Questions on Urban Neoliberalism from Minnesota
1| Much (all?) of this week's reading focused on neoliberalization/neoliberalism in the metropolitan core/(de)industrialized North/1st world. (How) does neoliberalism function differently in urban areas of the 3rd world?
2| Who or what is neoliberalism disciplining? The state, capital, labor, the city, all of the above?
3| In this week's selections, neoliberalism seemed to be presented as a top_down force. Does is manifest itself/ves in more grassroots ways?
I still need clarification on definitions of neoliberalism.
First, can we only think of neoliberalism in the context of globalization? Is any market?based policy a "neoliberal" policy, or only those market?based policies that have evolved since the 80's? As early as the 1970s every chamber of commerce would come up with the cities and states with the best and worst "business climate". This
indicator was ususally directly tied to reduced taxes and other financial incentives. Would these policies be considered neoliberal, even if they happened before the massive rise of market?based policies?
Any time I see statements like "the revival of the local" I wonder, did it really go away, or have academics just re?discovered it? Again, going back in time in Minneapolis, I can remember small business incubators and the like and this was a big part of discussions around economic development. (Control Data sponsored a small business incubator right over by the metrodome). Are these approaches new, or just intensified?
1) What exactly are Fordism, Keynesianism, Fordist?Keynesian Capitalism, post Fordism, ...?
2) In the Peck and Tickell article as well as others, I appreciated that neoliberalism was portrayed as a complex and varied
process that was historically and spatially situated (rather than an "end?state" (Peck 383)). However, so what? All social and cultural systems are constantly changing and contested dynamic processes and not static things. Peck and Tickell call neoliberalism a self?actualizing, transformative thought virus. However, all succesfull ideologies are thought viruses that are self?fullfilling, oppressive, have embedded their logic and practice in institutions, and feed on the changes they make in the world (e.g. Christianity, psychiatry, and (conservatives would say) state welfarism). Beside the fact that we may hate the growth and effects of neoliberalism, what makes it so special? Theoretically, why is its ideology it so uniquely complex? Politically, what makes it any more pernicious than a hundred other evils wreaking death and destruction in the world?
Regarding the goals of this debate:
Brenner says that the goals of this volume of Antipode are to decode the problem of neoliberalism and imagine a solution. I feel that these articles have gone a long way towards decoding and identifying neoliberalism, but have been light on the side of suggesting solutions. Brenner's call for "more progressive, radical democratic reappropriations of city space (376)" is not clearly defined, but he seems to be advocating Harvey's desire for "grassroots empowerment" and "interurban linkages". I'm wondering if Jamie is disagreeing with this strategy by saying that direct local resistance is "insufficient" and that "the effectiveness of such counterstrategies will continue to be muted (401)", or if he is simply trying to push local resistance to a (presumedly more effectual) level of extralocal networks? His objectives of "remaking extralocal rule systems" and "the reform of macroinstitutional priorities" seem to me to be distinct from the idea of networks, but I'm not quite sure what these objectives would involve or how they would be achieved. These objectives sound to me like a better solution than direct local resistance, but then we have the case of Toronto, in which Keil argues that it was exactly this kind of strategy that ousted the neoliberals from office. If this is the case, we should study Toronto very carefully to see how they did it! From Keil's description, it seems the fact that the media was on the people's side was pivotal in their success.
This brings me to the other issue that I noted from the readings: Every article made some issue of the language used by proponents of neoliberalism. I was particularly struck by the language used by the Glasgow Action Chair, whose goal was "to make the city
more attractive to work in, live in and to play in (MacLeod, 611)". Compare this to Norm Coleman's opening line in a charrette lent to me by Tyler:
"Welcome to 'St. Paul on the Mississippi'. More than a document, it is a living, breathing vision to make our Capitol City a truly special place to live, work, visit and play." So who is trying to expose the propaganda of neoliberalism? How are they doing it? I remember back during the stadium debate for St. Paul in 2001, I was not educated on the intricacies of neoliberalism, and was actually taken in by the argument for "revitalizing our downtown". Fortunately NPR provided some intelligent debates and commentary on the issue and helped to straighten me out. But what are the best avenues for exposing neoliberal propaganda?
