How Labour Built Neoliberalism

Australia’s Accord, the Labour Movement and the Neoliberal Project


Why do we always assume it was the New Right that was at the centre of constructing neoliberalism? How might corporatism have advanced neoliberalism? And, more controversially, were the trade unions only victims of neoliberal change, or did they play a more contradictory role? In How Labour Made Neoliberalism, Elizabeth Humphrys examines the role of the Labor Party and trade unions in constructing neoliberalism in Australia, and the implications of this for understanding neoliberalism’s global advance. These questions are central to understanding the present condition of the labour movement and its prospects for the future.
Restricted Access


EUR €123.00USD $148.00

Biographical Note

Elizabeth Humphrys is a political economist at the University of Technology Sydney. She has published on trade union and social movement responses to crisis, including in Globalizations and Critical Sociology. She completed her Ph.D. (2016) at the University of Sydney.

Table of contents


List of Tables and Figures

1 Introduction
The ALP & ACTU Accord
The Social Contract’s Gala Dinner
Neoliberalism’s Corporatist Origins
A hegemonic political project
Corporatist ‘involucro’
A note on method
Structure of the book

2 Theorising the State–Civil Society Relationship
Some preliminary comments
Marx’s critique of Hegel
From critique of politics to critique of political economy
From Marx to Gramsci
Lo stato integrale
Gramsci contra Marx? The limits of integration

3 Corporatism in Australia
Understanding corporatism
Panitch’s approach
Corporatism and the Accord
The context of arbitration

4 Destabilising the Dominant Narrative
Conceptual diversity
The dominant narrative
Harvey: A Brief History of Neoliberalism
Klein: The Shock Doctrine
Peck, Theodore, Tickell and Brenner: ‘Neoliberalisation’
Destabilising the dominant narrative
A class approach to neoliberalism
Harvey: ‘The restoration of class power’
Davidson: ‘An entirely new political regime’
A hegemonic political project

5 Periodising Neoliberalism
Periodising neoliberalism in Australia
Proto-neoliberal stage: 1973–1983
The economic crisis
The Whitlam Government
The Fraser Government
Vanguard neoliberal stage: 1983–1993
The impasse of the 1970s
Developing the Accord
Piecemeal neoliberalisation stage: 1993–2008
Howard’s piecemeal neoliberalism
Crisis stage: 2008 onwards

6 The Disorganisation of Labour
The Accord agreement
Wages and the Accord
The first Accord (1983)
Accord Mark II (1985–1987)
Accord Mark III (1986–1987)
Accord Mark IV (1988–1989), V (1989–1990) & VI (1990–1993)
Accord Mark VII (1993) & VIII (draft only)
Wage suppression
Labour disorganisation

7 An Integral State
Accord divergences
The National Economic Summit and Communiqué
‘Big bang’ and other neoliberal reforms
Trade liberalisation
Social wage and contested understandings
Worth the cost?
The concord of neoliberalism and the Accord
A brace against neoliberalism?
Theorising the corporatism–neoliberalism connection
An ‘informal Accord’?
The Accord as involucro

8 How Labour Made Neoliberalism
From worker agency to state agency
The shift to support the Accord
Planning as a solution to crisis?
Consultation on, and support for, the Accord
Sticking with the Accord
Industry policy and Australia Reconstructed
Managing dissent and disorganising labour
Civil legal action against labour disputes
Deregistration of the Builders Labourers’ Federation
Pilots’ dispute
Enterprise bargaining and the antinomies of the Accord
Hegemony unravelling

9 A Return to the International
A brief detour in the Antipodes
The British Social Contract (1974–1979)
The Carter Administration (1977–1981) and prior
New York City Council Fiscal Crisis (1975–1981)
Contemporary Finland

10 Conclusion: Neoliberalism at DuSK
Internal relations
Antinomies and residues
Neoliberalism at dusk

Appendix A: List of Australian Governments
Appendix B: Timeline of Predecessors to the AMWU




All interested in neoliberalism’s global advance, including the role of trade unions and labour parties. All interested in the Accord social contract in Australia, and corporatism in the neoliberal era.