Neoliberalism, the State and the Left

By Albo, Gregory | Canadian Dimension, March 2002 | Go to article overview

Neoliberalism, the State and the Left

Albo, Gregory, Canadian Dimension

An assessment of the Left today must begin with an analysis of neoliberalism. For over the past two decades neoliberalism has come to dominate public discourse and the modalities of the state in one country after another. The ascendancy of neoliberalism has occurred through a series of interconnected transformations that began with the economic turmoil of the 1970s, the rise of New Right governments across the 1980s, and the deepening internationalization of the circuits of money and industrial capital, modes of communication and governance structures in the 1990s. Neoliberalism has come to mark a historic turning-point in the balance of power, the social forms of economic and political power and the patterns of everyday life.

Neoliberalism is not a monolithic ideology or political program. There is unevenness in the application of the neoliberal project in Canada as elsewhere. The basic idea is that the state should be limited in its role in modern society apart from securing private-property rights and contracts. One of neoliberalism's key ideologues, New York Times correspondent Thomas Friedman, in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, exactingly summarizes the agenda:

"A country must either adopt, or be seen as moving toward, the following golden rules: making the private sector the primary engine of its economic growth, maintaining a low rate of inflation and price stability, shrinking the size of its state bureaucracy, maintaining as close to a balanced budget as possible, if not a surplus, eliminating and lowering tariffs on imported goods, removing restrictions on foreign investment, getting rid of quotas and domestic monopolies, increasing exports, privatizing state-owned industries and utilities, deregulating capital markets, making its currency convertible, opening its industries, stock and bond markets to direct foreign ownership and investment, deregulating its economy to promote as much domestic competition as possible, eliminating government corruption, subsidies and kickbacks, opening its banking and telecommunications systems to private ownership and competition, and allowing its citizens to choose from an array of competing pension options and foreign-run pen sion and mutual funds."

Neoliberalism's "golden rules" have the objective of expanding the sphere of the capitalist market globally. But they also are intended to narrow the political and economic choices of those in power" such that. "policy choices get reduced to Pepsi or Coke" -- to slight nuances of taste, slight nuances of policy, slight alterations in design to account for local traditions, but never any major deviations from the core golden rules.


Neoliberalism developed out of an important shift in the balance of class forces and the defeat of the Left, and in particular social democracy. The economic turmoil of the 1 970s initially met with diverse responses across the capitalist countries. One set came from the social-democratic Left in the form of the Common Program in France, the Historic Compromise in Italy, the Bennite Left and local socialism in Britain, the Meidner Plan in Sweden, and progressive legislation in North America like the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Bill and the National Energy Program. (In the less economically advanced zones, revolution was in the air from Portugal and Mozambique to Nicaragua.) These projects varied significantly. But they had in common an attempt at reflation, widening workplace participation, managed trade for the open sector, and "Keynesplus" strategies for increasing social control over aspects of investment previously left to the unilateral suzerainty of capitalists.

These projects all met, in an equally varied manner, political defeat. In the most contested cases of France and Sweden in the 1980s, where the Left could be said to be strongest, the defeats came in the form of capital strikes that destabilized international payments and the economy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Neoliberalism, the State and the Left


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.