This essay considers changes in the symbolic boundaries of French society under the influence of neo-liberalism. As compared to the early nineties, stronger boundaries toward the poor and blacks are now being drawn, while North-African immigrants and their offsprings continue to be largely perceived as outside the community of those who deserve recognition and protection. Moreover, while the social reproduction of upper-middle-class privileges has largely remained unchanged, there is a blurring of the symbolic boundaries separating the middle and working class as the latter has undergone strong individualization. Also, youth are now bearing the brunt of France's non-adaptation to changes in the economy and are increasingly marginalized. The result is a dramatic change in the overall contours of the French symbolic community, with a narrowed definition of cultural membership, and this, against a background of growing inequality, unemployment, and intolerance in a more open and deregulated labor market.
Michèle Lamont and Nicolas Duvoux
Dominant but dead
Some years ago Jürgen Habermas (1991) diagnosed modernism as dominant but dead. Neo- liberalism may still be in its youth, having come to fruition only after the 1970s, but it seems reasonable to conclude that neo-liberalism too is “dominant but dead.” The ferment of new ideas, however much they were simultaneously recycled axia from the earlier liberal tradition, reached its peak in the 1980s.
This article explores some concerns about the concept of neo-liberalism, suggesting that it has been stretched too far to be productive as a critical analytical tool. Neo-liberalism suffers from promiscuity (hanging out with various theoretical perspectives), omnipresence (treated as a universal or global phenomenon), and omnipotence (identified as the cause of a wide variety of social, political and economic changes). Alternative ways of treating neo-liberalism as more contingent and contested are considered. These emphasize its mobile and flexible character, stressing processes of contextual assemblage, articulation, and translation. The article concludes by wondering whether the concept of neo-liberalism is now so overused that it should be retired.
Peter D. Little
The term “neo-liberalism” increasingly lays claim to an enormous terrain of political, social, economic, and cultural phenomena often so loosely applied and defined that it seems to be lurking almost everywhere. John Clarke’s thickly worded essay is a timely “wake-up” call to those of us (including myself) who often loosely use the term to explain a range of different social and economic changes without careful consideration of the term’s theoretical and empirical implications.
Donald M. Nonini
It is always a pleasure to read John Clarke’s work because, like the analytical “ordinary language” philosophers of the 1950s to 1970s, such as Wittgenstein and Austin, he pushes all of us who use the concepts he examines to think more rigorously about what we mean by them and by our theoretical assumptions when we use them. The present essay is no exception, and I learned much from it as a tour d’horizon of current thinking about neo-liberalism by social scientists. The observations that John makes about the ways in which current scholars view neo-liberalism as promiscuous, omnipresent, and omnipotent are spot-on.
In the spring and summer of 1938 two quite different seminars took place in Paris. One was the very well-known Collège de Sociologie, which included the participation of Caillois and Bataille – see ‘Sacred Sociology of the Contemporary World’, 2 April 1938, and the session ‘Festival’, 2 May 1939, in which Caillois indicates the importance of sacred games (in Hollier 1988: 157–159, 279–303). The other was the Walter Lippman Colloque, 26–30 August 1938 (in Rougier 1939). The former was the significant forerunner of French sociology and philosophy – from Derrida to Baudrillard – decisively influenced by Marcel Mauss.
Guy Ben-Porat and Fany Yuval
This study of neo-conservatism in Israel argues that despite its powerful emergence, internal contradictions prevent it from establishing a hegemonic position. This argument is used to explain the collapse of the Likud in the 2006 elections after it adopted a neo-conservative agenda. The attempt to maintain simultaneously a hawkish foreign policy and a neo-liberal economic agenda proved costly, since the demands of such a foreign policy often contradict the 'small state' tenets of neo-liberalism. Consequently, as this article demonstrates, neo-conservatism has a difficult time sustaining a stable constituency, as those who support an aggressive foreign policy may desire a more welfare-type state, while those who support neo-liberalism generally favor a moderate foreign policy.
David Mosse, Cultivating development: An ethnography of aid policy and practice. London: Pluto Press, 2005, 315 pp., 0-7453-1798-7.
Tania M. Li, The will to improve: Governmentality, development, and the practice of politics. Dur- ham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007, 374 pp., 0-8223-4027-0 (paperback).
Richard Sandbrook, Marc Edelman, Patrick Heller and Judith Teichman, Social democracy in the global periphery: Origins, challenges, prospects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 289 pp., 0-521-68687-7 (paperback).
This article draws attention to the ways that Alaskan Native sovereignties and economies are increasingly driven by market-rational logics. I examine a proposed land exchange between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alaska Native Doyon Corporation that would enable Doyon to pursue oil development ventures on lands exchanged out of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. This plan was made possible due to uneven political and structural relationships created through Native land claims legislation in Alaska, as well as shifts in federal land management policies that have made land more easily exchangeable and developable. These structural inequalities and shifts in state policy have laid the groundwork for neo-liberal development schemes that are pursued in the name of Alaskan Native communities and economies but are also often at their expense.
Naomi C.F. Yamada
In both China and in the United States, policies of 'positive discrimination' were originally intended to lessen educational and economic inequalities, and to provide equal opportunities. As with affirmative action in the American context, China's 'preferential policies' are broad-reaching, but are best known for taking ethnic background into consideration for university admissions. The rhetoric of China's preferential policy discourse has remained surprisingly constant but shifts to a market-economy and incorporation of neoliberal elements have resulted in fee-based reforms that discourage inclusion of poorer students. In addition, as ethnic minority students principally from Western China compete to enter 'self-funded' college preparatory programmes, public funding is being directed towards the achievement of 'world-class' universities overwhelmingly concentrated in Eastern China. In contrast, in the United States, the difficulty of defending affirmative action in the face of a neoliberal climate has resulted in a shift in policy. If in China the policy remains even as the 'rule' has changed (Arno 2009), in contrast, in American institutions the rhetoric has shifted away from affirmative action in favour of diversity but efforts to hold on to the rules that promote equal opportunities remain.