A state without a future: neoliberal despotism, crisis-fighting, and government through fear

Christos Boukalas*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article is a study on the neoliberal state, its relation to time and its ongoing transformation through crisis. It is spurred by two seminal works – Hartog’s on historicity and Rosa’s on acceleration – that catalogue a collapse of the modern temporality defined by progression from past to future. The article develops this problematic by focusing on the state as a key organiser of social temporalities. As the state has, in the course of the 21st century, been occupied with fighting crises, the assessment of its transformation and its relation to time proceeds from an analysis of its crisis-response. It finds that the state cannot articulate a vision for the future. This is a historically unique development, and the article traces its causes and consequences. It argues that the loss of the future perspective results from neoliberalism’s success in enhancing capital’s power over society. This makes both capital and the state avert to change, even as crisis and disruption become systemic elements of the neoliberal order. This causes the neoliberal state to acquire the form of neoliberal despotism: a state whose purpose is to impose social stasis and, since it cannot lead towards an appealing future, can only govern through fear.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-344
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Political Power
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2024

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