurity of guilt will always provoke the reader by showing how ideas contained in sci-fi dystopias such as Philip K. More original in this respect is Nigam who explores the utopian politics of Dalit capitalism in contemporary India. Against the traditional leftist vision of global capitalism as dystopia, Nigam shows how the Dalits re-read capitalism as a utopian force with the potential to liberate them from centuries of caste-based oppression.
Concluding the book, then, in much the same way that Jameson began it, Nigam shows how we must strive to re-think the capitalist dystopia and find the traces of a better world within it, in order to continue to develop the utopian imagination and the utopian dialectic. The Becoming-Dalit provides this utopian hope in his chapter. However, their overall project is a necessary and timely one and some of the chapters are excellent and add a great deal to our understanding of non-western utopianism.
Gellner was a brilliant polemicist with incisive critiques and irony. He first made his name with the famous attack on the then dominant linguistic philosophy, in his Words and Things, , which raised heated public debates involving some of the luminaries of the time, with Bertrand Russell siding with Gellner. He remained passionately committed to a universalistic and rational outlook, but was aware of the problematic foundations of the universalism of values.
This is where science becomes key: scientific advances have over- whelming pragmatic demonstrations, and have underpinned the advances of modernity. Industry, prosperity, communications and the social revolutions they engendered have science as their base. Post-modernism was the object of his ire in later life, attacked in Post-modernism, Reason and Religion , especially with its manifestations in anthropology and the social sciences.
His initial prototype for nationalism was the Habsburg world of central and eastern Europe and its post-imperial transformations.
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This was to be elaborated into typologies and exceptions to include the diverse nationalisms of the post-colonial world, with a special place for what he considered to be the unique case of Islam. His typologies and exceptions of nationalism became ever more elaborate in successive works. The critical question, which is not quite explicit in the biography, is whether a general theory and typology of nationalism is feasible, given that nationalist ideologies and associations are moved by particular histories, politics and social formations.
This question becomes more acute with respect to Islam. As such, Islam is highly resistant to secularization.
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The long modern history of secular politics and culture in many countries with Muslim popula- tions, then appear as a diversion and a side show. Again a passion for systematizing resulted in the simplification of great historical and modern diversities: a religious essence overrules sociology, politics and economics. We need to establish our identity to travel, vote or enter the workplace.
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The new ID systems are based upon the use of networked, searchable data bases and population registries and it is this that makes the new systems distinct from traditional paper-based systems and enhances their surveillance capability. Lyon traces the historical background to the identification of citizens and includes a number of very interesting discussions of pilgrims, diplomats, couriers, Gypsies and others. The new ID systems originate in colonial and war-time conditions and the continuities with the past are striking.
J. Peck (2010). Constructions of Neoliberal Reason.
However, all the historical systems for establishing identity were designed to help identify a partial segment of the population unlike the current ID schemes that are planned to cover the whole population. One of the most interesting aspects of this sorting process is the relation to biometric identification, where citizens use the body as a password.
Our understanding of the body has shifted from an anatomical to an informationized data-based definition of the body. As Lyon suggests, with the self-attesting body there is always the risk that identity can be constituted and imposed by others. Such techniques for exploring unknown populations can be applied to identifying potential terrorists as well as potential customers. Governmental, commercial and technological interests come together to produce an ID card that appear to offer solutions to several common problems. Interoperability emerges because of the desire of states to prevent terrorists from travelling and corporations concerns about identity theft.
The historical and comparative aspects of the arguments within the book are excellent but the sociological significance is understated. Instead Lyon makes reference to Bauman on liquefaction and Deleuze on control. He calls for the analysis of diverse neoliberalisms and, relatedly, of the interacting, variegated forms of neoliberalization. Drawing on conceptual and intellectual histories, narrative policy and discourse analysis, and multi-scalar and multi-site geographical inquiry, Peck seeks to denaturalize neo-liberalism as a theoretical construct and analyse it as a multi-faceted, decentred process of constructing neoliberal reason and governmentality.
Indeed, Peck emphasizes that neoliberalism is an impossible project, doomed to incompletion and impurity, messiness and hybridity, that none the less tends to fail forward, i. In denaturalizing neoliberalism, he studies its diverse ideational, ideological, political, and institutional moments over time and across space. He investigates neoliberalism where it is out of place as well as at home, its normal and banal moments, its more audacious and extreme manifestations, its twists and turns, its contradictions and compromises, its flows, backflows, and undertows.
While noting that the boldest experiments occurred in Chile in the s and post-communist Europe in the s, Peck grounds his ideational analysis in Western Europe and the USA and focuses his political analysis on economic, urban, and social policy in the States. A thought-provoking introduction explores the transatlantic dialogue that shaped the rise of neoliberalism and neoconservatism and highlights the spatio-temporal complexity of neoliberal projects and practices in different contexts.
This highlights the need to study rollback and rollout phases, efforts to flank, support, and reinforce neoliberalism in the face of resistance or signs of failure, and the role of techniques, apparatuses, and other means of embedding neoliberalism.
follow site Chapter 2 explores how neoliberalism became a polycentric ideational movement with competing bases in Freiburg, Paris, London, Chicago, and Washington. It also claims that the eventually hegemonic Chicago School did not change the world: the world changed to make its politics and policies acceptable after the crisis of Fordism and Keynesian-welfarism. Chapter 3 investigates the conditions that made Chicago the epicentre of the neoliberal project despite the unpromising soil offered by a blue-collar industrial city distant from New York and Washington.
Peck highlights the intellectual climate, pedagogic practices, and evangelical socialization that produced a tight-knit band of market fundamentalists who sustained the neoliberal flame until it gained traction as political project in the s.
It depicts his economic worldview as ideologically elusive, market-friendly, and pro-trade and argues that Obama has adapted to the neoliberal order even as the global financial crisis revealed its limitations. Peck concludes with comments on possible futures for neoliberalization after the global financial crisis and outlines ideas for future research. This book is well-informed, thought-provoking, largely jargon-free, rich in metaphors, and easy to read.
Yet the latter analysis is largely confined to narrative policy analysis and does not adequately address why neoliberalism is doomed to failure but none the less capable of recuperation. In other words, his work is thickly descriptive and contextualizing, focusing on ideas and policies, and giving detailed accounts of intellectual and political actors.
This offers a refreshing contrast to claims that neoliberalism is best understood in terms of class struggle or the interests of financial capital. Thus Constructions of Neoliberal Reason is far stronger on Ideologiekritik than Herrschaftskritik critique of domination.
But this would require far deeper engagement with a critical political economy of capital as a social relation and the forms of domination in the contemporary state and governance.