Introduction: Neoliberal Globalization, Urban Privatization, and Resistance

By Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr.; Eick, Volker et al. | Social Justice, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Introduction: Neoliberal Globalization, Urban Privatization, and Resistance


Aguirre, Adalberto, Jr., Eick, Volker, Reese, Ellen, Social Justice


INCREASED ECONOMIC TIES BETWEEN NATIONS OFFER MANY POTENTIAL BENEFITS, SUCH as expanding the availability of goods and services and employment opportunities available to people and their communities. The expansion of economic ties between nations, however, has resulted in the emergence of a neoliberal model of global capitalism that serves to enrich powerful corporations at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens, while increasing social, political, and economic inequalities between nations. Although the neoliberal model has been embraced by political and economic elites in the global North and South, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have often externally imposed it in the South as a condition for obtaining a development loan.

In a previous special issue of Social Justice, "Justice for Workers in the Global Economy" (Vol. 31, No. 3,2004), we explored how and why neoliberal globalization has unleashed a national "race to the bottom," resulted in the diminishing of workers' employment opportunities and the erosion of working conditions for workers, and made it more difficult for workers to organize in a variety of national contexts. In this issue, we continue to explore the danger of neoliberal globalization regarding such social issues as the privatization of housing, economic welfare, security, and the delivery of goods and services.

The articles in this special issue grew out of a research workshop organized by members of the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA) during the organization's annual conference held in Berlin, Germany, in 2003. The thematic focus of the articles in this issue was explored more fully at an international conference, "Urbanization and Privatization: A Transnational Research Project Workshop," organized by Dr. Roger Keil and other INURA members and held at York University in Toronto, Canada, in 2004. Many of the articles in this issue are written by participants in the two conferences.

Neoliberal Ideology

Proponents of neoliberal ideology argue that "open, competitive, and unregulated markets, liberated from all forms of state interference, represent the optimal mechanism for economic development" (Brenner and Theodore, 2002: 2). Yet, while neoliberal ideology criticizes state intervention, actual neoliberal policies and practices involve "coercive, disciplinary forms of state intervention in order to impose market rule upon all aspects of social life" (Ibid.: 5). Such policies and practices are complex, contradictory, and contested, and operate at multiple levels of governance. In an effort to clarify how neoliberal policy has developed, Peck and Tickell (2002) identify two interrelated phases or processes: "roll-back neoliberalism" and "roll-out neoliberalism." "Roll-back neoliberalism" refers to "the active destruction or discreditation of Keynesian-welfarist and social-collectivist institutions (broadly defined)" (Ibid.: 37). This process involves the retreat from previous governmental control of resources and state regulations, including public services, nationalized industries, and labor and social rights. Also known as privatization, it is the "sharing or delegating of authority to non-governmental agents" (Handler, 1996: 78-80). Privatization takes many forms, including the sale of public assets, voucher programs, deregulation, cutbacks in public services, and the contracting out of those services to for-profit and nonprofit agencies.

The second neoliberal process, "roll-out neoliberalism," refers to "the purposeful construction and consolidation of neoliberalized state forms, modes of governance, and regulatory relations" (Peck and Tickell, 2002: 37). "Roll-out neoliberalism" involves the creation of new trade and financial regulations by international governance institutions, such as the World Trade Organization and the IME It also involves socially interventionist policies and public-private initiatives that are paternalistic and punitive, such as "anti-panhandling" ordinances, the militarization of the U. …

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