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Keywords:

  • neoliberalism;
  • governmentality;
  • South Africa;
  • basic income;
  • poverty

Abstract:  The term “neoliberalism” has come to be used in a wide variety of partly overlapping and partly contradictory ways. This essay seeks to clarify some of the analytical and political work that the term does in its different usages. It then goes on to suggest that making an analytical distinction between neoliberal “arts of government” and the class-based ideological “project” of neoliberalism can allow us to identify some surprising (and perhaps hopeful) new forms of politics that illustrate how fundamentally polyvalent neoliberal mechanisms of government can be. A range of empirical examples are discussed, mostly coming from my recent work on social policy and anti-poverty politics in southern Africa.