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Post-Neoliberalism or Deepened Neoliberalism? The Chicago Public Transportation Service and Elite Response during the Great Stagnation

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image of Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
For more content, please see Journal of Developing Societies.

Both mainstream and progressive commentators heralded President Obama’s economic stimulus program as sounding the death knell of the global neoliberal accumulation regime and inaugurating a form of Neo-Keynesianism. Although some funds have been earmarked for urban infrastructure projects, elite actors have used the shock of the crisis as a pretext to delimit and dismantle the public sector. In this article, we examine the case of Chicago’s public transportation in order to evaluate these countervailing forces. On one hand, federal stimulus money has been used to rehabilitate deteriorating public transit infrastructure. On the other hand, the response of local elites to budget shortfalls caused by the current economic crisis has involved support for a combination of service cuts and intensified attacks on unions to “share the burden”. Our study of neoliberalism in Chicago’s public transit sector illustrates how local elites strategically wield the state as an instrument for accumulation, whether by retrenching the role of the state or mobilizing for a more activist role of the state in seeding accumulation.


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