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This review brings together a set of trends to rethink neoliberalism. Decades of neoliberalization have transformed Western political economies, and although the financial crisis debunked the ideology for a fraud, the practices have simply refused to die since. Instead, neoliberalism assumed an authoritarian character, feeding popular resistance. Although leftist challenges failed to break its spell, Brexit and Trump bulldozed right-wing populism into the mainstream of the neoliberal heartlands. Where these events have conventionally been presented as ruptures to the status quo, this review suggests that they herald the next neoliberal wave shaping global capitalism. This phase is described as neo-illiberalism, signifying the illiberal mutation and restoration of transatlantic neoliberalism, marked by brazen attacks on constitutional checks, balances and rights across vast neoliberalized landscapes. These are executed by neoliberal elites working with and/or adopting nativist narratives and policies of the radical right, unevenly adapting Western neoliberalism to a nascent neo-illiberal world order.
Accepted version. Please cite as:
Hendrikse R (2018) Neo-illiberalism. Geoforum 95: 169-172
Reijer Hendrikse
Cosmopolis: Centre for Urban Research, Department of Geography, Vrije Universiteit Brussel,
Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
This review brings together a set of trends to rethink neoliberalism. Decades of
neoliberalization have transformed western political economies, and although the
financial crisis debunked the ideology for a fraud, the practices have simply refused to
die since. Instead, neoliberalism assumed an authoritarian character, feeding popular
resistance. Although leftist challenges failed to break its spell, Brexit and Trump
bulldozed right-wing populism into the mainstream of the neoliberal heartlands. Where
these events have conventionally been presented as ruptures to the status quo, this
review argues that they herald the next neoliberal wave shaping global capitalism. This
phase is described as neo-illiberalism, signifying the illiberal mutation and restoration of
transatlantic neoliberalism, marked by brazen attacks on constitutional checks, balances
and rights across vast neoliberalized landscapes. These are executed by neoliberal elites
working with and/or adopting nativist narratives and policies of the radical right,
unevenly adapting western neoliberalism to a nascent neo-illiberal world order.
Keywords: Brexit; illiberalism; neoliberalism; populism; Trump
1. Introduction: neoliberalism’s illiberal reawakening
Across the western world, neoliberal globalization appears under attack. Conventional
wisdom has it that the votes for Brexit and Trump were nationalist ruptures to the status
quo, taking global elites by surprise. But why is it that global media conglomerates
instrumental to the rise of neoliberalism continue to play leading roles in these ruptures,
pushing nationalist narratives supposedly fighting “the corporate elite” (The Sun 2016)?
And why does Donald Trump continue to recruit Goldman Sachs bankers whilst enacting
financial deregulation and tax cuts, much like his predecessors? This review advances a
counter perspective, highlighting the mounting fusion of neoliberalism and radical-right
populism exercising government power, thereby sketching the contours of a mutating
transatlantic neoliberalism – an emergent neo-illiberalism.
The death of neoliberalism has often been proclaimed, not least following the
transatlantic financial crisis of 2007-08, which debunked the ideology for a fraud.
However, besides engaging with the prospect of post-neoliberalism (Peck et al 2009;
Springer 2015), scholars were quickly taken aback by the sheer endurance and
mutability of neoliberal practices (Crouch 2011; Peck 2010b). Where the neoliberal
project appeared to collapse, it resurged out of the ashes (Aalbers 2013; Hendrikse and
Sidaway 2010), revealing a cunning ability ‘to exploit threats to its survival as
opportunities for expansion’ (Jessop 2016: 417; see Peck 2010a).
The crisis did annihilate consensual neoliberal rule, seeing post-crisis
neoliberalism assume more authoritarian (Bruff 2013) and punitive (Davies 2016) traits,
galvanizing resistance. The center left was particularly punished for their neoliberal
cooptation, and by the mid-2010s leftist challengers had emerged across the west.
