Authoritarian neoliberalism paving the way to authoritarian statism?
University of the Aegean, Greece
This is a submission to the special session 'From Post-Growth Capitalism to Authoritarian Temptation: A World-Historical Sea Change?
Since 2010 austerity politics in Greece have caused a series of dramatic effects on the country’s economy (skyrocketing of public debt, recession, rapid cuts in public expenditure at the fields of health, education, welfare etc.) and society (rise in total and youth unemployment, pauperization, increase in inequality, precarity etc.). Despite intensified social resistance expressed not only by hundreds of strikes and protests, but, most importantly, by the transformation of the country’s political landscape of the last decades, austerity imposed by creditors remains unaltered. With reference to Greece – as the Eurozone country worst hit by the crisis which after 2010 stimulated the design of ultra-neoliberal Eurozone legislation and the creation of additional surveillance mechanisms for fiscal discipline –, the presentation will discuss current political efforts to impose liberalization. Similar efforts had been characterized as “conscious and violent state interventions” (K. Polanyi) in the context of the 1930’s crisis and as “authoritarian statism” (N. Poulantzas) in the context of the 1970’s crisis. The current crisis management in Greece and elsewhere increasingly tends to generalize in Europe a governance pattern characterized by shrunk national democracies, policies of “state of emergency”, the institutionalization of punishments to debtor countries and an increasing detachment of economic policy from national societies. As a result, the very idea of the monetary union and even the EU are all the more disputed, new conflicting models of economic governance and (geo)political tensions emerge, and authoritarian, extreme-right and nationalist political forces gain influence across Europe, seriously threating democracy and even leaving several dark future scenarios open.
New Care Regimes and the Crisis of Social Reproduction: The Contested Terrain of Care in Contemporary Capitalism
Johannes Kepler University, Austria
This is a submission to the special session 'From Post-Growth Capitalism to Authoritarian Temptation: A World-Historical Sea Change?': For decades we are witnessing a new phase of capitalist socialization of social reproduction encompassing care. De/Commodification of labor and care, transnationalization of work and politics and new governance are contested pathways transforming care regimes. On the one hand, referring to economic growth, care has become a business in the range of care technologies and care industries or agencies with child, elderly, health care provision for solvent clients. On the other hand increasing demands of care, the economic shift in care provision, declining welfare states, austerity schemes after 2008 are going along with care gaps, new forms of precarity and exploitation, and critique or protest referring to everyday life practice as well as alternative visions. The contribution, first, shows how the consolidation of class-specific interests refers to and re/produces social inequalities and polarizations, also basing on gender and ethnicity. Second, referring to the example of care provision by care agencies and their promise to bridge the care gap demands for justice as well as pitting precarities against precarities become obvious. The conclusion, third, figures out how credible alternatives can interfere in the distributional struggles of a, in principle, careless society providing care as a priviledge for a minority and what questions of inequality and justice arise and have to be considered.
New Distributional Conflicts and the Right-Populist Revolt
Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany
Capitalism without rapid and permanent growth creates fertile soil upon which a new populist right can thrive. Class-specific inequalities and exclusion have increased dramatically, yet class movements and organised class politics from below are in many ways at an historical ebb. Class relations take effect even if experiences of injustice do not result in collective activity towards the improvement of shared grievances. In the absence of political orientations which mobilised classes could theoretically produce or at least prompt, class relations take effect via the mode of competition, and via collective social de- and re-valuation. The state assumes a vital role in this process. Political demarcations linked to the allocation of social goods trigger class-formation through collective debasement and stigmatisation of major social groups. Adding to this are collective debasement and negative classifications through which members of the lower classes seek to prevail in processes of social competition. In this sense, the central claim of this paper is as follows: the more difficult or impossible remedying distributional relations perceived as unjust from the top to the bottom (from the rich to the poor) appears, the more likely it becomes that wage-earners will tend toward exclusive solidarity and, consequently, become susceptible to right-populist slogans and concepts. One of the challenges facing the trade unions today emerges from the fact that right-wing orientations and sympathies for right-populism are often present among their active members. The article proceeds from a discussion of the situation in Germany and a comparison to other European countries, drawing on theoretical concepts developed by the author (capitalist Landnahme) as well as on empirical research.
Portugal: between ‘Contraption’ and ‘The flying cow’
University of Coimbra, Portugal
The cycle of anti-austerity contention between 2010 and 2013 in Portugal reveals a complex picture, where traditional actors, including trade unions and left-wing political parties, emerged as key actors. Notwithstanding, the principal “engine” that gave rise to this change was a cycle of social mass protests who helped to break down the former Right-wing majority. It’s true that, at that time, nobody in Portugal could admit that – meaning the proximity between PS/ socialists and PCP/ communists – would be possible. One of the criticisms became a new concept focused on PS Government until today: «The Contraption» . This notion, suggested by a right-wing opinion maker, was initially directed to the Socialist Party, but the public opinion picked it up and spread it out until now. Other observers, more sympathetic, have also named this political solution as «The flying cow», a metaphor to emphasize the “miracle” that it would be to watch a cow flying, similar to such surprising agreement among this different – and normally divergent – political parties. Departing from that political scenario in Portugal we propose a sociological analysis about the role of social movements and their articulations/tensions they’ve played with political Left-wing political parties and questioning the current Government solution (and what will happens in the next future).
In spite of all negative expectations, the political alternative found in Portugal brought some important accomplishments regarding precarious work, social rights and working class conquests, albeit not being considered a consistent solution. Until now (January 2017), it has worked. So, “the cow still flies”...