Mounting turbulence in neoliberal globalization: Political economy, populist discourse, and policy in Alberta, Canada




Lawson, James

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Social Sciences


For decades, the world’s dominant ideological and policy framework, neoliberal globalization, increasingly faces important disrupters. Long backers of neoliberalism, conservative movements now face pressing, convergent policy challenges (climate emergency, COVID-19), which they increasingly deny through populism, rather than address through neoliberalism. Populism’s unstable, often localist or xenophobic spatial imaginaries increasingly disrupt the neoliberal globalizing consensus of the 1990s and 2000s, and, thus, continental and international integration. As challenges mount, neoliberal globalization’s chances of re-stabilization diminish. However, chance, strategy, and the collective determination and capacities of its opponents will also be essential to establish something new. This article is an interpretive work, linking these themes to the history and current debates of Alberta, Canada, and its unconventional fossil-fuel exports. Canada’s leading fossil-fuel jurisdiction, Alberta, has stoutly favored free trade, continental integration, federal decentralization, and new export markets. Its United Conservative Party (UCP) government exhibits neo-nationalist or regionalist populism, opening tensions with the continental integration of its fossil fuel industries. Yet its populism targets the industry’s enemies to accelerate industry’s growth. Right-wing populism, marked by unstable spatial imaginaries, marks Alberta’s history. Alberta exemplifies the current destabilization of neoliberal globalization through populism, with implications for fossil-fuel exports.



Alberta, Canada, petroleum, populism, neoliberalism, globalization, regionalism, climate change, social movements


Lawson, J. (2022). “Mounting turbulence in neoliberal globalization: Political economy, populist discourse, and policy in Alberta, Canada.” Social Sciences, 11(5), 221.