Neoliberalism In A Nutshell

A book report about:

A Brief History of Neoliberalism, by David Harvey.

Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York

ISBN 978-0-19-928326-2

for more information about David Harvey visit his website at

Neoliberalism In A Nutshell

This was one of the most interesting books i have ever read and this is my experience reading it.

The structure of the book is reminiscent of karl marx communist manifesto. Its formatting suggests an almost oppositional outlook of the historical and theoretical context of neoliberalism. To Summarize the key points of neoliberalism we must start at its genesis. The formulation of Neoliberalism was introduced as a solution to economic woes brought about by prevailing economic theory of embedded liberalism also known as Keynesianism. Neoliberalism was not brought out into the lime light until 1976 where two leading neoliberal theorists Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman won the nobel prize in economics. However, it wasn’t until 1980 that neoliberalism was implemented. Finding its way into use through Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

The main proponent reiterated through out the book is that neoliberalism theoretically is the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the upper class. with the ultimate goal of creating a utopian society.

The core fundamentals of neoliberal theory suggest privatization, deregulation, and financialization of public or state run industries, and state controlled institutions. Pushing them into the private sector in order to open up new markets. Which respectively transfers the tax burden from the wealthy to the general populous. David Harvey best expands this in stating “the neoliberal state should favor strong individual private property rights, there rule of law, and the institutions of freely functioning markets and free trade.”(Harvey  64). With the combination of this laissez-faire type economic model neoliberal theory also suggest austerity measures directed to the dismantlement of power for union organizations as well as social solidarity.

For neoliberalism to really take its foothold and gain popular support it needed to facilitate “common sense” logical reasoning. In order for this to happen the use of freedom of choice was issued as a common sense alternative to the explanation of neoliberal theory to the general populous. However, Karl Polanyi’s points out that with good freedoms comes the issuance of “evil freedoms”. For example with the ideology of freedom or a free state comes free markets, trade, and the rule of law. Freedom brings choice, which can lead to competition that can result in a healthy market. Although, freedom and choice can also lead to the selection between a good business climate, or labor rights and the environmental concerns. As Harvey advocates “neoliberal states typically favor the integrity of the financial system and the solvency of financial institutions over the well-being of the population or environmental quality” (Harvey 70-71).

Another noteworthy point regarding Neoliberalism is that its contours or not uniform. Meaning its geo-historic proponents show that neoliberalism effects different countries in different ways. Explained best by Harvey “The general progress of neoliberalization has therefore been increasingly impelled though mechanisms of uneven geographical development.” (Harvey 87).

China plays a particularly important role in neoliberal history. Chinas emergence into the globalized economy opened up by Deng Xiaoping is a true exhibition of neoliberalism. In china neoliberal action led to a larger gap in wealth promoting social classes. Generating a large change in the work force. Which was a result of the movement of mass populations from rule to urban settings. Which intern led to a large disparity in uneven graphical development.

Throughout the book Harvey seems to put neoliberalism into question. Which he later exemplifies and figuratively puts neoliberal theory on trial. Begging the question of is the ideological proponents of neoliberalism resulting in its claims to protect individual freedoms and their ability of choice? Which in its plainest sense neoliberalism is defined by market freedom and the ability to make your own economic decisions with little interference from the state. Although it seemingly results in the division of social classes.

Harvey also suggest  the possible future scenario of the neoliberal fold. Where it might lead and how it might change. Overall from my experience with the theoretical and historical context of neoliberalism. Is that it has had a positive influence on society but to what extent is relative. How its viewed and its corresponding effects on the global stage is a result of perspective of your own political and economical beliefs.

The Main argument throughout the book is that the neoliberal theory always redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich issuing social cleavages between classes. Another prevailing argument consists that the theoretical proponents of neoliberalism suggest that the end game is a utopian society. One other main point in the book is the ideological structure of neoliberalism itself. i.e. the privatization of the state to the private sector in an accordance with the freedom to pursue economic means. Another argument consists that chinas emergence on the globalized economy is due to there special relationship between an authoritarian state and neoliberal principles.Best explained by Harvey “a particular kind of market economy that increasingly incorporates neoliberal elements interdigitated with authoritarian centralized control” (Harvey 120).

A brief history of neoliberalism is not your ordinary book its not for a novice reader and its not for someone whom has a basic understanding of comparative economics and government. However, if you want to read something that truly makes you stop and think. This book is something I recommend. This book is written in an opposition type format that questions the very nature of everything it explains. It is written in a way that the reader is able to peer into multiple perspectives. This book allows for your imagination to run rampant with different ideals, historical relevancies, and questions around every page. I learned a great deal from reading this book, gained new perspectives I previously had not realized. If you like to be challenged I recommend you read A brief history of neoliberalism.

This book covers every spectrum of what we have learned this semester. It covers an entire era of economic development. The explanation of different calcifications of economic theories. The integral role that neoliberalism plays in the advancement in the standard of living. An explanation of neoliberal principles in the healthcare industry. A description of how prevailing economic systems effect social issues through generations. And an account of how neoliberalism effects income inequality.

Somethings that I had not previously known before the reading of this book is that there is a firm difference between neoliberalism and conservative economic models such as Keynesianism or Adam Smiths supply and demand economics. I had previously thought that all of these economic models were just elaborations of each other combined to be linked into our current economic model. Another Insight that i had previously not known was the direct linkage of Chinas economic emergence and the proponents of neoliberalism. In that china has such and extremely large disparity in wealth between real and urban areas. How there workforce had shifted to such a high degree, and how the disparity in wealth in china had grown to such high levels.

One point that I wish the author had went into greater depth about is the other side of the fence about freedom and how it relates to income inequality. By that I mean the author seemed to concentrate more on the wealthy class and how a free market makes it unfair for working class people or the proletariat to make ends meat. For me the argument seamed a little one sided and did not skim the fact that education entrepreneurship, current technological levels, as well as other social cleavages plays a large role in that everyone is not going to be successful. That not everyone has the drive to succeed, and that not everyone is contempt with mediocrity or material wealth. The way in which it was written came across for me that a free market only opens the door for poor people to get the short end of the stick while the rich prosper which seems a little close minded to me. Though there is a trend in that logic its just a slice and not the whole cake.

This book did not change my thinking in a way that my view has switched on certain criteria. It did however, expand my knowledge on the social and economical dynamics of the neoliberal model. throughout the text there were historical examples and relevancies that I had not previously heard of. There was in depth explanations of the theoretical components of neoliberalism and perspectives I had never thought of before. For those reasons I would say that this book expanded my horizons on current economic models. Although, i would not say I was swayed to think differently about anything. The main point or reason I would say to recommend reading this book is that it challenges you. It is packed with so much history and different types of connections and relevancy’s to different governments and economies. It simply broadens your horizons and challenges your imagination to bring theory into reality.


Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.

“Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey.” Reading Marxs Capital with David Harvey. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.