The meaning of neoliberalism has changed dramatically since its origin in interwar Germany

The story of Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey) began about 10,000 years ago when Palaeo-Indian nomadic hunters first arrived in Southern Ontario at the end of the last Ice Age. I enjoy imagining those times, and reading about the experiences of hunter-gatherers. Imagination is at play when we picture the past, as it is at play when we encounter the present moment.

I’m reminded of a comment by Richard J. Evans (2003) regarding imagination and history (p. xix of book cited in the link in this sentence:

  • One of the greatest problems in writing history is to imagine oneself back in the world of the past, with all of the doubts and uncertainties people faced in dealing with a future that for the historian has also become the past.

[End of excerpt]

Update: A Dec. 22, 2014 NPR article is entitled: “When Humans Quit Hunting And Gathering, Their Bones Got Wimpy.” The article notes: “The lightweight bones don’t appear until about 12,000 years ago. That’s right when humans were becoming less physically active because they were leaving their nomadic hunter-gatherer life behind and settling down to pursue agriculture.” [End of update]

Physiography of Southern Ontario (1984)

To understand the 10,000-year history of the human presence in Long Branch, a good place to start is The Physiography of Southern Ontario, Third Edition (1984), as I’ve noted at an earlier blog post.

The history of the First Nations of North America, including the role of First Nations warriors in the War of 1812, also warrants close study. The fact Long Branch is part of Canada and not some other nation is the outcome of military history. To understand, in turn, the story of Colonel Samuel Smith, who built a log cabin in Long Branch in 1797 after service on the British side in the American Revolutionary War, it’s helpful to know about the history of the British empire.

Deindustrialization and neoliberalism

Many long-time residents that I’ve interviewed have told me about the factory jobs that used to be widely available in Long Branch and nearby communities. The factories are now pretty much gone.

To understand the rise and fall of factory jobs in Long Branch it’s helpful to know about the history of industrialization and deindustrialization.

In this context, I’ve recently been reading Status Update (2013), a study of social media practices in which Alice E. Marwick provides a cogent discussion of a word closely related – in the usage of some, but not all, writers – to deindustrialization.

The word is “neoliberalism.”

Neoliberalism began as a new liberal philosophy (Boas and Gans-Morse 2009)

In her discussion of neoliberalism in Status Update (2013), Marwick cites a 2009 journal article by Taylor C. Boas and Jordan Gans-Morse entitled Neo liberalism: From New Liberal Philosophy to Anti-Liberal Slogan. The  article focuses on 148 journal articles, published from 1990 to 2004, that the authors have selected for analysis in relation to the history of neoliberalism.

The article highlights the changes that have occurred, since the interwar years in Germany, in the meanings attached to the word “neoliberalism.” The history of the word makes for a fascinating narrative.

The article proposes ways in which the word can regain a substantive meaning as a “new liberalism” and be transformed into a more useful analytic tool.

Marwick’s overview of neoliberalism in Status Update (2013) is impressive, and has prompted me to download the Boas and Gans-Morse article. She also cites another article, but I have not accessed it as it is not readily available – that is, without cost – online.

You can download the Boas and Gans-Morse article here.


An article in The Baffler, No. 22, 2013, is entitled “The Meme Hustler: Tim O’Reilly’s crazy talk.”

The article is by Evgeny Morozov, a New York Times guest columnist and author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (2011) and To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Utopianism (2013).

A Jan. 14, 2014 New Yorker article by the same author is entitled: “Making It.”

In the Introduction to Not Hollywood: Independent Film at the Twilight of the American Dream (2013), Sherry B. Ortner provides a valuable overview of deindustrialization and related topics including neoliberalism.

An April 20, 2017 Institute for New Economic Thinking article is entitled: “America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People: A new book by economist Peter Temin finds that the U.S. is no longer one country, but dividing into two separate economic and political worlds.”

The following post adds background to the discussion:

Voter anger explained – in one chart – March 15, 2016 Brookings Institution article


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