Authoritarian Capitalism and Global Neo-Liberal Sovereignty: Disciplining Market Rulers and Self-Disciplining Market Subjects

Friday, June 24, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
205 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Peter Bloom, The Open University, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
As the 21st century dawned there was fresh optimism for the triumph of democracy over political authoritarianism associated with the spread of a global free market. Yet the first decade of the new millennium has belied these optimistic expectations. While it is indeed an age of capitalist globalization, political authoritarianism has not only survived but seems to be gaining new steam. Moreover, it has done so in the name of preserving marketization nationally and trans-nationally.

This paper explores the authoritarianism crucial to the contemporary spread and maintenance of capitalism, specifically its modern neoliberal variety. It highlights how the discourse of “good governance” exists as an affective governing rationale for increasing the scope of sovereign actors to coercively secure marketization against national and international threats. In this respect, corporate globalization has produced “self-disciplining” neoliberal states and citizens. Additionally it has dramatically expanded the authority and subsequent authoritarianism of national and international actors to influence and directly determine a country’s politics to reflect these neoliberal values.  Present is multi-level authoritarian capitalism composed of “disciplining” market rulers and “self-disciplining” market subjects.

The proliferation of corporate globalization has commonly led many to assume the overall weakening of national sovereignty. The state is sidelined in its power in favor of trans-national actors and international financiers. However, in practice governments remain responsible for their country’s economic wellbeing. More precisely, they have the “responsibility” to make sure that the nation maintains its commitment neoliberal reforms, if necessary through quite coercive measures. Arising is the politically authoritarian “self-disciplined” modern capitalist state. The rise of the ‘self-disciplining” capitalist state highlights the political authoritarianism central to spread of economic marketization. This authoritarian logic, significantly, is not confined to the state. It also extends to international financial institutions and foreign actors. Their enhanced power to intervene and shape national agendas is similarly connected to the need to ensure “good governance” in these contexts. Specifically, the legitimization of this supranational authority stems from having to externally discipline governments that refuse to be “self-disciplined”. They are the last line of defense against “economic irresponsibility”, using their global influence to force countries into accepting greater marketization, whether or not it is in their interests. 

This analysis, thus, seeks to illuminate the contemporary shift from liberal democracy to neoliberal capitalist sovereignty. The primary aim of government and governance is to regulate citizens and economies to “responsibly” conform to capitalist prerogatives and ideologies. More precisely, it relies on the respective “self-disciplining” and “disciplining” of nations and populations to implement neoliberal “reforms”. Globalization and its international governance structures invests the state with new powers to police itself to fulfill its international financial obligations. It also empowers supranational actors with the same authoritarian task. It is not only economic marketization that is now global but also the political authoritarianism needed to implement and enforce it.