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Home arrow Political science arrow Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Globalization


This chapter has introduced globalization as a contemporary social fantasy. It is an affectively appealing discourse that shapes present-day identity. Its power is not simply regulative or coercive. Nor is it primarily normative - a rational embrace of its ideological principles. The strength of globalization instead flows in no small part from its psychic appeal to modern subjects. More precisely, in its forming and maintaining of individuals as subjects, shaping their desires and very sense of self.

To this end, structural transformations in the material economy are inexorably linked to the construction and reproduction of an associated psychic economy. This concrete, multiple and evolving spread of capitalism globally depends upon, and is to an extent continually influenced by, a supportive social fantasy. The inscription of individuals in a deepening and expanding market system is made possible and sustained by its ongoing and dynamic “affective” grip upon them.

In the present era, regimes of capitalism are met by desires for greater sovereignty. The “law” of corporate globalization and its presented “inevitability” produces in its wake a subjective lack of perceived human agency. What is longed for then, is a renewed ability to shape these “law like” forces, to place these “natural” forces under social control. In this respect, to make globalization subject to human determination rather than make humans mere subjects to global capitalism.

Emerging is a fruitful and rich tension fueling the continued growth of marketization internationally. On the one hand, the utopian future supposedly produced by contemporary globalization offers contemporary subjects a precarious yet continual ontological security. It provides for them a clear narrative of progress and mass prosperity. On the other hand, it leaves individuals feeling as if they are “subjectless,” mere cogs without the power or freedom to change an unstoppable capitalist history. Consequently, granted to them in this triumphant twenty-first century capitalist narrative is not so much a foundation for identity but a promise of a better tomorrow that will arrive regardless of one’s wishes.

The success and legitimacy of corporate globalization is found in its capacity to combine the existence of economic capitalism as “inevitable” with a political identity that, nevertheless, celebrates human freedom and collective self-determination. This potent mixture produces the conditions for the rise of a new social fantasy that prioritizes local sovereignty while entrenching global capitalism. It reveals a process of marketization that is international in its reach while being specific to its context. The spread of the “free market” is thus underpinned, as will be shown, by a growing and diverse fantasy of authoritarianism.

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