David Harvey and the Marxist Critique of Neoliberalism

Stream: Panel 95 - Public Policy & Social Justice: Understanding and (Re)Conceptualising Neoliberalism 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism, written from a Marxist perspective, is the most cited work on the topic of neoliberalism. Yet, the Marxist tradition is also often cast by scholars of neoliberalism as over-simplistic, wedded to an outdated ideology, and ultimately inadequate for an appreciation of the complexities of neoliberalism. Indeed, it is against the Marxist tradition in general, and Harvey more specifically, that the major trajectories of scholarly analysis of neoliberalism justify the novelty of their insights. This paper intervenes in such by way of an engagement with the work of Harvey and his critics. It does so in order to tease out the key contentions of critics of Harvey and of the Marxist approach more generally. It seeks to identify which, if any, of these critiques speak to shortcomings in Harvey’s work. It is argued that most criticisms of Harvey’s understanding of neoliberalism actually miss the mark and rely upon caricature. Yet, for all its considerable strengths, Harvey’s analysis of neoliberalism is limited. The paper contends what Harvey misses in his analysis of neoliberalism is a ‘philosophy of internal relations’ which views class relations, states and ideas as internally related and integrated, rather than separate and externally related elements of human society.


Damien Cahill (Presenter), University of Sydney
Damien Cahill’s research focuses primarily on the relationship between the economy and society. This informs his writing on: neoliberal think tanks; prison privatisation; neoliberalism and the global financial crisis; neoliberal hegemony; and the social foundations of the contemporary Australian economy.