Neoliberalism was a global spectrum of ideas on how to create and preserve free markets in an age of popular sovereignty. A notion of a powerful state to create the institutions and mentalities needed for a liberal market society, and—if need be—to fend off potentially antiliberal democratic majorities characterized neoliberal ideas far more than antistate laissez-faire economics or apolitical technocratic visions. The article presents historical evidence from Chile and Russia from the 1960s to the 1990s to make the case that global varieties of neoliberal ideas were created in different local contexts. These ideas were not imposed or imported from without; they emerged from domestic intellectual trajectories and in engagement with local political and economic conditions before their carriers connected to other, both Western and “peripheral,” varieties of neoliberalism. Actual economic reforms undertaken in these countries were not a wholesale implementation of a neoliberal agenda or manifestations of a globally hegemonic “governmentality”; rather, they were the outcome of multiple ideational influences and, more crucially, the result of domestic political power play.

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