Neoliberalism from Below: Popular Pragmatics & Baroque Economies.

Author:Sierra, Luis M.
Position:LATIN AMERICA - Book review
 
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Gago, Veronica. Neoliberalism from Below: Popular Pragmatics & Baroque Economies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017.

Veronica Gago's Neoliberalism from Below: Popular Pragmatics & Baroque Economies is a work of social and political theory that aims to understand neoliberalism "from below," using as its major examples Bolivian and Argentine garment workers and La Salada, an illegal market in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gago's theoretical framework encompasses a broad range of areas: microeconomics, transnational socioeconomic networks, communitarian ethics and surplus value, marginal neighborhoods, and clandestine textile workshops. Several concepts unify the analysis: contingency, the motley, incompleteness, Foucauldian notions of governmentality, the community, and the nation. Gago provides readers with theoretical foundations for analyzing how neoliberalism pervades everyday life. Ideologically, neoliberalism posits that the state is inefficient and wasteful and should turn over its functions to the market. As Gramsci and others note, once discourses become common sense it is difficult to form counter-discourses. Neoliberalism's commonsense discourses on the state, however, ignore that fact that the state reorients its function toward facilitating the smooth transfer of capital and defending the interests of capital through repression and violence.

Neoliberalism from Below is an ambitious theoretical synthesis of how neoliberalism operates on both the micro and macro levels, and Gago ably demonstrates how practice informs theory. Scholars working in anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy, and literary criticism could readily use its tools to assess neoliberalism's variants and how they operate. Gago describes how Bolivian migrants work in clandestine garment workshops run by other Bolivian migrants and Argentine nationals in the marginal neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Many global fashion and apparel brands employ legal suppliers who hire clandestine workshops. Gago follows these manifold connections to legal and illegal markets, revealing the fallacy of brand exclusivity and quality. Gago also usefully connects the migrants' community values to clandestine workshops and the macroeconomic system that exploits those values and community networks. The motley and ch'ixi are important concepts in this analysis. Specifically, Gago provides insight into how Bolivian labor recruiters and neoliberal structures subvert the Andean...

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