Neoliberalism and Geography: Expansions, Variegations, Formations



The pervasiveness of neoliberalism within the field of human geography is remarkable, especially when we consider its virtual absence from the literature less than a decade ago. While the growing attention afforded to neoliberalism among geographers is new, the phenomenon of neoliberalism is not. This paper traces the intellectual history of neoliberalism and its expansions across various institutional frameworks and geographical settings. I review the primary contributions geographers have made to the literature, and specifically their recognition for neoliberalism’s variegations within existing political economic matrixes and institutional frameworks. Contra the prevailing view of neoliberalism as a pure and static end-state, geographical inquiry illuminates neoliberalism as a dynamic and unfolding process. The concept of ‘neoliberalization’ is thus seen as more appropriate to geographical theorizations insofar as it recognizes neoliberalism’s hybridized and mutated forms as it travels around our world. I also consider some of the most salient ways that neoliberalism has been theorized among human geographers. In particular, I highlight understandings of neoliberalism as a hegemonic ideology, as a policy-based approach to state reform, and as a particular logic of governmentality, arguing that while there are significant differences between these various formations, it may also be important to work beyond methodological, epistemological, and ontological divides in the larger interest of social justice.