Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for the Anthropology of Policy
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Policy
Secondary Theme: The Political
This session invites anthropological insights and enquiries into authoritarian neoliberalisms in the current conjuncture. The recombination of ‘authoritarianism’ and ‘neoliberalism’ has enjoyed a recent flurry of academic interest. What we understand as ‘authoritarian neoliberalism’ (Bruff, 2014) is part of a cluster of similar terms, including: ‘authoritarian capitalism’ (Bloom, 2016), ‘free market authoritarianism’ (Aybar and Lapavitsas, 2001), ‘neoliberal nationalism’ (Harmes, 2012) and ‘authoritarian economic nationalism’ (Cahill, 2014), denoting a significant, if not dramatic, transformation in forms of governing the political, economic and the social in a variety of socio-political regimes across space and time.
Whilst for many anthropologists, neoliberalism is a vague, overused and almost empty signifier, its recombination with authoritarianism has stimulated new interest in understanding linkages between a broad crisis of democracy and specific populist and illiberal turns in Europe and in the United States. Renewed authoritarianism ushers in the ‘normalisation of a culture of fear, war, surveillance and exploitation’, in which ‘the politics of disposability with its expanding machineries of civic and social death, terminal exclusion, and zones of abandonment’ prevails (Giroux, 2014).
Echoing older forms of ‘authoritarian populism’, authoritarian neoliberalisms appear to have the capacity to ‘map out the world of problematic social reality in clear and unambiguous moral polarities’ (Hall, 1988) providing a compass in periods of intense crisis. Authoritarian neoliberalism represents a state of insecurity (Lorey, 2014), in which a semi-absent state (Hromadžić, 2017) is indifferent to growing socio-economic inequalities and rising dislocations (Bruff, 2014). Neoliberalism’s authoritarian turn ‘seems to underpin and enable a culture of “rage” towards despised others: a rage that flows on grimly predictable lines towards women, sexual minorities, ethnic and religious minorities, and the poor’ (Clarke, 2017).
The session seeks to gather insights into the governmental ‘work’ performed by authoritarian neoliberalism, with a particular interest in its emotive and performative dynamics. We welcome conceptual and empirical papers which address the forms, shapes and scales of contemporary variegated authoritarian neoliberalisms as well as historical papers on the afterlives of earlier regimes. Papers which trace the transnational contours of authoritarian neoliberalism as well as the limits and possibilities of resistance and recalcitrance, whether residual or emergent are also of interest. Above all, the translation from politics to policy is of particular interest and concern, focusing on the extent and limits of the ‘relative autonomy’ of policy domains, including but not limited to social policy, gender, education, justice, environment, migration, human rights, and aid and development.