Neoliberalism Writ Large and Small


  • Laura K. Jordan University of Manchester and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich



neoliberalism, urban anthropology, elites, deindustrialization, gentrification


General Motors restructured its worldwide operations in the 1980s to maximally exploit cheap labour markets around the world, and this had devastating results for local economies in many places, including Flint, Michigan (US). While this restructuring did not save General Motors from eventual bankruptcy, the severe economic and social problems engendered by factory closures in Flint put the city’s local elites in a difficult position. Not only was their future prosperity no longer assured, but their exclusive status as elites became tarnished by the city’s fall into disrepute. This article describes how local Flint elites who did not benefit from the large-scale neoliberal transformation of deindustrialisation have themselves resorted to neoliberal practices on a small scale to preserve their elite position. They have done this by mobilising personal ties to obtain public and non-profit financing for their own for-profit business projects in the city’s downtown. Notwithstanding some contestation by area residents, these projects have been bolstered by hegemonic discourses portraying them as public works.

Author Biography

Laura K. Jordan, University of Manchester and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Laura Jordan (now Laura Mebert) was born and raised in Flint. She received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester, and is preparing a book based on her thesis about Flint retail workers’ responses to corporate restructuring. From Summer 2014 she will be an Assistant Professor of Social Science in the Department of Liberal Studies at Kettering University in Flint.