Crucially, Greece’s Syriza did not undo themselves from Eurozone technocrats, as much
as Bernie Sanders failed to break the consensus among US Democrats. Each time,
neoliberal resistance was curtailed, leaving resentment in its wake.
Neoliberalism has always sought allies to reproduce itself: where centre left and
right have formed neoliberalism’s “extreme centre” (Ali 2015), the mid-2010s witnessed
a growing alliance between extreme centre and radical-cum-extreme right, the latter
covering their feathers under labels such as Alt-right to seduce “the wordless, formless
rage of the people neoliberalism left behind” (Penny 2016). In redirecting rage from
bankers to minorities, the progressive elements underpinning neoliberalism (Fraser
2017), along with the actual left, became targets of the self-proclaimed resistance.
To an
important degree, the votes for Brexit and Trump have been realized upon this shift,
with global elite factions utilizing neoliberal failure as fuel for expansion.
2. Emergent properties
Cass Mudde (2004) brought the term ‘illiberal democracy’ (see Zakaria 2003) into the
debate on populism, which studies the ‘clash’ between ‘undemocratic liberalism’ (a
euphemism for neoliberalism) and illiberal democracy (a spectrum of regimes among
which populism constitutes one form). Crucially, this debate exhibits numerous blind
spots. For example, some argue that populists “seek to drive a wedge between
In Europe, the 2015 refugee ‘crisis’ played a key role in redirecting popular frustration. Right-
wing populists gained popularity, not only due to online deceit or ‘the Russians’, but also because
established media embraced nativist narratives. In Dutch media, for example, the European
Union (EU) was no longer a neoliberal vortex, but was instead depicted as a globalist project run
by ‘politically correct’ elites. These narratives discursively transformed the neoliberal order into a
leftist project, which could henceforth only be undone by right-wing nationalists.
democracy and liberalism” (Galston 2018: 5), neglecting how neoliberalism ignited
undemocratization (Crouch 2004; Slobodian 2018a). Others argue that liberal
democracy “has a tendency to deteriorate into one or the other of its perversions
(Rodrik 2018b), neglecting how liberal democracies might be subject to both
illiberalization and undemocratization. In this regard, the term illiberal democracy is a
misnomer, for it too exhibits undemocratic tendencies (Mueller 2018a), arguably
supplementing neoliberalism’s democratic shortcomings.
Building on this debate, it is argued that a new synthesis is currently
mainstreaming throughout the western world: call it undemocratic illiberalism, or neo-
Where preceding waves of neoliberalization (Peck and Tickell 2002) fueled
the undemocratization of liberal democracies, the rise of the radical right threatens to
illiberalize the neoliberalized heartlands. Crucially, instead of undoing neoliberal
globalization, (the threat of) political illiberalization might equally shield the economic
core of the neoliberal project from popular resistance, effectively functioning as its toxic
protective coating. Contrasting perspectives pinpointing a rupture, the ascent of neo-
illiberalism – that is the illiberal mutation and restoration of transatlantic neoliberalism –
might well prove the next neoliberal wave shaping global capitalism.
Signaling a process of political change, the rise of the nationalist and nativist
radical right is increasingly fueling brazen attacks on the various institutions, rights and
values undergritting constitutional liberalism across the west. Amongst others, these
include attacks on checks and balances, where legislatures and judiciaries are subject to
a power-hungry executive branches, along with wider societal counterpowers, including
independent academia and media. To exercise the ‘will of the people’, moreover,
individual basic rights, including free speech and association, and related civil, human
and minority rights, are equally prone to attacks. Admittedly, this development
resembles general populist attacks on liberal democracy, whereby notions of popular
sovereignty and democracy are accepted, provided they are understood as majoritarian
power, whilst constitutionalism and liberal rights are rejected. Yet (the threat of)
political illiberalization unfolds in a specific context of advanced neoliberalization, where
(as of writing) economic ruptures remain mundane. What is foremost observed is the
rise of political – not economic – populism (Rodrik 2018a) across the west.
