Half a milennium of (neo)liberalism in Haiti
Heather Horst (The University of Sydney)
Paper short abstract:
Neoliberalism is not necessarily neo. In Haiti, it brought few discernible changes, because the conditions that have shaped poverty and social goods provision have remained relatively constant since plantation slavery. This paper argues for separating fashion from causation.
Paper long abstract:
Around the world, neoliberal policies have had significant effects on the structures of markets, government-citizen relations and the distribution of social goods. However, neoliberalism does not have one ubiquitous outcome in all places. The histories of individual nations and their configurations of governance, civil society and markets means that the effects of neoliberalism can differ greatly, either between nations or among subsections of population within them. Furthermore, some of the socio-economic phenomena that scholars have identified as resulting from neoliberalism actually precede it by significant periods of time. In Haiti, it brought little discernible policy break or change in circumstance for the impoverished majority, because the conditions that have shaped Haiti's poverty and social goods provision have remained relatively constant since plantation slavery. In this paper, we examine the roles of states, companies, non-profits and citizens in the creation of a market society that perpetuates "structural violence" (Farmer 1997), yet provides some of the more viable mechanisms available for the distribution of social goods. We present a case study of mobile money services, introduced in late 2010, as indicative of the kinds of longstanding partnerships between for-profit and non-profit actors to provide governance through markets. We suggest that the market-based provision of social goods tends to be relatively successful because Haiti was created at the outset to be receptive to market solutions. Neoliberalism does not represent a radical policy shift. Rather, it is the currently fashionable term for processes that have been in place for at least half a millennium.
Anthropology's obsession with neo-liberalism (EN)