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Session Overview
RN06_01a_H: Theorising and Conceptualising Neoliberalism and its Authoritarian Traits
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Angela Wigger, Radboud University Nijmegen
Location: HB.1.12
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: B, Level: 1.

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Authoritarian neoliberalism and the state: towards transnational fascism?

Yuliya Yurchenko

University of Greenwich, United Kingdom

'Austerity policies for the poor, tax cuts for the rich and TNCs' - this seems to be the dominant foundational principle of the state in the current neoliberal authoritarian phase (ANL; Bruff 2012) of capitalist imperialism. The state is reformatted into a transnational institution that allows for accumulation of capital to occur through, around, and by (elaboration of Robinson 2004) state/society complex (Cox 1981) control. The state/society complex as an entity is too reformatted: ontological primacy of capitalist interest in state policy decision-making begs for inclusion of capital into the complex as an autonomous force. In political discourse such primacy is being legitimised by compartmentalisation and extreme othering of marginalised groups and labour. Nationalist rhetoric associated with ANL is obtaining fascist features with excesses of policing, of physical and symbolic violence, and with normalisation of that violence. In Gramscian theory terms what we are witnessing is 'consensualisation' of forms of coercion previously unacceptable as part of hegemonic consensus. So, capitalist imperialism survives despite the ongoing recession by reinventing itself as transnational fascism where ideological hegemony of neoliberal accumulation is preserved even when survival of its previously instrumentalised institutions and legal frameworks e.g. EU, are under threat.

Does the world need a jolt? A critical approach to contemporary social movements and their relationship to authoritarian neoliberalism.

Madelaine Moore, Anne Engelhardt

Kassel University, Germany

Since the crisis, many have focused on the way that neoliberal capitalism has morphed in order to stabilize its own reproduction. However, these transformations cannot be understood in isolation from the protest movements that have opposed it (Huke, Clua-Losada, Bailey, 2015). Protest dynamics, networks and movements have emerged that challenge some of the conceptual divisions that exist in social movement and labour theory. It is proposed that studying these as part of a social whole may better encapsulate the specificities of the current conjuncture of post-crisis resistance to neoliberal capitalism, offering a deeper understanding of the contradictions that could be harnessed for an emancipatory politics. This paper draws on an analytical framework that aims to explore the interdependent relationship between social reproduction and sites of production in the stabilization of capitalist relations (Harvey, 2010). This draws heavily on the notion of accumulation by dispossession showing that sites of production and reproduction, as well as the actors in these spaces are interrelated, and thus strategies and theory that equally approaches both are better equipped at conceptualizing the totality of capitalist relations (Federici, 2012). The paper is a comparative study exploring the logistics strikes in Portugal and the anti-fracking movement in Australia between 2012-today. These two cases, that on the surface fit the classic opposing categories of “old” and “new”, highlight that these categories are problematic and limit any analysis that seeks to better grasp the totality of our current conjuncture. By unpacking the dynamics of these movements rather than purely the short-term visibility or immediate outcomes we propose that we will better capture the contradictions of contemporary neoliberal capitalism.

Framing the Neoliberal Canon: Resisting the Market Myth via Literary Enquiry

Kathryn Starnes1, Ian Bruff2

1Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom; 2University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Despite widespread recognition that neoliberalism’s valorisation of the ‘free market’ stands in considerable tension with ‘really existing’ neoliberalising processes, there is still much underlying respect for such claims. In contrast, the paper contends that a re-examination of the canon of neoliberal thought as literary texts rather than political or economic arguments reveals that neoliberalism has never been about free markets. Using Friedman and Hayek as exemplars, our reading of neoliberal texts focuses on author framing gestures, particular understandings of the term ‘science’, techniques of characterisation and constructions of epistemological legitimacy. We argue this approach reveals a narrative that masks the heavy intellectual burden borne by states and households, not markets. This has significant implications for contemporary understandings of authoritarian neoliberalism and of how to critique/resist it.

Champions of Neoliberal Authoritarianism: Scope for Transnational Union Strategies

Darragh Golden

University College of Oslo and Akershus, Norway

Much of the extant literature on authoritarian neoliberalism emerged as national governments and supranational institutions responded to the ‘Great Recession’. However, the neoliberal authoritarian dynamic is intrinsically played-out through the medium of nationally rooted MNCs, which draw their competitive advantage from distinctive institutional environments, including systems of employment relations. This paper proposes shifting the level of analysis by focusing instead on ‘national champions’. Ryanair is a representative exemplar of such, much to the envy of others. ‘British Airways … is desperately trying to become more like Ryanair’ (Economist, 2016). Aviation is a key sector in the Irish economic model. Airlines, such as Norwegian, are registering Irish subsidiaries not only to avail of low corporation tax but also lax labour regulation. This has brought pressure on the Norwegian government to deregulate their labour market. Ryanair’s management is considered authoritarian and its CEO has frequently launched anti-public service diatribes, recently describing the national broadcaster as a ‘rat infested North Korean union shop’. Having successfully seen off unions in Ireland and Britain, Ryanair is currently, through A4E, taking on the air traffic controllers’ right to strike on the basis of free movement. Hence, MNCs are more and more weighing in on political debates regarding a broad range of issues and in a variety of fora.This paper will not only assess the structural factors that explain Ryanair’s success but will also examine the transnational union strategies to organize Ryanair employees and their prospect for realization in the context of authoritarian neoliberalism.

Centralise and insulate. The interlocked dynamic between austerity political economy and emergency legal mechanisms in Italy during the global crisis (2008-2016)

Adriano Cozzolino

University of Napoli L'Orientale, Italy

The paper explores the interrelation between austerity political economy and the legal mechanisms through which austerity measures had been implemented during the global crisis in Italy (2008-2016). The key argument is that in Italy the authoritarian character on neoliberalism has taken a specifc form, central to which is the (ab)use of emergency decrees and confidence vote, legal practices shared by the four executives (one centre-right, one technocratic, two centre-left) succeeded in the crisis. The purpose of the paper is shedding light on statehood practices aimed at insulating austerity political economy and marginalising political alternatives in order to strengthen market discipline and sefaguard capital accumulation process. The key argument, in brief, is that processes of neoliberalization entail a substantive restriction of the democratic action for social and political opposition.

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