Download Neil Brenner. n. Theodore PDF

TitleNeil Brenner. n. Theodore
TagsCapitalism Globalization Market (Economics) Neoliberalism International Monetary Fund
File Size251.0 KB
Total Pages32
Document Text Contents
Page 2

© 2002 Editorial Board of Antipode.
Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden,
MA 02148, USA

Cities and the Geographies of
“Actually Existing Neoliberalism”

Neil Brenner
Department of Sociology and Metropolitan Studies Program,

New York University, New York, NY, US; [email protected]


Nik Theodore
Urban Planning and Policy Program and Center for Urban Economic

Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, US;
[email protected]

This essay elaborates a critical geographical perspective on neoliberalism that
emphasizes (a) the path-dependent character of neoliberal reform projects and (b)
the strategic role of cities in the contemporary remaking of political-economic space.
We begin by presenting the methodological foundations for an approach to the geog-
raphies of what we term “actually existing neoliberalism.” In contrast to neoliberal
ideology, in which market forces are assumed to operate according to immutable laws
no matter where they are “unleashed,” we emphasize the contextual embeddedness of
neoliberal restructuring projects insofar as they have been produced within national,
regional, and local contexts defined by the legacies of inherited institutional frame-
works, policy regimes, regulatory practices, and political struggles. An adequate under-
standing of actually existing neoliberalism must therefore explore the path-dependent,
contextually specific interactions between inherited regulatory landscapes and emergent
neoliberal, market-oriented restructuring projects at a broad range of geographical
scales. These considerations lead to a conceptualization of contemporary neolib-
eralization processes as catalysts and expressions of an ongoing creative destruction
of political-economic space at multiple geographical scales. While the neoliberal
restructuring projects of the last two decades have not established a coherent basis for
sustainable capitalist growth, it can be argued that they have nonetheless profoundly
reworked the institutional infrastructures upon which Fordist-Keynesian capitalism
was grounded. The concept of creative destruction is presented as a useful means
for describing the geographically uneven, socially regressive, and politically volatile
trajectories of institutional/spatial change that have been crystallizing under these con-
ditions. The essay concludes by discussing the role of urban spaces within the contra-
dictory and chronically unstable geographies of actually existing neoliberalism.
Throughout the advanced capitalist world, we suggest, cities have become strategically
crucial geographical arenas in which a variety of neoliberal initiatives—along with
closely intertwined strategies of crisis displacement and crisis management—have
been articulated.

Page 16

of institutional change that have been generated through the deploy-
ment of neoliberal political programs at various spatial scales. The
point of this emphasis, however, is not to suggest that neoliberalism
could somehow provide a basis for stabilized, reproducible capitalist
growth, but rather to explore its wide-ranging, transformative impacts
upon the inherited politico-institutional and geographical infrastruc-
tures of advanced capitalist states and economies. We would argue
that this latter issue must be explored independently of the traditional
regulationist question of whether or not a given institutional form
promotes or undermines sustainable capitalist growth. Even when
neoliberal policy reforms fail to generate short- or medium-term
bursts of capitalist growth, they may nonetheless impose much more
lasting evolutionary ruptures within the institutional frameworks,
policy environments, and geographies of capitalist regulation.

Second, and relatedly, it should be recognized that the destructive and
creative moments of institutional change within actually existing
neoliberalism are intimately, inextricably interconnected in practice.
Our use of the term “moments” to describe these interconnections is
therefore intended in the Hegelian-Marxian sense of conflictual yet
mutually related elements within a dynamic, dialectical process, rather
than as a description of distinct temporal units within a linear transition.