Both neoliberals and populists effectively take power away from liberal democracies, arguing
that ‘there is no alternative’ to either technocratic rule or the unrestrained will of the people:
where neoliberals insulate economic domains from democratic decision-making, illiberals take
away restraints limiting the exercise of political power. Logically, in undoing constitutional rights
it becomes all the harder for citizens to challenge neoliberalism.
The term neo-illiberalism has been coined by Aiyar (2011, 2016). Other scholars have advanced
notions such as ‘liberal illiberalism’ (e.g. Moffitt 2017), or focus on neoliberalism in relation to
illiberalism (e.g. Berezin 2009).
Behind the ever-apparent threat of protectionism, it should be remembered that
the neoliberal infrastructure undergritting global capitalism remains broadly intact: key
free-trade agreements
remain in place, with the World Trade Organization (WTO)
widely considered the backstop to manage trade relations. Where the US might
unilaterally seek to rewire multilateral trade in bilateral fashion, insiders note that
investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses will remain key features (Freshfields
2018), continuing the transfer of power from states to corporations. The financial picture
is more remarkable, as central bank independence (Rogoff 2018), the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) (Mayeda 2018) and the larger “new international financial
architecture” (Soederberg 2004) undergritting global financialized capitalism remain
unchallenged, seeing tech-driven financial markets (Hendrikse et al 2018) reign over
society and state (Hendrikse 2015).
Added up, despite all the spectacle, thus far the
economic rupture foremost constitutes a change in style rather than substance, with
policy objectives like America first merely accelerating the race to the bottom.
3. Variegated expressions
Beyond advancing the rule of markets, neoliberalism is regarded “a rascal concept
promiscuously pervasive, yet inconsistently defined, empirically imprecise and frequently
contested” (Brenner et al 2009, emphasis original). Where neoliberalism typically
spreads in hybrid assemblages, neo-illiberalism is by definition an amalgam of neoliberal
and illiberal operating systems, producing variegated neo-illiberalization across space.
Importantly, it should be noted that periodization is a thorny question (Hendrikse and
Sidaway 2010), and many expressions have long been visible along the fringes – the
difference is that they are now mainstreaming into power.
Epitomizing the western breakthrough of neo-illiberalism, the Trump presidency
is comprised of globalist (neoliberal) and nationalist (illiberal) factions allegedly vying
for power (Wolff 2018). Amongst others, Trump’s illiberal rhetoric aims to target
indignant electorates on an emotional level.
But there is more method to the madness,
Trump cancelled the multilateral Transpacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement as one of
his first acts in office, but has indicated that he is willing to restart negotiations.
The exception is the Eurozone architecture, having taken neoliberal undemocratization to its
extremes. Yet here too there is much populist barking but little biting.
Manipulating emotions of Facebook users was the science behind Cambridge Analyticathe
recently liquidated firm which through its parent company Strategic Communications Services
(SCL) has been born out of the neoliberal privatization of military interventions in Afghanistan
and Iraq, with strong ties to intelligence, military and political elites in the US and UK (Ramsay
2018; O’Hare 2018). In general, it is ironic that the nationalist resurgence is taking place online
the most globalized space everwhere basic rights to privacy have evaporated.
as illiberal narratives and policies typically assume frontstage in news cycles: for
example, Steve Bannon’s ethnonationalist crusade and Trump’s Twitter rants have
overshadowed ongoing financial deregulation, tax cuts, and the corporate takeover of
government – “neoliberalism’s final frontier” (Klein 2017). In general, illiberal tales are
cultural, defining economics out of existence, effectively functioning as rhetorical
sanctuaries to hide the material failures of neoliberal globalization.
Established neoliberal constellations of political parties and media conglomerates
have increasingly embraced illiberal nativism and populist tactics to channel resentment
and conceal non-change. For example, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, instrumental
to the (re) making of neoliberalism, played a key role in the votes for Brexit and Trump.
