notes on ‘neoliberalizing space’

“Neoliberalizing Space,” Peck and Tickell (2002 in Antipode)

The authors argue for a process-based analysis of “neoliberalization” and that there are “variable ways in which different ‘local neoliberalism’ are embedded within wider networks and structures of neoliberalism. Peck and tickell also theorize two movements of neoliberalization – a destructive moment (“roll-back” neolib) and a creative moment (“roll-out” neolib). This is what I’m primarily interested in w/r/t SLU because it seems that the city stands back and lets the developer(s) shape the neighborhood in their own way, but simultaneously – and this is corroborated by all the talk of creating a new kind of neighborhood (Iglitzen article) and Nickels’ desire to create a biotech hub in the KUOW interviews – the ‘state’ is also involved in instantiating policies that bolster the neoliberal ideology.


Neolib: “dominant ideological rationalization for globalization and contemporary state ‘reform’” (380); “free trade, flexible labor, active individualism.” Now a “commonsense of the times” – isn’t this the Marxist definition of ideology, a principle that is taken as natural? (381)


(381-2) Peck and tickell are “walking a line of sorts between producing…overgeneralized accounts of a monolithic and omnipresent neoliberalism, which tends to be insufficiently sensitive to its local variability and complex internal constitution and…excessively concrete and contingent analyses of (local) neoliberal strategies, which are inadequately attentive to the substantial connections and necessary characteristics of neoliberalism as an extralocal process.” In terms of scale they are trying to seek some sort of middle ground.


382: neolib discourses “have a self-actualizing quality” and – along w/ discourses of globalization (and the middle class for Marazzi) –they “seek to remake the world in their own image (Bourdieu and Piven references)” – these are “strong discourses”: self-actualizing nature and self-evident alignment w/ political-economic power. This idea resonates w/ Molotch’s growth machine thesis and obviously w/ the Seattle Commons (as a neighborhood supported by municipal gov, see Iglitzen)/SLU movement: the discourse of revitalization and forward-looking development as an economic engine for the region. As peck and tickell move on to talk about neolib space, this will become even clearer.


383: “neoliberalization should be understood as a process, not an end-state.” Methodologically, peck and tickell are focusing on changes (~foucault and epistemic breaks?).


Two shifts: “destruction and discreditation of Keynesian-welfarist and social-collectivist instituions (broadly defined) to one focused on the purposeful construction and consolidation of neoliberalized state forms, modes of governance, and regulatory relations” (384).


385: “In its diffuse, dispersed, technocratic, and institutionalized form, neoliberalism has spawned a free-market in social regression, but simultaneously it is becoming, vulnerable – from the inside as well as the outside – in wholly new ways.


Neolib inducing competition btwn localities: cutting social/env regs & eroding political/institutional collectivities; rush toward “urban entrepreneurialism” (Harvey, “from managerialism to entrepreneurialism”) – facilitates, encourages, and subsidizes capital and resource mobility.


386: during active deconstruction, neolib produces “a new regime of highly competitive interlocal relations, such that just about all local social settlements were becoming tendentially subject in one way or another to the disciplinary force of neoliberalized spatial relations.


387: progressive localism can’t confront neolib on “a level playing field of ‘regime competition.’” Regions’ social/spatial relations are neoliberalized; neolib inhabits “not only institutions and places but also the spaces in between.” I’m reminded here of D&G speaking of overflowing, of passing between points…saturation, penetration.


Peck and tickell remind the reader that neolib is variegated, and that in order to understand it we “must be attentive to both the local peculiarities and the generic features of neoliberalism” (388). Notice the both/and being emphasized…I’m constantly thinking of Peck’s presentation @ UW where he seemed to be a staunch dialectician (‘assemblage theory?! Intuition!?’). Did he change over the years?


Neolib permits right-wing “to be both conservative and radical” (388)…makes the left seem antiquated as defenders of institutions while the right is breaking free. Think about this in d&g’s terms…the left is stranded in the molar while the right is apparently a line of flight; they argue continuously in A-O that capitalism de-territorialized and decodes, and this is a perfect example. Moreover, they also outline the suicidal line of flight in ATP.


mid 90s, socially interventionist policies of Clinton admin – peck and tickell are calling this a reconstitution of neolib, rather than an implosion. Marazzi corroborates this diagnosis in C&A when he’s exploring Reich/Clintonomics, & arguing that the postfordist econ causes a disintegration of state/institutionalized support networks, but that nation-state can be reinforced through nationalism and the redistribution of wealth. For peck/tickell, this is roll-out neolib, a shift from “ideological software [to] institutional hardware” (389).


Econ management & social intervention

Neolib econ management: “manipulation of interest rates, the maintenance noninflationary growth, and the extension of the ‘rule’ of free trade abroad and flexible labor markets at home” (289). Marazzi is discussing these same policies, live, in the same era.

Social intervention: crime, immigration, community regeneration, etc…new social subjectivities being fostered.


392: neolib inherently spatial: not reproduced homogeneously across it but “[a]s long as collateral damage from  such breakdowns can be minimized, localized, or otherwise displaced across space or scale, it can provide a positive spur to regulatory reinvention.” Sim to consumerist idea of expanding markets into new space/time. Must pay attention to movements btwn sites of incorporation and imposition b/c neolib is irreducible to local institutions (also extralocal).


393 – ref to Harvey again — interurban competition: urban entrepreneurialism, spectacles, enterprise zone, waterfront development, etc…peck/tickell: “elite partnerships, mega-events, and corporate seduction become, in effect, both the only games in town and the basis of urban subjugation.”


394/5: “transurban tendencies towards reflexive and entrepreneurial city governace”:

1)    growth first…outweighs other social commitments

2)    naturalization of market logic

3)    forecloses alt paths of urban dev (shift from original seattle commons to second proposal and ultimately to SLU?)

4)    competition; scan horizon for investment/promotion opportunities, monitoring others, emulating best practices…in SLU, this seems like the crux of their urban design and econ base…biotech, studying Portland, Vancouver, multiple places in europe (or whatever marshall foster said at slu sip event).

5)    Narrow urban repertoire based on cap subsidies, place promotion (SLU infrastructure, constant self-promotion), etc, though they invoke language of “innovation, learning, and openness”

6)    Unforgiving w/r/t incompetence/noncompliance…thinking of Mark Pendras’s presentation on Tacoma; it seems that T is trying everything they ‘should’ be doing and that the results are lukewarm at best…

7)    Cities @ front line of “after-welfarist statecraft and organized resistance to neolib”


396: “Neolib ‘settlement’ …engineered through explicit forms of political management and intervention.” For d/g, this is plane of org, creating forms and subjects.


397/8…Harvey again, policy transfer and spread of neolib; ~vision Mumbai or whatever it’s called…prepared by McKinsey consultants. 399: at this level (of resonance, coordination), neolib settlements are more vulnerable to systemic crisis (~2008).


400: conclusion: “remarkable transformative capacity”; “a rule system that paradoxically defines itself as a form of antiregulation.” 401: “as an ongoing ideological project neoliberalism is clearly more than the sum of its (local institutional) parts.”

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