Neoliberalism and authoritarianism

Authored by: Ian Bruff

The Handbook of Neoliberalism

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138844001
eBook ISBN: 9781315730660
Adobe ISBN: 9781317549666


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Neoliberalism and authoritarianism have often been mentioned in the same breath. There are good reasons for this: one can think of the post-coup developments in Pinochet-era Chile, the attacks on national self-determination embodied in structural adjustment programmes for countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and the co-existence of ‘free market’ policies and strengthened security apparatuses in countries such as the USA and China. However, for the most part this connection between neoliberalism and authoritarianism has been articulated in problematic ways. Principally, neoliberalism’s valorization of the ‘free market’ by way of an ostensibly anti-statist outlook continues to receive respect (implicitly or explicitly) in even critical literatures. In consequence, authoritarianism tends to be portrayed as an outcome of the contradictions between ‘pure’ neoliberal ideology and ‘messy’ neoliberalizing practices which result in a larger role for the state than anticipated.

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