Such constellations infused Britain (but also The Netherlands, Catalonia/Spain, and
elsewhere) with majoritarianism via divisive referenda, fueling attacks on legislatures
and judiciaries to “crush the saboteurs” (Daily Mail 2017), with established political
parties habitually absorbing mounting ‘anti-establishment’ energy, seeing neoliberal
insiders synthetically transform themselves into populist outsiders.
In Europe, this makeover has been pioneered by Hungary’s Victor Orbán and his
Fidesz party: having led Hungary on the path to neoliberalization, opening up the
country to foreign investment and EU funding, Orbán subsequently reinvented himself as
a self-proclaimed illiberal democrat, anticipating popular frustration. Although taking
control over the judiciary and media through cronies (Mueller 2018b), this shift has not
vitally altered Hungary’s neoliberalized economy. In variegated guises, Orbán’s illiberal
virus is currently spreading across Europe – requiring “no coherent ideology”, just
“imaginary enemies” (Cvijić 2018) – with the European Peope’s Party (EPP) accepting the
illiberal rot in their neoliberal midst. This is not wholly surprising: where Angela Merkel
was praised as ‘leader of the free world following Trump’s election, these accounts forget
how Germany captains a larger political-economic project of extreme neoliberalization.
As noted by Yanis Varoufakis, reflecting on his meetings with Eurozone technocrats as
Greek finance minister, “something other than liberalism, or even neoliberalism, had
taken over the establishment without anyone noticing” (2017: 480).
Meanwhile, in the opposite direction there are neoliberal mutations and
penchants within populist parties. In Italy, right-wing populists have lubricated
neoliberalism since the 1990s, seeing them mutate into neoliberal government (Verbeek
and Zaslove 2016), making way for new populists. Another lubricating strategy is
practiced by Dutch populist Geert Wilders: escaping the People’s Party for Freedom and
Democracy (VVD) to found his Party for Freedom (PVV) in the mid-2000s, Wilders has
since principally voted in line with the VVD’s neoliberal rule, despite selling illiberal
narratives. It is therefore perhaps little surprising that the intellectual roots of the radical
right reveal a fondness of Friedrich Hayek.
Given these and other penchants, it is argued
that populists of Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)
have “emerged within neoliberalism, not in opposition to it” (Slobodian 2018b, emphasis
original). In any case, in sight of power populist parties often tone down their rhetoric,
and recent history shows that financial markets (and central banks) are very capable
knock unwilling populists into their neoliberal place. The populist government of Italy,
for example, has promised to stay in the euro to reassure financial markets, focusing its
fury on immigrants instead. Here too, the outcome is neo-illiberalism.
4. Geopolitical implications
Across the globe, democratically elected regimes, often ones that have been re-
elected or reaffirmed through referenda, are routinely ignoring constitutional
limits on their power and depriving citizens of basic rights. This disturbing
phenomenon … could be called “illiberal democracy” (Zakaria 2003)
During the early 2000s, Fareed Zakaria praised constitutional liberalism to insulate non-
western states from the woes of illiberal rule, and instead plug these territories into the
institutional infrastructures of neoliberal globalization. Yet although neoliberalism
spread across the globe, into societies more or less illiberal and democratic, the non-
western world did not commence on the western pathto liberal democracy.
Where non-western states witnessed the infusion of neoliberal policies over the
latter decades – what Ong identifies as neoliberalism as exception – western state are
today increasingly subject to illiberal “exceptions to neoliberalism” (2006: 3). Non-
western neoliberalization is typified by illiberal China, and can be tentatively be
extended across Russia and the global south. Fittingly, Indian economist Aiyar (2011,
2016) coined the term neo-illiberalism to describe the state of the Indian economy
where Narenda Modi features as one of many neo-illiberal strongmen worldwide. In
contrast, the illiberalization of the west is typified by Trumpism, stretching across the
Atlantic to Brexitland, Europe and wider global north. This double movement –
variegated neoliberalization across illiberal ‘peripheries’, followed by the uneven
illiberalization the neoliberal ‘core’ – suggests of a process of reglobalization recalibrating
global north to south. This brings us back to the financial crisis, where the creation the
Group of Twenty (G20) – expanding the Group of Seven (G7) to include major non-
Early 2018 Donald Trump’s former illiberal ideologue Steve Bannon also invoked the teachings
of Fredrich Hayek at a rally of Marine Le Pen’s National Front.
