Issue 122, June 2014

t11 122

State of in/security

Table of Contents:


Contesting representation:  on democracy and representative government

Matthias Lievens

Abstract: Several authors have recently stressed the constitutive and ubiquitous nature of representation, which, as a result, can no longer be conceived as a relation between pre-existing entities. This has important consequences for democratic representation, traditionally thought in terms of authorization, accountability or representativity. This article argues that Jacques Rancière’s political philosophy makes a fruitful contribution to the necessary rethinking of democratic representation. Although Rancière never systematically developed a theory of representation, this concept is shown to constitute a red thread throughout his political writings. His main contribution consists in shifting the focus from the relation between representative and represented to the relation between the distribution of the sensible as a space of representability and its disruption or contestation. This makes it possible to recast a critique of representative government, and to reconceive of democratic representation, which is about making the contingent equality underlying each order visible.

Nationalism, globalization and glocalization

Victor Roudometof

Abstract: This article offers a reassessment of the relationship among nationalism, globalization and glocalization. Conventionally, globalization is viewed as a historically recent challenge to the nation. It is argued that globalization, in contrast, is a long-term historical process. The emergence and perseverance of the nation is linked to outcomes of global processes, such as the experience of globality. Two conceptual links among the nation-form, historical globalization and cultural glocalization, are presented to demonstrate the salience of this perspective. First, globalization’s dialectic of homogeneity and heterogeneity influences the nation in a two-fold manner: whereas cultural and institutional isomorphism causes the homogenization of national symbols and institutions, cultural glocalization preserves the specificity of individual national identities. Second, transnational nationalism has played an important role in shaping the nation through the construction of various categories of ‘aliens’ and the subsequent pressure put onto cultural groups to adjust their identities vis-à-vis the nation-state.

A fly in the ointment?

Ferenc Tallár

Abstract: Is this the crisis of culture we experience today, or should we consider it a victory, a glorious deconstruction of metaphysical culture? McLuhan’s prophetic vision about the historical phases of orality–literate culture–secondary orality can be interpreted as events of a Hegelian triad. The process should be about the alienation and withdrawal of the Mind: in literate culture the Mind took an objectified, outer and estranged form, that of metaphysical culture. Today, in the open, interactive media of Web 2 we can take possession of the Mind again and free it from the rigid hierarchies. One should be eager to take part in such a universal reform, but somehow, it seems, there is a fly in the ointment.

Six theories of neoliberalism

Terry Flew

Abstract: This article takes as its starting point the observation that neoliberalism is a concept that is ‘oft-invoked but ill-defined’. It provides a taxonomy of uses of the term neoliberalism to include: (1) an all-purpose denunciatory category; (2) ‘the way things are’; (3) an institutional framework characterizing particular forms of national capitalism, most notably the Anglo-American ones; (4) a dominant ideology of global capitalism; (5) a form of governmentality and hegemony; and (6) a variant within the broad framework of liberalism as both theory and policy discourse. It is argued that this sprawling set of definitions are not mutually compatible, and that uses of the term need to be dramatically narrowed from its current association with anything and everything that a particular author may find objectionable. In particular, it is argued that the uses of the term by Michel Foucault in his 1978–9 lectures, found in The Birth of Biopolitics, are not particularly compatible with its more recent status as a variant of dominant ideology or hegemony theories. It instead proposes understanding neoliberalism in terms of historical institutionalism, with Foucault’s account of historical change complementing Max Weber’s work identifying the distinctive economic sociology of national capitalisms.

The global firestorm of law and order: On punishment and neoliberalism

Loïc Wacquant

Abstract: This article reflects on the international reception of my book Prisons of Poverty as revelator of penal developments in advanced societies over the past decade. I show that the global firestorm of law and order inspired by the United States that the book detected in 1999 has continued to rage far and wide. Indeed, it has extended from First- to Second-World countries and has altered punishment politics and policies around the globe in ways that no one foresaw and would have thought possible two decades ago. I extend the analysis of the role of think tanks (especially the Manhattan Institute) in the diffusion of US-style crime-fighting notions and nostrums in Latin America as one element of the international circulation of pro-market policy packages fostering the punitive management of poverty. I elaborate and revise the original model of the link between neoliberalism and punitive penality, leading to the analysis of state-crafting in the age of social insecurity developed in my book Punishing the Poor.

Review essays:

Prisons, neoliberalism and neoliberal states: Reading Loïc Wacquant and Prisons of Poverty

Pat O’Malley

Abstract: While many connections can be drawn with some confidence between neoliberalism and penal policy and practice, it is difficult to support Loïc Wacquant’s attempt to render punitive penality integral to neoliberalism, and to regard both as being strategically exported from the US. Neoliberalism is a fluid and variable political formation, both over time and internationally, and is impossible to reduce to a few primary characteristics such as a specific penal policy. Correspondingly, neoliberal doctrines and regimes appear to be consistent with many forms of penal policy other than punitive imprisonment. This is partly because of neoliberalism’s own variability, but also because of the impact of local conditions and the multiple ways through which penal policy may (or may not) be linked with particular political formations. Not only theoretically but also politically, Wacquant’s thesis remains of questionable strategic utility although evidently valuable in consciousness raising.

The state, penality and human insecurity: The sociological insights of

Susanne Davies

Abstract: Over the past 30 years a growing body of scholarship has highlighted the significance of practices of punishment and penality within contemporary Western societies. Penal expansionism, most dramatically evidenced in the United States, has drawn the attention of a raft of commentators, including that of French sociologist Loïc Wacquant. In this essay, Wacquant’s three recent volumes – Urban Outcasts, Punishing the Poor and Prisons of Poverty – are considered with a particular focus on the theoretical and empirical contours of his over-arching account of the rise of what he calls a ‘new government of social insecurity’.

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