Neoliberalism and Socialisation. Gough

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neoliberalismo

Text of Neoliberalism and Socialisation. Gough

  • 2002 Editorial Board of Antipode. Published by Blackwell Publishers, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden,MA 02148, USA

    Neoliberalism and Socialisation in the Contemporary City: Opposites, Complements

    and Instabilities

    Jamie GoughDivision of Geography and Environmental Management, University of

    Northumbria at Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; jamie.gough@unn.ac.uk

    This paper explores some dialectics of neoliberalism and socialisation in contemporaryurbanism. The significance of socialisationnonmarket cooperation between socialactorsin both production and reproduction has tended to increase in the long term.Socialisation does not always take politically progressive forms, yet it always has aproblematic relation with private property and class discipline. Socialisation of diverseforms grew during the long boom, but this exacerbated the classic crisis tendencies ofcapitalism and resulted in increasing politicisation. Neoliberalism offered a resolutionof these tensions by imposing unmediated value relations and class discipline, fragment-ing labour and capital and fostering depoliticisation. However, this has led to manifestinefficiencies and failure adequately to reproduce the wage relation. Many longstandingforms of socialisation have therefore been retained, if in modified forms. Moreover,substantially new forms of urban socialisation have developed in cities. This paperexamines the role of business organisations, industrial clusters, top-down mobilisationof community and attempts at joined-up urban governance. It is argued that thesefill gaps in socialisation left by neoliberalism. Their neoliberal context has largelyprevented their politicisation, in particular heading off any socialist potential. Indeed,the new forms of urban socialisation have internalised neoliberal social relations and often deepened social divisions. Thus, paradoxically, they can achieve the essentialaims of neoliberalism better than pure neoliberalism itself. Nevertheless, theseforms of socialisation are often weakened by neoliberalism. Contemporary urban classrelations and forms of regulation thus reflect both opposition and mutual constructionbetween neoliberal strategies and forms of socialisation. The paper ends by brieflycontrasting this theorisation with associationalist and regulationist approaches.

    IntroductionNeoliberalism poses itself as the end of the social. It seeks to unshacklesocial actors from social and political constraints, to enable the firm freely to maximise its profits and the individual his or her utility.Private property is to be freed from collective rights and obligations,in particular from state interference, though the state is required allthe more strongly to protect property from infringement by others.This implies particular relations between capital and labour in which

  • the worker confronts capital as an individual rather than a member ofa collective or a citizen, freeing capital both in its purchase of labourpower and in the latters consumption within the workplace.

    However, this project is haunted by the logic of what I will refer toas socialisationthe coordination and cooperation of social actorsother than through markets.1 This logic is present both in productionand in the social sphere on the grounds of the efficiency of waged andunwaged work and the satisfaction of human needs (Offe 1984). Thus,to the extent that people are able to press for the satisfaction of theirneeds and to the extent that business is concerned for the efficiency ofproduction, neoliberalism faces dilemmas. The break-up of longstand-ing forms of socialisation within cities has caused manifest inefficiencies,not only for workers and residents but also for business. This has meantthat many important forms of socialisation have not been destroyedaltogether, but rather have been reformed in particular, always prob-lematic, ways by neoliberalism. Moreover, substantially new forms ofurban socialisations of production and reproduction have emerged,stamped by their neoliberal context. Brenner and Theodore highlightthese deviations from pure neoliberalismthe messy business ofactually existing neoliberalismin their introduction to this volume.This paper attempts a theorisation of them.

    A large left literature exists showing that neoliberalism has led to inefficient production, as well as declining standards of life of theworking class (a term I use in its Marxist sense). However, this begssome questions. Why has the neoliberal offensive continued despitethese palpable failures? And, on the other hand, what forms of social-isation have continued or emerged, and how are they related to theirapparent opposite, neoliberalism?

