An exclusive focus on external forces risks the production of an overgeneralized account of a ubiquitous neoliberalism, which insufficiently accounts for the profusion of local variations that currently comprise the neoliberal project as a series of articulations with existing political economic circumstances. Although the international financial institutions initially promoted neoliberal economics in the global South, powerful elites were happy to oblige. Neoliberalism frequently reveals opportunities for well-connected officials to informally control market and material rewards, allowing them to line their own pockets. It is in this sense of the local appropriation of neoliberal ideas that scholars must go beyond conceiving of ‘neoliberalism in general’ as a singular and fully realized policy regime, ideological form, or regulatory framework, and work towards conceiving a plurality of ‘actually existing neoliberalisms’ with particular characteristics arising from mutable geohistorical outcomes embedded within national, regional, and local process of market-driven sociospatial transformation. What constitutes ‘actually existing’ neoliberalism in Cambodia as distinctly Cambodian is the ways in which the patronage system has allowed local elites to co-opt, transform, and (re)articulate neoliberal reforms through a framework which asset strips public resources, thereby increasing people’s exposure to corruption, coercion, and violence. It is to such an ‘articulation agenda’ that I attend to here as, in seeking to provide a more nuanced reading to recent work on neoliberalism in Cambodia by outlining some of its salient characteristics, a more empirical basis to theorizations of ‘articulated neoliberalism’ is revealed.
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