CONCLUSION: AUTHORITARIAN CAPITALISM IN THE AGE OF GLOBALIZATION
This book explores how political authoritarianism is emerging as an affective discourse for justifying deepening economic marketization globally. In particular, it reflects a reconfigured modernization discourse updated for the new millennium. The traditional assumption that markets will lead to democracy has been transformed into a twenty-first century story of authoritarian progress, where a fiscally self-disciplining state and disciplining international institutions will use their power to ensure that countries around the world develop and prosper. Required is not democracy, deliberation, debate, experimentation or a rethinking of core values. Instead all that is needed is for governments and IFIs to rule populations with a firm and “responsible” hand.
This attractive narrative of authoritarian capitalism represents the fundamental political fantasy of present day economic capitalism. It drives and is adaptable to a diverse range of contexts, all of which are marshaling oppressive state power in the name of extending marketiz- ation. Market despots such as Russia and China trumpet themselves as the only actors capable of profitably leading their nations within a competitive and dangerous global marketplace. Developmental states like Singapore and Mexico justify the repression of anti-market dissent in the name of protecting vulnerable economic gains and political democracy, respectively. Established liberal democracies, including the USA, legitimize the enhanced policing and incarceration of their populations for the sake of preserving social order, safe for a modern fiscal economy.
Reflected is a paradox at the heart of contemporary globalization. Its international expansion is made possible by the increased repressive “responsibility” granted to nations. Significantly, the more capitalism grows globally, the more it relies on the power of governments for its survival. This structural dependence on the state is met by a renewed affective investment in the agency of national leaders to effectively negotiate and meet the demands of a global market. Put differently, whereas markets and corporations may be the prime drivers of the world, it remains the nation-state’s job to successfully manage and maintain it. A crucial component of neoliberalism is the channeling of this agency into an authoritarian mandate for governments to police themselves and their citizens in line with capitalist values.
This fantasy reveals, furthermore, something potentially fundamental about the relation of sovereignty and capitalism. It introduces the concept of “capitalist sovereignty.” Here, it is not that capitalists are rulers or even fully in control of those who do rule. Instead, it is that the primary aim of government and governance is to regulate citizens and economies to “responsibly” conform to capitalist prerogatives and ideologies. This differs, or more precisely evolves from, previous forms of “state capitalism” in which national governments acted principally to foster favorable conditions for the advancement of the private economy as well as help to publicly deal with its excesses. Conversely, capitalist sovereignty empowers individuals and states to be fiscally “self-disciplined” with the expectation that they can be “disciplined” by a higher authority if they fail to fulfill this moral capitalist obligation.
Witnessed is the rise of authoritarian capitalism in the age of globalization. The inevitable march of marketization globally goes hand-inhand with the destruction of democracy and the promotion of legitimated repression. At a deeper level, it creates a new capitalist subject - spanning from the international to the state to the individual - whose primary responsibility is to do their market duty or suffer the consequences. A vital concern for the twenty-first century is whether we can, thus, break free from the global “grip” of authoritarian capitalism.