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    Authoritarian government in early twenty-first century Europe: elements of a genealogy

    Kender, Philipp Patrick (2022) Authoritarian government in early twenty-first century Europe: elements of a genealogy. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    The topic of this dissertation is the early twenty-first century resurgence of political organisations in Europe which promulgate ethno-nationalist doctrines and the naturalness of hierarchy and inequality in society. While this political conjuncture is frequently examined through the conceptual lens of ‘populism, ’these developments are studied here with reference to the notions of government and authority. Government is understood in the sense proposed by Michel Foucault as the practise of guiding the conduct of subjects, whereas authority is construed as a subset of governmental practises, namely practises of issuing binding advice and validating the conduct of subjects. This dissertation develops a genealogy of this ‘authoritarian moment’ focused on the radical heterogeneity of the anthropological models of homo juridicus, the subject of rights associated with the theory of the social contract, and homo œconomicus, the self-interested economic actor. Subjectivation as homo œconomicusis associated with neo-liberal practises of government, and considered an expression of a general opposition within neo-liberal politico-economic thought to the theory of the social contract and the model of the subject of rights. Engaging with key figures (Friedrich Hayek) and events (the Walter Lippmann Colloquium) in the history of neo-liberalism, two features of this opposition to social contractarianism are elaborated. The first is that neo-liberal governmental rationality seeks to prevent the state from acting as a political representative of a popular will, ideally by dissolving it in post-national frameworks of government. The second feature elaborated is the neo-liberal rejection of interpersonal authority in favour of a practise of authority in which subjects receive advice and validation from impersonal economic indicators. The genealogical narrative of this dissertation considers the supranational framework of government which emerged in Europe in the early 1950s as an institutional embodiment of the neo-liberal opposition to the contractarian idea of politics as wilful deliberation over the common good. It concludes that the combination of neo-liberal policy proposals, nationalism, xenophobia and apologia of social inequality that characterises the political organisations contributing to the ‘authoritarian moment’ is not without precedent. This combination follows a late attempt made by Europe’s supranational institutions at legitimising their own government of subjects as economic actors by way of recourse to the language of social contract theory. While this attempt has failed on the supranational level, this combination is effectively deployed on the level of the nation-state against a crisis of legitimacy of the impersonal authority of the market.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 17 Aug 2022 15:21
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 15:41


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