Ordoliberal Authoritarian Governance in China Since 1978 : World Market, Performance Legitimacy and Bio-Sovereign Ordering

Sum, Ngai-Ling (2019) Ordoliberal Authoritarian Governance in China Since 1978 : World Market, Performance Legitimacy and Bio-Sovereign Ordering. South Atlantic Quarterly, 118 (2). pp. 381-400. ISSN 0038-2876

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My contribution has six parts. First, starting from the Harvey-Ong debate on the ‘strange case’ of neoliberalism in China, it proceeds to the wider discussion of the path-dependent, geographically-conditioned variegation of neoliberalization. Second, it suggests how a meso-level cultural political economy can mediate between abstract-simple and concrete-complex analyses. Third, it proposes making ordoliberal and authoritarian turns to examine (non-western) cases where sovereign, disciplinary and biopolitical power coexist and co-evolve. Fourth, it deploys the concept of ordoliberal authoritarian governance to examine China since Deng’s opened it to the world market in 1978. Specifically, it describes a hybridized ensemble of meta-governance ground rules (e.g., GDPism), socialist statecraft, the bio-sovereign ordering of the population through hukou (household registration system) and suzhi (human quality), and the politics of desire/morality (e.g., consumption and neo-Confucianism). These governing techniques and strategies have strengthened China’s national growth and entrepreneurial potential; but they have also weakened them through exclusionary practices that generate inequalities and social unrest. Fifth, it considers the new subaltern resistance identity of Diaosi, which has emerged since 2011. Diaosi live in marginal and subaltern conditions but also aspire to gain urban hukou and embrace suzhi consumption. To re-establish control in response to these challenges, the government has intensified Internet surveillance, censorship and the use of a “social credit” system. Sixth, the article offers some conclusions on the cultural political economy perspective on variegation and heuristic potential of the ordoliberal and authoritarian turns in examining variegated neoliberalization/ordoliberalization in non-western settings.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
South Atlantic Quarterly
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? chinaordoliberalbiopoliticssovereigntygdpismperformance legitimacysocial sciences(all)sociology and political scienceliterature and literary theorycultural studies ??
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Deposited On:
01 Aug 2019 15:30
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2023 00:41