Building upon the conceptualization of capitalist regulation
developed above, Table 1 summarizes the basic elements within each
of these moments of neoliberal institutional restructuring. As the
table illustrates, neoliberalism represents a complex, multifaceted
project of sociospatial transformation—it contains not only a utopian
vision of a fully commodified form of social life, but also a concrete
program of institutional modifications through which the unfettered
rule of capital is to be promoted. Indeed, a sustained critique of
the institutional forms, regulatory arrangements, and political com-
promises associated with the Fordist-Keynesian order—and a
concerted program to dismantle the latter—lie at the very heart of
neoliberalism as a project of politico-institutional transformation.
Most crucially, the table indicates the ways in which both the de-
structive and the creative moments of actually existing neoliberalism
have been mobilized through distinctively geographical strategies
within each of the major institutional arenas in which capitalist
regulation occurs. In the most general sense, the table illuminates the
ways in which the geographies of actually existing neoliberalism are
characterized by a dynamic transformation of capitalist territorial
organization from the nationally configured frameworks that prevailed
during the Fordist-Keynesian period to an increasingly “glocalized”
configuration of global-national-local interactions in which no single
scale serves as the primary pivot for accumulation, regulation, or
sociopolitical struggle (Jessop 2000; Swyngedouw 1997).

Cities and the Geographies of “Actually Existing Neoliberalism” 363

Page 17

364 Antipode

Table 1: Destructive and Creative Moments of Actually Existing

Site of Regulation Moment of Destruction Moment of Creation

• Assaults on organized
labor and national
collective bargaining

• Dismantling of the family
wage and the spread of
generalized economic

• Downgrading of national
regulations ensuring
equal employment
opportunity, occupational
safety, and workers’ rights

• Selective withdrawal of
state support for leading
national industries

• Dismantling of national
protectionist policies

• Dismantling of national
barriers to foreign direct

• Dismantling of Bretton
Woods global monetary
system and deregulation
of money markets

• Erosion of national
states’ capacity to control
exchange rates

• Dismantling of the
regulatory constraints
impeding monetary and
financial speculation in
global markets

• Separation of financial
and credit flows from
productive sources of

• Competitive deregulation:
atomized renegotiation of
wage levels and working
conditions combined with
expanded managerial

• New forms of the social
wage and new gender
divisions of labor

• Promotion of new forms
of labor “flexibility”

• New forms of state support
for “sunrise” industries

• Extension of global
commodities markets
through trade liberalization
policies codified in the
WTO, the IMF, the
European Union (EU),
the North American Free
Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), and other
supranational bodies

• Establishment of global
capital markets through
GATT negotiations

• Creation of speculation-
driven currency markets
and “stateless monies”
outside national regulatory

• Expanded role of global
regulatory bodies (such as
the Bank for International
Settlements) in the
monitoring of global
financial transactions

• Creation of offshore
financial centers,
international banking
facilities, and tax havens

Wage relation

Form of

Form of financial
and monetary

Page 31

Hackworth J and Smith N (2001) The changing state of gentrification. Tijdschrift voor
Economische en Sociale Geografie 92(4):464–477

Harloe M (2001) Social justice and the city: The new “liberal formulation.”
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25(4):889–897

Harvey D (1982) The Limits to Capital. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Harvey D (1989) From managerialism to entrepreneurialism: The transformation in

urban governance in late capitalism. Geografiska Annaler 71B:3–17
Hudson R (2001) Producing Places. New York: Guilford Press
Isin E (1998) Governing Toronto without government: Liberalism and neoliberalism.

Studies in Political Economy 56:169–191
Jessop B (1989) Conservative regimes and the transition to post-Fordism: The cases

of Great Britain and West Germany. In M Gottdiener and N Komninos (eds)
Capitalist Development and Crisis Theory (pp 261–299). New York: St. Martin’s

Jessop B (1992) Fordism and post-Fordism: A critical reformulation. In M Storper and
A J Scott (eds) Pathways to Industrialization and Regional Development (pp 46–69).
New York: Routledge

Jessop B (1994) Post-Fordism and the state. In A Amin (ed) Post-Fordism: A Reader
(pp 251–279). Oxford: Blackwell

Jessop B (1999) Narrating the future of the national economy and the national state:
Remarks on remapping regulation and reinventing governance. In G Steinmetz (ed)
State/Culture: State Formation after the Cultural Turn (pp 378–405). Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press