    Socialisation within capitalist society can take very different formspolitically. It may reflect and embody a real class compromise, as in clas-sical social democracy: an attempt to steer capital into high-productivitypaths that are relatively beneficial for quality of employment andliving standards. Alternatively, socialisation may simply respond todemands of capital: it can provide labour power with suitable resourcesand attitudes as well as other inputs to profitable production, and canorganise particular paths of accumulation. Thus, socialisation in thepresent period, though formally opposed to neoliberal principles, mayin practice reinforce the class project of neoliberalism by creating real rather than merely formal options and freedoms for capital. Thispaper maps some of the ways in which contemporary socialisations incities complement and internalise neoliberalism.

    Because it involves direct and explicit relations between actors,rather than relations mediated by impersonal value, socialisation ofwhatever political complexion can become excessively politicised fromthe point of view of capital (Habermas 1976; Offe 1984). Indeed,

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  • neoliberalism developed precisely as a response to such problems(Bonefeld 1993; Bonefeld, Brown and Burnham 1995; Clarke 1988). Itherefore seek in this paper to trace the historical development of thetension between the impersonal discipline of value and the politicalconflict immanent in socialisation in the city. This attempts to fill a gapin the literature on neoliberalism as depoliticisation (Bonefeld 1993;Bonefeld, Brown and Burnham 1995), which has underresearched thelocal scale and the reproduction sphere.

    The paper thus seeks to interpret the contemporary city in terms ofthe contradictory relation between neoliberalism and socialisationthat is, both their conflict and their mutual construction. As thisabstract dualism is developed towards historically and spatially con-crete forms, I seek to show how socialisation can internalise neoliberalismand vice versa, thus complexifying the two poles. We are concerned herenot only with impersonal structures but, crucially, with consciousnessand political struggle and with their historical development.

    I use city here as shorthand for the local or regional scale. Thisscale has a particular relevance to the neoliberalismsocialisationdialectic. On the one hand, cities contain sets of interdependencieswithin production and reproduction and between them facilitated byproximity, which I have termed locally-effective structures (Gough1991; see also Cox 1998; Harvey 1989). On the other hand, localitiesare strongly subject to the pressures of capital mobility by virtue of theirlimited size and their formal political constitution. We shall explorehow this contradiction has been developed in the present period.

    The second section of the paper considers the notion of social-isation within capitalist society and its historical development. On thisbasis, it proposes a particular account of the origins of neoliberalism,conceived as a set of class relations. The third section examines howneoliberalism has restructured cities, but also looks at the persistenceof longstanding forms of urban socialisation despite neoliberalism.The fourth considers four examples of new or substantially reworkedforms of socialisation within the contemporary city, and their complexdialectics with neoliberal disciplines and fragmentations. The con-cluding section considers some theoretical and political issues.

    The Socialisation of Capitalism and the Neoliberal ResponseThe core mechanisms of capitalismcapitalist production ofcommodities, the sale of labour power by individual workers, flows ofcapital governed by prospects of individual profithave never beenadequate in their pure form to ensure sustained accumulation nor, a fortiori, to meet the needs of the working class. Consequently, thereare chronic pressures from sections of both capital and labour towardscollaborative nonmarket arrangements, through both civil society

    Neoliberalism and Socialisation in the Contemporary City 407

  • and the state, to mediate the core relations. This socialisationrelates to both production and the reproduction of people. Becausethe reproduction of labour power is important to capital, and becauseemployment depends on profitability, both spheres are the concern ofboth classes. It is, therefore, misleading to conceive of socialisation asserving accumulation and legitimation as distinct aims: accumulationis vital for popular legitimation, and the reproduction sphere under-pins accumulation. As we shall see, this greatly complicates thepolitics of socialisation.

    Socialisation of production and reproduction can have very variedclass politics. It can be conservative, as in the state-zaibatsu planningof production in Japan or in the public services of postwar WestGermany, which were structured to encourage polarised gender rolesand family stability. It can be social-democratic, as in the regulation of production and industrial bargaining in the Federation Settlementin Australia or in the classical