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Blazing the Neoliberal Trail

Blazing the Neoliberal Trail: Urban Political Development in the United States and the United Kingdom

Timothy P. R. Weaver
Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Blazing the Neoliberal Trail
    Book Description:

    InBlazing the Neoliberal Trail, Timothy Weaver asks how and why urban policy and politics have become dominated, over the past three decades, by promarket thinking. He argues that politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher targeted urban areas as part of their far broader effort to remake the relationship between markets, states, and citizens. But while neoliberal policies were enacted in both the United States and the United Kingdom, Weaver shows that there was significant variation in the ways in which neoliberal ideas were brought to bear on institutional frameworks and organized interests. Moreover, these developments were not limited to a 1980s right-wing effort but were also advanced by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, whose own agendas ultimately reinforced neoliberal ideas and practices, though often by default rather than design. The enduring impact of these shifts is evidenced today by the reintroduction of enterprise zones in the United Kingdom by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and by President Obama's announcement of Promise Zones, which, despite appearances, are cast in the neoliberal mold.

    By highlighting the bipartisan nature of the neoliberal turn, Weaver challenges the dominant narrative that the revival of promarket policies was primarily driven by the American GOP and the United Kingdom's Conservative Party. Drawing on extensive archival research and interviews with key political actors, Weaver examines national-level policies, such as enterprise zones-place-based articulations of neoliberal ideas-in case studies of Philadelphia and London. Through an investigation of national urban policy and local city politics,Blazing the Neoliberal Trailshows how elites became persuaded by neoliberal ideas and remade political institutions in their image.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9222-0
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction (pp. 1-22)

    As New Deal and Great Society liberalism and Keynesianism unraveled in the 1970s amid a stagflationary malaise, a set of neoliberal ideas came to dominate the political landscape in the United States and Britain. Those who came to power at the turn of the 1980s looked to their favored academic scribblers whose ideas, they hoped, would provide solutions where liberals informed by John Maynard Keynes and John Kenneth Galbraith had ostensibly failed. Nowhere was this shift more sharply felt than in cities. The most noted urban impact of the neoliberal turn was the reduction of aid from central government.¹ But...

  4. Part I. The Neoliberalization of National Urban Policy
    • Chapter 1 Losing the Battle but Winning the War: The Story of the Federal Enterprise Zone Program That Never Was: 1980–1992 (pp. 25-71)

      As the Reagan administration’s flagship urban policy, enterprise zones deserve scrutiny. Informed by the ideas of neoliberal economists and political philosophers, enterprise zones appeared in five State of the Union addresses and in presidential debates, were adopted by President George H. W. Bush, and were promoted by all three candidates in the 1992 presidential election. Yet, they were not enacted by Congress in any substantial form. The story of the abortive struggle to pass federal legislation to create enterprise zones during the Reagan and Bush years is one that distills many of the arguments, battles, and paradoxes of the neoliberal...

    • Chapter 2 Dealing with Those Inner Cities: The Neoliberal Turn in British Urban Policy (pp. 72-108)

      As Margaret Thatcher stood on the steps of Conservative Party Central Office in the aftermath of her historic third general election victory in June 1987, she declared “we have a big job to do in some of those inner cities, a really big job . . . because we want them too next time.” Implicit in her statement was the notion that urban voters had punished the Conservatives for their neglect of cities. Yet it could hardly be argued that her party’s lackluster performance in Britain’s urban areas was the result of inaction on her government’s part. To the contrary,...

    • Chapter 3 Blair and Clinton: A Third Way? (pp. 109-158)

      If the 1970s provided the opening for neoliberal ideas to enter the political mainstream, and the 1980s enabled politicians of the right to etch their designs onto the American and British political landscape, the battles over the political trajectory of the 1990s would determine the extent to which neoliberalism was a passing trend or a political development of historic significance. The true test of the power of a political project lies in whether its detractors are able to fashion an alternative and propel politics in a different direction when the opportunity of elected office presents itself. The Democratic administration of...

  5. Part II. Neoliberalism in the Trenches:: Urban Politics in Philadelphia and London
    • Chapter 4 Neoliberalism in the Trenches: Philadelphia 1951–1991 (pp. 161-198)

      Looking out over the Philadelphia skyline, bejeweled with glittering skyscrapers, one might be tempted to conclude that three decades of corporate embrace by the city’s ruling elites had paid off. A stroll around Center City on a Saturday night reveals a vitality uncommon to many American downtowns, which have become hollowed out and soulless after 6 P.M. Moreover, in 2009, the city’s population grew for the first time since the 1950s.

      Yet these signs of revitalization obscure the grim reality of life for many in the neoliberal trenches. In 2000, after seven years of uninterrupted growth, Philadelphia’s median household income...

    • Chapter 5 “America’s Mayor” Comes to Power in Philadelphia: The Consolidation of the Corporate City Under Ed Rendell (pp. 199-242)

      At the turn of the 1990s, Philadelphia stood at the crossroads with one foot planted in its industrial past, while another stood in an uncertain corporate future. The primary and general elections of 1991 were the pivots upon which the city’s transformation turned, with incoming mayor, Ed Rendell, the pivotal figure. As Wilson Goode’s second mayoral term came to a close, the city faced a financial crisis that he was neither willing nor able to resolve. This task was left to Rendell, a politician more of the neoliberal persuasion than his predecessor, his commitment to state-led investment in infrastructure, education,...

    • Chapter 6 Neoliberalism by Design: Poverty and Plenty in London’s Docklands (pp. 243-276)

      Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, London’s docklands was radically remade in the neoliberal image. Once the site of the British Empire’s principal port, “docklands” was central to global trade in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, the very names East India Dock and Canary Wharf signal Britain’s imperial past. Although London is no longer the capital of an empire powered by global trade, the area known today as “Docklands” now serves as a crucial node in the global network of financial capital. Canary Wharf, now the pulsing heart of Docklands, is home to the global headquarters of...

  6. Conclusion. The Neoliberal Persuasion (pp. 277-284)

    Out of the tumult of the 1970s, the ideas and programmatic commitments that had held sway since the 1930s and 1940s were abandoned. In the decades that followed, the institutions associated with New Deal and Great Society liberalism in the United States and those that emerged from the postwar settlement in the United Kingdom were recast in a neoliberal mold. If these institutions and commitments have not been dismantled in their entirety since then, they have been radically reconfigured.

    This book has argued that the neoliberal political-economic order that was forged in the 1970s and 1980s by radicals in the...

  7. Appendix (pp. 285-288)
  8. Notes (pp. 289-338)
  9. Index (pp. 339-350)
  10. Acknowledgments (pp. 351-353)