Electricity Transformed: Neoliberalism and Local Energy in the United States



Abstract:  The concept of neoliberalism is explored with respect to the history of the electricity industry and policy in the USA. Rather than view “neoliberalism” as an all-encompassing form of governmentality or a hegemonic regime, it is instead situated in a political field of competing ideologies, policies, practices, and agents that includes social liberalism, socialism, and cooperativism, with hegemonic and redistributive forms of both social liberalism and neoliberalism distinguished. The field approach enables a dynamic interpretation of the history of the electricity industry in the USA that tracks the relative role of government intervention in the economy, scale shifts in the level of government intervention, and the extent to which the policies favor elite accumulation or redistribution to less favored economic categories. The field approach also enables an analysis of local responses to market restructuring that suggest some examples of redistributive politics, even local socialism, that have emerged as a consequence of marketplace restructuring.