Neoliberalism: An Architectural History

Forthcoming book (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Kenny Cupers, Helena Mattsson, Catharina Gabrielsson

Recent scholarship on the postwar period has significantly revised our understanding of architectural modernism, by examining the complex role of architecture in larger historical processes such as the expansion of the welfare state, decolonization, and Cold War modernization and development. In doing so, such scholarship implicitly or explicitly posits the 1970s as a historical break, dually marked by economic restructuring and the advent of a new cultural condition. While innovative studies are currently being pursued on the architecture of this period, the concrete agents of this historical shift continue to be obscured by recourse to black-boxed terms such as “postmodernism” and “neoliberalism.” Yet what exactly is the historical relationship between architecture—whether we call it postmodern or not—and the so-called neoliberal turn? In answering this question, the edited volume develops new analytical and methodological approaches to the more recent history of architecture. The changing relationship between state, society, and economy during and since the 1970s is often shorthanded with the rubric of neoliberalism. Yet the term itself describes an economic theory whose roots long precede the specific policies of privatization, deregulation, and market reform of the Thatcher and Reagan era. Rather than to ask what a neoliberal architecture looks like, or how architecture represents neoliberalism, this book examines the actual role of architecture in neoliberalization—indicating a historically and geographically specific process rather than a blanket condition.

Advertisement by a French homebuilder, 1975.
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