Aiyar particularly criticizes India’s overtly bureaucratic and corrupt state: “Leftist critics accuse
India of going down the path of neoliberalism. The actual process could better be called neo-
illiberalism” (2016: 11).
western economies in the world’s leading forum on global governance arguably
marked the ascent of a new global order (Tooze 2018). A decade onwards, its contours
are gradually beginning to emerge.
5. Conclusion
Now, what has already happened in Russia is what might happen in America and
Europe: the stabilisation of massive inequality, the displacement of policy
by propaganda, the shift from the politics of inevitability to the politics of eternity
(Snyder 2018)
How different were expectations during the 1990s (Fukuyama 1992)
, when liberal
democracy was assumed universally victorious? Unfortunately, from a longue durée
perspective the ascent of neo-illiberalism is hardly an outlier. The modern history of
liberalism is a mixed bag at best, with liberal pretensions often cloaking illiberal
practices, producing spaces of elite emancipation amidst mass exclusion, often
rationalized by religious and racist ideologies (Losurdo 2011). Likewise, the short history
of neoliberalism is not unfamiliar to the troubling present, for the very implementation
of neoliberalism has been realized via illiberal means – first at gunpoint in Chile, then via
authoritarian populism in the neoliberal heartlands (Hall 1985). Added up, the
‘progressive’ neoliberal moment (Fraser 2017) might be more of an outlier to liberal rule
than the present, with liberalism’s ugly face merely coming home to roost.
To get off the neo-illiberal road to serfdom, conventional perspectives portraying
neoliberals and radical-right populists (or globalists and nationalists) as opposing forces
need to be challenged, for such frames make both elements co-constituting the neo-
illiberal beast stronger, as they tend to define meaningful resistance away. As argued, “it
is more accurate to think of neoliberalism and right-wing populism as closely bound
together” (Kundnani 2018), as a two-headed monster that needs to be caged, ideally
before the preachers of inevitability fully redeem their claims for eternity.
Although neglecting how neoliberalism was undermining liberal democracy, Francis Fukuyama
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This paper argues that the crisis of post‐politics has sparked an authoritarian turn in spatial planning in England. That, the proposed reform of the English planning system in 2020 is a defining moment, marking not only the failure of consensus‐seeking politics in governing dissents, but also the rising authoritarian responses to fix it. This is manifest in the intensification of state control, strengthening of executive power and decline of democratic institutions, with a shift of emphasis from techno‐managerial to executive‐punitive practices, and from seemingly consensual to openly antagonistic approaches. This drift to authoritarianism has been justified by invoking a ‘state of exception’ whereby the established rules and procedures are displaced by the appeal to ‘exceptional’ circumstances such as, emergencies, national securities, and global pandemics. We draw on a case study of shale gas ‘fracking’ in England to show how authoritarianism has crept into planning processes through, changes in legislation, reconfiguration of rules, rescaling of decision making, and shrinking of democratic spaces. We discuss the role of a ‘political moment’ in the politicization of fracking, arguing that the return of the political has engendered antagonistic and exclusionary practices, rather than the agonistic pluralism that planning scholars have called for. In managing planning conflicts, consent, compromise and cooption are increasingly complemented or replaced by discipline, control and explicit exclusion. Instead of denying, neutralizing or suppressing antagonism by calling for consensus, authoritarian politics exaggerates it by establishing frontiers between legitimate and non‐legitimate voices of dissents. The paper concludes by emphasizing that the authoritarian turn can only offer a contingent and fleeting solution to the failure of post‐political planning to deliver neoliberal pro‐growth goals. It cannot eradicate the crisis of legitimacy in planning; nor can it foreclose the political struggle for fixing its meaning and purpose.
