The following quotations are from:
David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism
“For any way of thought to become dominant, ,a conceptual apparatus has to be advanced that appeals to our intuitions and instincts, to our values and our desires, as well as to the possibilities inherent in the social world we inhabit. If successful, this conceptual apparatus becomes so embedded in common sense as to be taken for granted and not open to question. The founding figures of neoliberal thought took political ideals of human dignity and individual freedom as fundamental, as ‘the central values of civilization’. In so doing they chose wisely, for these are indeed compelling and seductive ideals. These values, they held, were threatened not only by fascism, dictatorships, and communism, but by all forms of state intervention that substituted collective judgements for those of individuals free to choose.” 5
“The assumption that individual freedoms are guaranteed by the freedom of the market and of trade is a cardinal feature of neoliberal thinking, and it has long dominated the US stance towards the rest of the world. What the US evidently sought to impose by main force on Iraq was a state apparatus whose fundamental mission was to facilitate conditions for profitable capital accumulation on the part of both domestic and foreign capital. I call this kind of state apparatus a neoliberal state. The freedoms it embodies reflect the interests of private property owners, businesses, multinational corporations, and financial capital.” 7
“We can.. interpret neoliberalization either as a utopian project to realize a theoretical design for the reorganization of international capitalism or as a political project to re-establish the conditions for capital accumulation and to restore the power of economic elites. In what follows I shall argue that the second of these objectives has in practice dominated. Neoliberaalization has not been very effective in revitalizing global capital accumulation, but it has succeeded remarkably well in restoring, or in some instances (as in Russia and China) creating, the power of an economic elite. The theoretical utopianism of neoliberal argument has, I conclude, primarily worked as a system of justification and legitimation for whatever needed to be done to achieve this goal. The evidence suggests, moreover, that when neoliberal principles clash with the need to restore or sustain elite power, then the principles are either abandoned or become so twisted as to be unrecognizable. This in no way denies the power of ideas to act as a force for historical-geographical change. But it does point to a creative tension between the power of neoliberal ideas and the actual practices of neoliberalization that have transformed how global capitalism has been working over the last three decades.” 19
“In the post-war period, much of the non-communist world has opened up to US domination by tactics of this sort. This became the method of choice to fight off the threat of communist insurgencies and revolution, entailing an anti-democratic (and even more emphatically anti-populist and anti-socialist/communist) strategy on the part of the US that put the US more and more in alliance with repressive military dictatorships and authoritarian regimes (most spectacularly, of course, throughout Latin America). The stories told in John Perkins’s Confessions of an Economic Hit Man are full of the ugly and unsavoury details of how this was all too often done. US interests consequently became more rather than less vulnerable in the struggle against international communism. While the consent of local ruling elites could be purchased easily enough, the need to coerce oppositional or social democratic movements (such as Allende’s in Chile) associated the US with a long history of largely covert violence against popular movements throughout much of the developing world.” 28
“Increasingly freed from the regulatory constraints and barriers that had hitherto confined its field of action, financial activity could flourish as never before, eventually everywhere. A wave of innovations occurred in financial services to produce not only far more sophisticated global interconnections but also new kinds of financial markets based on securitization, derivatives, and all manner of futures trading. Neoliberalization has meant, in short, the financialization of everything. This deepened the hold of finance over all other areas of the economy, as well as over the state apparatus and, as Randy Martin points out, daily life. It also introduced an accelerating volatility into global exchange relations. There was unquestionably a power shift away from production to the world of finance. Gains in manufacturing capacity no longer necessarily meant rising per capita incomes, but concentration on financial services certainly did. For this reason, the support of financial institutions and the integrity of the financial system became the central concern of the collectivity of neoliberal states (such as the group comprising the world’s richest countries known as the G7). In the event of a conflict between Main Street and Wall Street, the latter was to be favoured. The real possibility then arises that while Wall ;Street does well the rest of the US (as well as the rest of the world) does badly. And for several years, particularly during the 19990s, this is exactly what happened. While the slogan was often advanced in the 1960s that what was good for General Motors was good for the US, this had change by the 1990s into the slogan that what is good for Wall Street is all that matters.
