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Neoliberalism’s Frankenstein: Authoritarian Freedom in Twenty-First Century “Democracies”

Wendy Brown

Abstract

What peculiar form of freedom is cultivated and promised in right-wing political formations today? How does “illiberal democracy” sew together libertarianism and authoritarianism? How is the radical disinhibition and aggressiveness contained in these formations reconciled with their claim to cultivate traditional values and restore order? This paper reflects on the complex recent histories—of neoliberalism, of nihilism, and of what Marcuse termed “repressive desublimation”—that generate the force and legitimacy of this novel development in Euro-Atlantic political life.

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Keywords

freedom, authoritarianism, neoliberalism, nihilism