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Modern Things on Trial
Undoing the Demos
In the Ruins of Neoliberalism
The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the Westav Wendy Brown279
Across the West, hard-right leaders are surging to power on platforms of ethno-economic nationalism, Christianity, and traditional family values. Is this phenomenon the end of neoliberalism or its monstrous offspring? In the Ruins of Neoliberalism casts the hard-right turn as animated by socioeconomically aggrieved white working- and middle-class populations but contoured by neoliberalism's multipronged assault on democratic values. From its inception, neoliberalism flirted with authoritarian liberalism as it warred against robust democracy. It repelled social-justice claims through appeals to market freedom and morality. It sought to de-democratize the state, economy, and society and re-secure the patriarchal family. In key works of the founding neoliberal intellectuals, Wendy Brown traces the ambition to replace democratic orders with ones disciplined by markets and traditional morality and democratic states with technocratic ones. Yet plutocracy, white supremacy, politicized mass affect, indifference to truth, and extreme social disinhibition were no part of the neoliberal vision. Brown theorizes their unintentional spurring by neoliberal reason, from its attack on the value of society and its fetish of individual freedom to its legitimation of inequality. Above all, she argues, neoliberalism's intensification of nihilism coupled with its accidental wounding of white male supremacy generates an apocalyptic populism willing to destroy the world rather than endure a future in which this supremacy disappears.
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Wendy Brown is the great radical theorist of democracy of our time, in the grand tradition of Sheldon Wolin. This book is the best treatment we have of the aftermath of the high moments of our neoliberal age and the descent into antidemocratic darkness. Yet Brown's profound analysis and mature vision give us a glimmer of hope! -- Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard University In this fascinating book, Wendy Brown demonstrates that neoliberal rationality, more than merely economistic in spirit, also contains a reactionary moralism. The two elements dovetail in curtailing every form of equality. This has devastating effects, as we can observe in the world from Trump to Bolsonaro to Erdogan. -- Etienne Balibar, author of <i>Secularism and Cosmopolitanism: Critical Hypotheses on Religion and Politics</i> Wendy Brown is our most astute and far-reaching political anatomist. Here, she deepens and revises her prior, influential excavations of neoliberal reason, demonstrating how the global resurgence of far-right authoritarianism, white nationalism, and neofascism is less a reaction to economic distress or a return of repressed hatreds than a political mutation born of a long, steady corrosion of social capacities, public goods, democratic subjectivities, and information ecologies. In the Ruins of Neoliberalism exposes a novel and deadly symbiosis of neoliberal policy and reactionary politics in our time; in doing so, it provides essential orientation for all of us working to salvage democratic politics. -- Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University Brown attends to the perceived puzzles of neoliberalism that have baffled other analysts and solves them outright. In the Ruins of Neoliberalism offers a complete rethinking of our current political reality. -- Nicholas Xenos, Director of the Amherst Program in Critical Theory What makes Brown such a compelling political thinker - her unique ability to resist the terms in which political problematics present themselves and to reframe them in a way that opens up new lines of sight. * Los Angeles Review of Books * Brilliant. . . . Essential. * Choice *
Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where she teaches political theory. Her recent books include Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution (2015) and Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010).
Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Society Must Be Dismantled 2. Politics Must Be Dethroned 3. The Personal, Protected Sphere Must Be Extended 4. Speaking Wedding Cakes and Praying Pregnancy Centers: Religious Liberty and Free Speech in Neoliberal Jurisprudence 5. No Future for White Men: Nihilism, Fatalism, and Ressentiment Notes Index