The Ungovernable SocietyA Genealogy of Authoritarian Liberalism
The Ungovernable Society
A Genealogy of Authoritarian Liberalism
Translated by Andrew Brown

Rebellion was in the air. Workers were on strike, students were demonstrating on campuses, discipline was breaking down. No relation of domination was left untouched – the relation between the sexes, the racial order, the hierarchies of class, relationships in families, workplaces and colleges. The upheavals of the late 1960s and early 1970s quickly spread through all sectors of social and economic life, threatening to make society ungovernable. This crisis was also the birthplace of the authoritarian liberalism which continues to cast its shadow across the world in which we now live.

To ward off the threat, new arts of government were devised by elites in business-related circles, which included a war against the trade unions, the primacy of shareholder value and a dethroning of politics. The neoliberalism that thus began its triumphal march was not, however, determined by a simple ‘state phobia’ and a desire to free up the economy from government interference. On the contrary, the strategy for overcoming the crisis of governability consisted in an authoritarian liberalism in which the liberalization of society went hand-in-hand with new forms of power imposed from above: a ‘strong state’ for a ