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THE GLOBAL SHIFT FROM LIBERAL DEMOCRACY TO CAPITALIST SOVEREIGNTY

An ongoing and vital question for the study of capitalism and globalization are the respective roles of the state and sovereignty. This concern can be, and has been, approached from a number of different analytical perspectives. Perhaps not completely surprisingly, the most dominant line of inquiry has been largely normative in nature. What should the function and scope of governments be within a private economy? These discussions of “ought” highlight the tension of reconciling an ideological commitment to marketization with the structural necessity of a relatively active state. Conversely, critical theories, notably Marxism, seek to theoretically describe the ways governments have historically supported and perpetuated capitalism. This present analysis, similarly, highlights within the modern setting how globalization creates the structural and discursive conditions for political authoritarianism.

A hoped for key advancement, in this regard, is to illustrate the role of the state as primarily one of capitalist disciplining. It is not meant merely to sustain basic social order, invest in vital services or regulate the market. Nor is it simply one of advancing the interests of class domination. Rather it is to empower individuals and institutions to be fiscally responsible. Such disciplining then is by no means singular in the forms it can and does take. It encompasses activities ranging from education to punishment. Central though is the requirement above all else to ultimately ensure that actors embrace and follow this market agenda whatever the cost.

This helps resolve a significant structural tension central to marketiz- ation. Namely, how to teach people to be “good” capitalists and employees? And once they learn, how to guarantee that they continue to follow such lessons? The idea that actors are naturally economically rational belies a complex social reality where individuals, and states for that matter, must be continually educated on how to act efficiently and successfully as market subjects. This structural concern is especially heightened in the contemporary context. As the logic of the market has spread into new societal spheres, increasingly coming to define any and all areas of cultural life, so too has the need to cultivate “responsible” capitalist citizens.

Sovereignty is, hence, primarily linked to disciplining. On the one hand, actors have the supposed power and moral duty to be “self- disciplining.” They must resist temptations to act fiscally “irresponsibly.” This echoes ideas within economics of “responsible autonomy,” in which employees are given increased freedom with the aim that they will use it to improve their efficiency and productivity (see Friedman, 1977). Such an ethos has expanded to encompass what it means to be a modern citizen. Freedom, in this context, connotes a “choice, autonomy, selfresponsibility and the obligation to maximize one’s life as a kind of enterprise” (Rose et al., 2006: 91).

Foucault’s description of contemporary power as “disciplinary” in character further sheds light on this phenomenon. Specifically, “discipline may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, a modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a ‘physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology” (Foucault, 1977: 215). This evolution of power has given rise to a type of “self- disciplining governmentality.” Here, the traditional sovereign power of the ruler is supplanted by an:

[E]nsemble formed by the institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, the calculations and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific albeit complex form of power, which has as its target population, as its principal form of knowledge political economy, and as its essential technical means apparatuses of security. (Foucault, 1991: 102-3)

Yet sovereignty does not disappear in this new disciplinary regime. It is reconfigured and transformed, transplanted at least partly to individual agents who must employ their freedom to self-modulate their beliefs and practices. Foucault (2008) gestures to this type of both top-down and bottom-up power in his theorization of “etatisation” of power linked to the historical development of neoliberalism. Here, the rationality of the state, premised on hierarchy and authority, become insinuated in all facets of social life. Building on this insight Latham introduces the idea of a “social sovereignty” to shed light on the continued modern prevalence of sovereignty within present-day social institutions and relations, observing that “social sovereignty offers us a way to understand how in later modernity, both the state and diverse range of non-state actors of interest to Foucault (such as professionals and experts) can both be central to the governance of an increasingly wide range of social domains” (R. Latham, 2000: 2).

Particularly relevant to issues of authoritarian capitalism and globalization, the inevitable failure of this sovereign “self-disciplining” invites the strong response of a higher authority. Coercive measures are expected and indeed demanded to protect undisciplined actors not only from themselves but also from harming the social and economic order as a whole. Consequently, both these interconnected types of sovereignty lend themselves to authoritarianism in the present era of globalization. At the level of “self-discipline,” states can use this rationale to justify repressing dissent within their borders and re-ordering social institutions to reflect capitalist values. Pressures from the international community to be a responsible economic member fuel such oppression.

Furthermore, in the absence of such “self-disciplining,” a larger authority, notably states to citizens and IFIs to states, must actively and coercively intervene. The current global context is organized from the top-down and the bottom-up around this multi-leveled authoritarian sovereignty. Higher-level sovereigns must constantly monitor and police those below them - citizen must be disciplined by states, who in turn must be disciplined by international and trans-national institutions.

 
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