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This article provides an introduction to the special issue on post-neoliberalism. It does so by considering challenges to the neoliberal order that have come, post-financial crisis, from the political right. It looks closely at the relation of neoliberalism to conservatism, on one hand, and libertarianism, on the other, in order to address the threat posed to the neoliberal order by paleoconservatism, neoreactionary politics, ordonationalism, libertarian paternalism, and different forms of sovereignty and elite power. The final section of this introduction reflects on the challenge to the neoliberal orthodoxy posed by the current COVID-19 crisis. For while events of 2020–21 have facilitated new forms of privatization of many public services and goods, they also signal, potentially, a break from the neoliberal orthodoxies of the previous four decades, and, in particular, from their overriding concern for the market.
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Populism, particularly in its radical right-wing variants, is often posited as antithetical to the principles of liberalism. Yet a number of contemporary cases of populist radical right parties from Northern Europe complicate this characterisation of populism: rather than being directly opposed to liberalism, these parties selectively reconfigure traditionally liberal defences of discriminated-against groups—such as homosexuals or women—in their own image, positing these groups as part of ‘the people’ who must be protected, and presenting themselves as defenders of liberty, free speech and ‘Enlightenment values’. This article examines this situation, and argues that that while populist radical right parties in Northern Europe may only invoke such liberal values to opportunistically attack their enemies—in many of these cases, Muslims and ‘the elite’ who allegedly are abetting the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe’—this discursive shift represents a move towards a ‘liberal illiberalism’. Drawing on party manifestoes and press materials, it outlines the ways in which these actors articulate liberal illiberalism, the reasons they do so, and the ramifications of this shift.
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The rise of financial technology (FinTech) engenders novel business models through integrating financial services and information and communication technologies (ICT). Digital currencies and payments, data mining, and other FinTech applications threaten to radically overhaul the financial sector. This article argues that, while we are becoming aware of how technology giants such as Apple Inc. are making inroads into financial services, we need to become more sensitive to how financial incumbents mimick ICT firms while aiming to neutralize the FinTech challenge. Practices from Silicon Valley are spilling over into ‘traditional’ finance through a process we dub Appleization. We illustrate how incumbents aim to remain indispensable amidst rapid digitization. Mimicking tech strategies, financial incumbents resort to transforming legacy ICT systems into integrated platforms, cultivating entrepreneurial ecosystems where startups are ‘free’ to compete whilst effectively being locked into the incumbent's orbit. We illustrate this by comparing Apple’s business features (locking-in developers, customers and state into a hybrid business model based on a synergy between hardware, software and data-driven platform components) with emerging practices in the financial industry. Our analogy suggests that the Appleization of finance might radically transform, yet not undercut the oligopolistic position of financial incumbents.
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It is often claimed that the power of finance is pervasive and omnipresent, yet the delicate ways in which financialization exerts its will across space remain little explored. In fact, such claims obscure the fact that financial development constitutes a profoundly uneven process – both across and within national political economies, regions or localities. Put differently, some institutional domains appear less hospitable to the forces of financialization than others. This thesis advances four case studies, which are to varying degrees considered least likely to fall prey to financial seduction, logics and authority. The cases explore the financial activities of four European institutions in various ways tied to the state: a Dutch public university, two local governments in Germany and Ireland, and a German regional public bank. The expectations defining their least likely nature are informed by theory, including the literatures on financialization and comparative institutionalism. The cases reveal that despite expectations, the long arm of finance has managed to penetrate these domains, necessitating a number of advances in the foregrounded literatures. Despite variations in state structures, financial systems, organizational templates, functions and capacities, incessant neoliberalization of state policy has gradually lured if not ‘forced’ these governments and public institutions to adopt financial products and logics. As such, binary depictions of liberal and corporatist states or national bank- and market-based financial systems do not do justice to the ways in which these ideal type ‘containers’ have evaporated or hybridized. Although the cases indicate how financialization is pervasive, the literature is in need of more empirical detail, particularly cases outside the Anglo-American heartland. Only by generating more theoretically grounded empirical accounts on the ways in which state institutions become subject to financial power can the literature start to unmask and theorize the encroaching financialization of the state itself.
