£17.99 | $38.95

25 March 2010
ISBN: 9781848133204
184 pages


Development, Economics, Politics

Neoliberal Africa

The Impact of Global Social Engineering

By Graham Harrison

Neoliberalism has shaped African development for nearly thirty years. As such, it is not an economic 'shock' or a 'structural adjustment', but rather a historic shift in Africa's development politics and policy. This book explores the ways in which African countries have experienced the neoliberal project, highlighting how this project has gone beyond economic liberalisation and towards a bolder social transformation. As an ideology, neoliberalism projects an end-point not simply of a market economy but of a market society. After thirty years of projects, aid disbursement, technical assistance, and conditionality, this book maps out the extent to which African states have cleaved to neoliberal directives. It suggests that neoliberal 'progress' in Africa is notably limited in spite of the resources behind it and the lack of alternatives to it.


'In this powerfully insightful book Graham Harrison demolishes the conventional wisdom to show how rather than globalisation bypassing Africa it is largely responsible for its current condition ...Vital reading for those wishing to understand the nature and evolution of neoliberal globalisation in Africa.' - Padraig Carmody, Trinity College Dublin

'An essential and challenging account of the impact that neo-liberal reform has had in Africa. Harrison's work is theoretically rigorous and empirically rich. Anyone concerned about the current debate about politics and economy in Africa, and more broadly about how globalisation and neo-liberalism can be understood, and in the ways it operates in the Global South will need to read this book.' - Ray Bush, Professor of African Studies and Development Politics, University of Leeds, and author of Poverty and Neo-Liberalism

'Neoliberalism has been the predominant metatheory in global development for the last thirty years. It has retained its intellectual dominance despite its demonstrable failures to bring about any viable form of economic or social development in any of the regions in which it has been practiced, particularly in Africa. This erudite and well-written volume makes a tremendous contribution to explaining the resilience of the neoliberal discourse despite its all too evident failings, whilst also pointing out the vulnerabilities in what many see as an apparently unassailable edifice.

Harrison brings to bear considerable expertise and knowledge of international political economy (particularly as it affects Africa) together with admirable analytical acuity to analyse neoliberal development as an ambitious experiment in social engineering. He examines how Western policy-makers associated with the 'new right' reshaped the architecture of global governance so that it moved away from embedded liberalism to a reliance on neoliberalism. This leads to a skillful mobilization of concepts from Dewey's pragmatism to analyse how organizations like the World Bank have sought to normalize free market policies throughout Africa. Careful attention is paid to efforts to embed neoliberalism into policymaking at both the central and local levels in the African state. Harrison's analysis is based on careful and painstaking research.

The book concludes with an examination of how the current crisis lays bare the vulnerabilities of neoliberalism and opens up a juncture of potential change. For anybody interested in neoliberalism as a discourse of development, or the effects of neoliberalism in Africa this book is a must read.' - Dr Trevor Parfitt, Reader in International Development

Table of Contents

1. Neoliberalism in Africa, Neoliberalism and Africa
2. Neoliberalism in Africa: a failed ideology
3. Practices of Neoliberalism: Repertoires, Habits, and Conduct
4. Global neoliberal practice: institutions and regulation
5. Neoliberal Practice in Africa
6. Neoliberalism's final frontier?
7. Conclusion: Neoliberalism's Prospects

About the Author:

Graham Harrison teaches Politics at the University of Sheffield. He has written on democratisation, corruption, governance and the World Bank with a particular interest in Africa and especially eastern Africa. He is an editor of New Political Economy and is Coordinating Editor of Review of African Political Economy.