This chapter examined the rise of an explicitly authoritarian politics associated with the expansion of economic marketization nationally. Using the cases of China and Russia as prime examples, it highlights how capitalism does not just permit for but can in fact encourage such despotic discourses and practices politically. Namely, it relies upon authoritarian fantasies, trumpeting the need for a strong state to properly guide the country’s capitalist development and protect it from ideological threats. This mirrors previous regimes that also justified repression and exclusive sovereign power along similar lines of protecting and implementing a “correct” ideology. It furthermore points to the intimate linkages between the structural advantages of if not authoritarianism then the presence of a strong and supportive state for marketization and the construction of an affective authoritarian political discourse in support of these values. Put differently, revealed is how such despotism is not only perhaps to a degree necessary but also an ironically appealing part of this broader international spread of capitalism.
In the age of globalization, these authoritarian capitalist fantasies have taken a perhaps somewhat unexpected turn. It is now paradoxically through a direct appeal against globalization that its underlying market norms are most strongly realized. By framing debate around the poles of national self-determination and global colonialism, deeper considerations of marketization economically and authoritarianism politically are marginalized and to an extent ignored. Indeed, such a fantasy situates all problems with capitalism as part of a broader narrative of national progress ensured and preserved by a strong autocratic regime. It also grants further legitimization to the extension of repression in the name of preserving this national market progress. In this respect, national despots serve the structurally vital but internationally derided role of implementing and sustaining deepening marketization within a global capitalist economy that rhetorically trumpets its commitment to “fairness” while continuing to perpetuate inequality. As such, corporate globalization is bolstered exactly through the construction and promotion of an affective political discourse of authoritarian nationalism.
The next chapter will examine similar dynamics in economically developing countries, revealing the broader prevalence of authoritarian capitalist fantasies that extend far beyond simply market despotism and instead encompass the very construction of the modern “development” state.