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Neoliberalism, individualism and prospects for regional renewal

  • Year: 2001
  • Author: Gray, Ian; Lawrence, Geoffrey
  • Journal Name: Rural Society
  • Journal Number: Vol.11, No.3
  • Country: Australia

Since the early 1980s, Australian governments have embraced neoliberal policies as a means of improving the nation's global economic competitiveness. The impacts of such policies in regional areas have been quite profound, leading to socio-economic polarisation, population loss, and the growth of anti-globalisation sentiments. In this paper, we examine the process of regional restructuring that arises from this trajectory in Australia, and examine current policy responses to change under the neoliberal regime. We argue that while many such responses are individualistic, and based upon policies of personal responsibility, self-advancement and entrepreneurship, others are imbued with the language of community, social capital and collective action. The existence of individualism and community within the same policy agenda may appear contradictory, yet it is suggested that neoliberalism brings together these two opposing discourses through a process of what Nikolas Rose calls 'governing through community'. We explore how neoliberalism underpins community approaches to regional development in Australia, arguing that such strategies do little to counter the negative forces of globalisation in non-metropolitan parts of the country.

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