One substantial core of rising class power under neoliberalism lies, therefore, with the CEOs, the key operators on corporate boards, and the leaders in the financial, legal, and technical apparatuses that surround this inner sanctum of capitalist activity. The power of the actual owners of capital, the stockholders, has, however, been somewhat diminished unless they can gain a sufficiently large voting interest to affect corporate policy. Shareholders have on occasion been bilked of millions by the operations of millions by the operations of the CEOs and their financial advisers. Speculative gains have also made it possible to amass enormous fortunes within a very short period of time (examples are Warren Buffett and George Soros). 33-34
“The idea of freedom ‘thus degenerates into a mere advocacy of free enterprise’, which means ‘the fullness of freedom for those whose income, leisure and security need no enhancing, and a mere pittance of liberty for the people, who may in vain attempt to make use of their democratic rights to gain shelter from the power of the owners of property’. But if, as is always the case, ‘no society is possible in which power and compulsion are absent, nor a world in which force has no function’, then the only way this liberal utopian vision could be sustained is by force, violence, and authoritarianism. Liberal or neoliberal utopianism is doomed, in Polanyi’s view, to be frustrated by authoritarianism, or even outright fascism. The good freedoms are lost, the bad ones take over.” 37
“How was neoliberalization accomplished, and by whom? The answer in countries such as Chile and Argentina in the 1970s was as simple as it was swift, brutal, and sure: a military coup backed by the traditional upper classes (as well as by the US government), followed by the fierce repression of all solidarities created within the labour and urban social movements which had so threatened their power. But the neoliberal revolution usually attributed to Thatcher and Reagan after 1979 had to be accomplished by democratic means. For a shift of this magnitude to occur required the prior construction of political consent across a sufficiently large spectrum of the population to win elections. What Gramsci calls ‘common sense’ (defined as ‘the sense held in common’) typically grounds consent. Common sense is constructed out of long-standing practices of cultural socialization often rooted deep in regional or national traditions. It is not the same as the ‘good sense’ that can be constructed out of critical engagement with the issues of the day. Common sense can, therefore, be profoundly misleading, obfuscating or disguising real problems under cultural prejudices. Culture and traditional values (such as belief in God and country or views on the position of women in society) and fears (of communists, immigrants, strangers, or ‘others’) can be mobilized to mask other realities. Political slogans can be invoked that mask specific strategies beneath vague rhetorical devices. The word ‘freedom’ resonates so widely within the common-sense understanding of Americans that it becomes ‘a button that elites can press to open the door to the masses’ to justify almost anything. Thus could Bush retrospectively justify the Iraq war. Gramsci therefore concluded that political questions become ‘insoluble’ when ‘disguised as cultural ones’. In seeking to understand the construction of political consent, we must learn to extract political meanings from their cultural integuments.
So how, then, was sufficient popular consent generated to legitimize the neoliberal turn ?The channels through which this was done were diverse. Powerful ideological influences circulated through the corporations, the media, and the numerous institutions that constitute civil society—such as universities, schools, churches, and professional associations. The ‘long march’ of neoliberal ideas through these institutions that Hayek had envisaged back in 1947, the organization of think-tanks (with corporate backing and funding), the capture of certain segments of the media, and the conversion of many intellectuals to neoliberal ways of thinking, created a climate of opinion in support of neoliberalism as the exclusive guarantor of freedom. These movements were later consolidated through the capture of political parties and, ultimately, state power.
Appeals to traditions and cultural values bulked large in all of this. An open project around the restoration of economic power to a small elite would probably not gain much popular support. But a programmatic attempt to advance the cause of individual freedoms could appeal to a mass base and so disguise the drive to restore class power. Furthermore, once the state apparatus made the neoliberal turn it could use its powers of persuasion, co-optation, briery, and threat to maintiain the climate of consent necessary to perpetuate its power. This was Thatcher’s and Regan’s particular forte…” 39-40