Jessop B (2000) The crisis of the national spatiotemporal fix and the ecological
dominance of globalizing capitalism. International Journal of Urban and Regional
Research 24:323–360

Jessop B and Stones R (1992) Old city and new times: Economic and political aspects
of deregulation. In L Budd and S Whimster (eds) Global Finance and Urban Living
(pp 171–192). Routledge: London

Lefebvre H [1974] (1991) The Production of Space. London: Blackwell
Leitner H and Sheppard E. (1998) Economic uncertainty, interurban competition and

the efficacy of entrepreneurialism. In T Hall and P Hubbard (eds) The Entrepreneurial
City (pp 285–308). Chichester: Wiley

Lipietz A (1987) Mirages and Miracles: The Crisis of Global Fordism. London: Verso
Lipietz A (1988) Reflections on a tale: The Marxist foundations of the concepts of

regulation and accumulation. Studies in Political Economy 26:7–36
Lipietz A (1992) A regulationist approach to the future of urban ecology. Capitalism,

Nature, Socialism 3(3):101–110
Lipietz A (1994) The national and the regional: Their autonomy vis-à-vis the capitalist

world crisis. In R Palan and B Gills (eds) Transcending the State-Global Divide
(pp 23–44). Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers

Lipietz A (1996) Warp, woof, and regulation: A tool for social science. In G Benko and
U Strohmayer (eds) Space and Social Theory (pp 250–283). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell

MacKinnon D (2001) Regulating regional spaces: State agencies and the produc-
tion of governance in the Scottish highlands. Environment and Planning A 33(5):

Massey D (1985) Spatial Divisions of Labour. London: Macmillan
Moody K (1997) Workers in a Lean World. New York: Verso
Peck J (1998) Geographies of governance: TECs and the neo-liberalisation of “local

interests.” Space & Polity 2(1):5–31
Peck J and Tickell A (1994) Searching for a new institutional fix: The after-Fordist

crisis and global-local disorder. In A Amin (ed) Post-Fordism: A Reader (pp 280–
315). Oxford: Blackwell

378 Antipode

Page 32

Peck J and Tickell A (1995) The social regulation of uneven development:
“Regulatory deficit,” England’s South East and the collapse of Thatcherism.
Environment and Planning A 27(1):15–40

Petit P (1999) Structural forms and growth regimes of the post-Fordist era. Review of
Social Economy LVII(2): 220–243

Rhodes M (1995) “Subversive liberalism”: market integration, globalization and the
European welfare state. Journal of European Public Policy 2(3):384–406

Smith N (1984) Uneven Development. Oxford: Blackwell
Storper M and Walker R (1989) The Capitalist Imperative: Territory, Technology and

Industrial Growth. London: Blackwell
Swyngedouw E (1992a) Territorial organization and the space/technology nexus.

Transactions, Institute of British Geographers 17:417–433
Swyngedouw E (1992b) The Mammon quest: “Glocalisation,” interspatial competition

and the monetary order: The construction of new scales. In M Dunford and
G Kafkalas (eds) Cities and Regions in the New Europe (pp 39–62). London:
Belhaven Press

Swyngedouw E (1997) Neither global nor local: “Glocalization” and the politics of
scale. In K Cox (ed) Spaces of Globalization (pp 137–166). New York: Guilford

Neil Brenner is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Metropolitan
Studies at New York University. He is currently writing a monograph
entitled “Glocalizing” States: Urban Governance and State Rescaling in
Western Europe. His research and teaching focus on critical urban
studies, state theory and sociospatial theory.

Nik Theodore is an Assistant Professor in Urban Planning and Policy
and Research Director of the Center for Urban Economic Develop-
ment at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses on
labor-market restructuring, urban inequality, contingent work, and
employment policy.

Cities and the Geographies of “Actually Existing Neoliberalism” 379

Similer Documents