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Three steps to a historical anthropology of actually existing neoliberalism

Loïc Wacquant

The anthropology of neoliberalism has become polarised between a hegemonic economic model anchored by variants of and an insurgent approach fuelled by derivations of the Foucaultian notion of . Both conceptions obscure what is ‘neo’ about neoliberalism: the reengineering and redeployment of the state as the core agency that sets the rules and fabricates the subjectivities, social relations and collective representations suited to realising markets. Drawing on two decades of field‐based inquiries into the structure, experience and political treatment of urban marginality in advanced society, I propose a between these two approaches that construes neoliberalism as an that harnesses the first to impose the stamp of the second onto the third. Bourdieu's concept of bureaucratic field offers a powerful tool for dissecting the revamping of the state as stratification and classification machine driving the neoliberal revolution from above and serves to put forth three theses: (1) neoliberalism is not an economic regime but a political project of state‐crafting that puts disciplinary ‘workfare’, neutralising ‘prisonfare’ and the trope of individual responsibility at the service of commodification; (2) neoliberalism entails a rightward tilting of the space of bureaucratic agencies that define and distribute public goods and spawns a Centaur‐state that practises liberalism at the top of the class structure and punitive paternalism at the bottom; (3) the growth and glorification of the penal wing of the state is an integral component of the neoliberal Leviathan, such that the police, courts and prison need to be brought into the political anthropology of neoliberal rule.

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A Checkerboard of Ethnoracial Violence

Loïc Wacquant


Ethnoracial violence is a dynamic and multilayered phenomenon whose definition is at stake not only in academe but also in reality itself. It comes in two varieties, expressive and instrumental, when it serves to buttress the other four elementary forms of racial domination, namely, categorization, discrimination, segregation, and seclusion. I point out that the phenomenon is relatively rare and burdened with heavy moral baggage. I introduce distinctions based on directionality (vertical, horizontal), scale of the actors involved (individual, group, or state), degree of spectacularization, and type of ethnic classification system (categorical, gradational). The imperial domain offers an especially fruitful terrain for the comparative investigation and theoretical elaboration of the dynamics of racialization, violence, and the state. Students of human brutality in history should join hands with comparative scholars of race to throw new light on their explosive intersection.