1. One question of clarification that kept troubling me as I read the articles is the idea of 'progressive regulatory settlement' that Peck and Tickell refer to. on 401. While it may be premature to anticipate an era of 'pushback neoliberalism' I wonder if we have a philosophical or ethical basis for conceptualizing such a settlement.
i. Brenner and Theodore and Peck and Tickel speak to one of our concerns last week about the window of optimism that Harvey's piece on entrepreneurial cities. If Harvey's article was written during the cusp between rollback and roll out neoliberalisms, according to Brenner and Theodore's periodization, what does it mean to say that Harvey's advocacy of interurban linkages still remains urgently relevant (p376) ten years into the rollout phase of neoliberalism. When Peck and Tickell write of the extralocal crelations and presures and disiplines, it appears that neolibleralism is not only everywhere, its forms, strategies and effects are not really the same everywhere at all times. Yet, within this, all the writers do point to some underlying framework of neoliberal logic.
ii. In such a situation does' interurban linkage' really remain relevant at all times everywhere to all projects of reappropration ? In other words, I am asking, how do we evaluate the relative strategic importance of an introverted place centered strategy against interurban networking to the project of reappropriating urban space. A related question, is are we still talking of the same 'subject'. I am assuming that Harvey's subject was labor. I am not sure the agents in the readings of the previous week were labor in the same sense.
iii. I am struck by the primacy that Peck and Tickel accord to the agency of neoliberalization, like globalization. In their view it is 'neoliberalization that is producing counter tendencies.'Yet, none of the articles that we have read this week seem to address the question of the sources of this idology and the mechanisms through which it became so dominant. To some extent Leitner and Sheppard address this question. But if an ideology has come to occupy the drivers seat, there must be several institutions and agents at work. It will be useful to think about who besides the totemic fitures of Reagan and Thatcher was busy during the 70s and 80s.
3 Did anyone else feel that Keil presents a picture of ordinary and everydayness of urbanity that is different from all the others in the collection. Does this account disagree with the implict advocacy of and networking and working at the 'scales other than the local' in the other articles ?
1) The special issue is introduced as "debates." What, if anything, do the authors of the papers find debatable about neoliberalism/neoliberalization and the city? Do the authors present different conceptions of "neoliberalization" and the "city," or are they more or less consistent? To what degree do the individual essays conceptualize the city and the
urban as processes rather than as "things" or bounded territorial spaces?
2) Peck and Tickell argue that "contemporary politics revolve around axes the very essences of which have been neoliberalized" (p. 400). What are these axes and how have their essences been neoliberalized? What are the implications of this statement for the movements of resistance that many of us will be studying? Would the other authors agree with Peck and Tickell's insistence on the necessity, for opponents of neoliberalism, to move beyond local resistance to target the "macroinstitutional" and the "extralocal" (i.e., the big picture?)?
In Brenner's article, he mentions, "neoliberalism had become the dominant political and ideological form of capitalist globalization" it seems we cannot successfully contest "actually existing neoliberalism" (as opposed to the ideology of neoliberalism) without some kind of state power. It is state policies and regulatory mechanisms, which sustain and promote neoliberalism at the urban scale. My question would then be, is a strategy
of contesting the ideology of neoliberalism thought of as a precursor to direct action against the specific policies? Would contesting both of these at the same time be useful? Or would it not be possible without a competing ideology?
In Professor Peck's article, he mentions that the hegemony of neoliberalism is not completely impervious to targeted campaigns of disruption from alternatives. But he says that the effectiveness of this is muted absent a phase_shift in the constitution of extralocal relations. I wonder if he was addressing my question, or not?
1. Peck and Tickell argue that local resistance to neoliberalization is not enough, that it is necessary to 'challenge extralocal rule systems' (401). Where and how should these extralocal systems be challenged? Don't even these extralocal rule systems have local nodes, which would seem to call for multiple local resistances, and/or translocal activism?
