How Labour Made Neoliberalism

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Critical Sociology, 2017, 43 (4-5), pp. 669 - 684
Issue Date:
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© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016. Critical explanations of neoliberalism regularly adhere to a dominant narrative as to the form and implementation of the neoliberal policy revolution, positing neoliberalism in its vanguard period as a project implemented by governments of the New Right, imposed coercively on civil society by state elites and only subsequently adopted by social democratic parties. In such accounts, labour is typically posited as the object and victim of neoliberalising processes. In contrast, this article focuses upon the active role of labour within the development of neoliberalism. The period of social democratic government in Australia (1983–1996) is used as a case study to illuminate labour’s active role in constructing neoliberalism. Indicative evidence from the USA and UK is then presented to argue that the agency of labour can usefully be ‘written in’ to the presently dominant narrative regarding the rise of neoliberalism to provide a more satisfactory account of its nature and resilience over time.
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