Across the West, economic dislocation and demographic change have triggered a demand for strong leaders. This surge of populism is more than an emotional backlash; it encourages a political structure that threatens liberal democracy. While populism accepts principles of popular sovereignty and majoritarianism, it is skeptical about constitutionalism and liberal protections for individuals. Moreover, populists’ definition of “the people” as homogeneous cannot serve as the basis for a modern democracy, which stands or falls with the protection of pluralism. Although this resurgent tribalism may draw strength from the incompleteness of life in liberal society, the liberal-democratic system uniquely harbors the power of self-correction, the essential basis for needed reforms. © 2018 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press.
Italy offers a unique opportunity to trace the reactions of political and societal actors to populists in government. We propose that it is necessary to examine not only how populism's opponents react, but also how fellow populists respond. Indeed, we observe in Italy, on the one hand, what we will call mutating populism and, on the other hand, a peculiar mixture of paralysis, antagonism, and imitation by their opponents. This contribution is structured as follows: first, we describe Italian populism in the context of the end of the Italian First Republic and the emergence of the new party system under the Second Republic. In the process we discuss events under the four Berlusconi governments (1994–1995; 2001–2005; 2005–2006; 2008–2011). In each phase, we distinguish between populist and anti-populist contenders. We also describe the reactions abroad to governing Italian populists, especially within the European Union.
Neoliberalism is commonly viewed as an economic doctrine that seeks to limit the scope of government. Some consider it a form of predatory capitalism with adverse effects on the Global South. In this groundbreaking work, Aihwa Ong offers an alternative view of neoliberalism as an extraordinarily malleable technology of governing that is taken up in different ways by different regimes, be they authoritarian, democratic, or communist. Ong shows how East and Southeast Asian states are making exceptions to their usual practices of governing in order to position themselves to compete in the global economy. As she demonstrates, a variety of neoliberal strategies of governing are re-engineering political spaces and populations. Ong’s ethnographic case studies illuminate experiments and developments such as China’s creation of special market zones within its socialist economy; pro-capitalist Islam and women’s rights in Malaysia; Singapore’s repositioning as a hub of scientific expertise; and flexible labor and knowledge regimes that span the Pacific.Ong traces how these and other neoliberal exceptions to business as usual are reconfiguring relationships between governing and the governed, power and knowledge, and sovereignty and territoriality. She argues that an interactive mode of citizenship is emerging, one that organizes people—and distributes rights and benefits to them—according to their marketable skills rather than according to their membership within nation-states. Those whose knowledge and skills are not assigned significant market value—such as migrant women working as domestic maids in many Asian cities—are denied citizenship. Nevertheless, Ong suggests that as the seam between sovereignty and citizenship is pried apart, a new space is emerging for NGOs to advocate for the human rights of those excluded by neoliberal measures of human worthiness.
This article returns to Marxist commentaries during a previous period characterized by profound contradictions and conflict—especially the writings of Nicos Poulantzas and Stuart Hall on authoritarian statism/populism from the late 1970s to the 1980s—in order to make sense of the present era. The article argues that we are witnessing the rise of authoritarian neoliberalism, which is rooted in the reconfiguring of the state into a less democratic entity through constitutional and legal changes that seek to insulate it from social and political conflict. The apparent strengthening of the state simultaneously entails its growing fragility, for it is becoming an increasingly direct target of a range of popular struggles, demands, and discontent by way of the pressures emanating from this strengthening. A primary reference point for the article is a notable casualty of the post-2007 crisis, European social democracy, but the implications for radical politics more broadly are also considered.