The dawning of the new millennium was meant to usher in a new century of modernization - characterized by the predicted flourishing of marketi- zation and democratization across the world. The proliferation of capitalism internationally was championed as part of a broader narrative of liberalization, in which authoritarianism would gradually disintegrate as markets became more entrenched. Instead, the actual political effects of globalization have seen the reverse of these triumphant expectations. The new era is progressively marked, as the cases of Singapore and Mexico reveal, by the strengthening of autocratic and repressive market oriented regimes. The happily-ever-after of capitalist development has transformed into a potentially cautionary tale of the persistence of authoritarianism in the global spread of capitalism.
Central to this authoritarian governing paradigm is a global capitalist fantasy of authoritarian development. Governments have re-established their right and, in fact, obligation to guide and protect the country’s modernization against foreign and domestic threats. This strong arm of the state is especially needed in light of a fast-paced globalized market that brings with it both opportunities and challenges. More than simply protection, these emboldened regimes can optimistically lead the country to greater economic and political heights within an exciting, but dangerous, period of globalization. It must therefore be ready and willing to increase its authoritarian reach if it is to do so effectively. All actions, no matter how oppressive or intrusive, are potentially justified in the name of “modernization” and “democratization.” Thus, just as the state in developing nations is retreating economically under the pressures of neoliberalism, it is expanding in quite worryingly non-democratic and despotic ways politically.
As will be shown, this paradoxical relation of capitalism and authoritarianism, and the affective fantasy sustaining it, is by no means confined to developing countries but can also be found in economically developed liberal democracies.
1. For a similar discussion of the linkages between democratization, neoliberalism and authoritarianism in contemporary Mexico please see Montano and Bloom (2014).