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States of Discipline

by Gorkem Altinors on February 15, 2018

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 severely damaged the fundamental structures of global economy. However, neoliberalism remained as the dominant mode of capitalist accumulation. States of Discipline: Authoritarian Neoliberalism and the Contested Reproduction of capitalist Order exclusively focuses on the features of neoliberalism that make it such a resilient doctrine and the ways that neoliberalism reproduces itself against popular opposition. The book convincingly argues that ‘contemporary neoliberalism reinforces and increasingly relies upon (1) coercive state practices that discipline, marginalise and criminalise oppositional social forces and (2) the judicial and administrative state apparatuses which limit the avenues in which neoliberal policies can be challenged’ (p. 2). In this manner, authoritarian neoliberalism is a term that is analytically utilised to indicate the operativeness of neoliberal policies and coercive mechanisms. The book focuses on authoritarian neoliberalism and researches the utility of it. This edited volume consists of one introductory chapter and twelve case study chapters. Topics in the book extend from the labour market to security, from gender and body politics to urban transformation, from migration to EU legislation. There are also chapters regarding case studies in various countries such as Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Cambodia and China. As it explicitly points out, this book is not only aimed at intellectual circles, but it also is defined by a political impetus (p. 3).

As it is argued by the editor Cemal Burak Tansel in the introductory chapter, the Turkish case ‘represents the archetypal case of authoritarian neoliberalism’ (p. 16). Annalena Di Giovanni analyses the urban transformation in Turkey, particularly in Istanbul, under authoritarian neoliberalism in the sixth chapter. She reveals that the public is excluded from the decision-making process of both the material and cultural dimensions of urban transformation under authoritarian neoliberalism and she provides evidence from the Turkish case. In the tenth chapter, Barış Alp Özden, İsmet Akça and Ahmet Bekmen examine Turkey’s shift to authoritarian neoliberalism under the rule of the Justice and Development Party and they argue that the coexistence of neoliberalism and authoritarianism in Turkey is both a response to and a factor in deepening social and political crises. Similar to the rest of the eleven chapters, these two chapters provide plausible arguments and satisfactory evidences for their assertions.

All in all, this is a well-written and well-edited book that skilfully offers an alternative conceptual tool to understanding post-crisis politics and plausibly argues that neoliberalism’s resistance to oppositional social movements comes from its ability to reinforce coercive state apparatuses. The editor and contributors of States of Discipline undoubtedly succeed in their goal and with their initial multidisciplinary contribution authoritarian neoliberalism will certainly occupy a major space in the social sciences.

This review first appeared in Political Studies Review

Gorkem Altinors
Dr Gorkem Altinors is an Assistant Professor in politics at Bilecik Seyh Edebali University. He holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Nottingham where he was a research assistant at the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ). His research interests include Critical IR/IPE, neoliberalism, authoritarianism, populism, Eurocentrism, Islamism, and MENA politics. His contributions are published on Mediterranean Politics, Turkish Studies, Political Studies Review, Capital & Class, Progress in Political Economy, and LSE Middle East Centre Blog. His forthcoming book The State and Society in Modern Turkey: From Kemalism to Islamism will be published by Brill, Historical Materialism Book Series.

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