2. Peck and Tickell say that discourses of neoliberalism are especially compelling because they seem to have 'a self-actualizing quality' (382). I don't find this unique to neoliberalism --it seems to me that discourse, so long as we understand 'discourse' not just as language but as an ensemble of practices including language/rhetorics, always does this. (I think I'm not happy with their use of discourse because they're using a Gramscian framework via Lipietz BB & T p. 359Cbut then tossing around the notion of discourse.) A question, then, that P & T raise but do not answer fully, is how (and where, and through what channels) is neoliberal discourse produced/transmitted. They focus on policy; MacLeod mentions the media. What other channels are important? And what allows the ideology of neoliberalism (free markets, individualism, etc.) to be linked to any increased state intervention? That is, why doesn't this contradiction make neoliberalism collapse?
3. Can we extrapolate from the authors' various discussions of urban neoliberalism, most of which do NOT focus on the everyday (with the exception of Keil) to think about how neoliberalism interacts with regimes of racialization and gender, and what the impacts have been?
4. I know we're focusing on urban neoliberalization, but rural places are very much linked to cities. MN Gov. Pawlenty is talking about setting up 'free trade zones' in rural areas of MN even now. What about the diffusion of neoliberalism to small towns in rural areas?
1. Brenner and Theodore give a good explanation of factors involved in the Process of neo?liberalization of cities. By describing all the destruction of former Keynesian/Fordist national?level systems, they seem to risk glorifying the 'golden olden days' (which is tempting considering what has happened with neo?liberalization). But 20 years ago, Jane Jacobs was pointing out that the notion of "national" economies was silly, when really city-regions were the operative economic units. How do her ideas precede, support or contradict these later critiques? When pressed, even Jamie last week came up with examples of some positive effects of the new forms of governance and economics. Should we be cautious about valorizing national economies over city?level? Perhaps I'm not giving them enough credit ? I'm sure they're not naive about the nation-state. But the frame of the discussion leans that way perhaps.
2. Swyngedouw, et al, point out that there has been significant resistance to very few of the major urban development projects in the EU. Partly they say this is due to a "veil of secrecy" surrounding decision?making and the closed?circuits of participation in planning. (562) Partly also because of the project?based nature of the developments, any resistance is pushed down to 'operate through localized actions" (574) What else is keeping information on the results of these projects from spreading and creating a social movement against them? Echoing my question from last week, where's
the data and where are the traveling organizers who can help citizens in various cities when they are faced with a new spectacular(ly expensive) development?
3. Clarification: "what are sunrise industries"? (Brenner & Theodore, p364)
In their article, Brenner and Theodore higlight "the path?dependent character of neoliberal reform projects" and "the strategic role of cities in the contemporary remaking of political?economic space"; that is, the city is the site in which neoliberal policy agendas have changed with particular intensity over the last few decades through their interaction with inherited institutional and regulatory landscapes and as a result of context-specific socio-political struggles. For Brenner and Theodore (and Harvey as well) the space for radical opposition to "neoliberalization" is not open yet (p. 376). I disagree. Radical opposition to neoliberalization emerges from time to time taking different forms, diffusing more or less, and resulting in radically different outcomes. Shouldn't we complement the geography of "actually existing neoliberalism" with a more nuanced understanding of how workers and other disaffected agents shape
1) I appreciate Peck and Tickell article's emphasis on nepliberalism as a political project as well as the ways in which neo-liberalism has changed to address its own failures and short comings. However, it made me think about the ways in which neo?liberal discourse is but the policy it is describing is either status quo or seemingly anti-neoliberal (I am thinking specifically about the 1996 and 2002 farm bills in which the language of freedom and competition was used but the policies amounted to more subsidies to shield farmers from the cruelties of the market. I'm sure there are lots more examples). How do we integrate this use of neoliberalism into our understanding of the ever-adapting neoliberalism?
2) I enjoyed Keil's case study of Toronto quite a bit. I was interested in his notion of the "everydayness" of both the neoliberal project and resistance to it. However, I was a little bit concerned about his localization of resistance to this notion of everydayness. It seems to limit resistance to the local and the ad hoc. Are there other forms of resistance in other places and spaces that we should also be paying attention to?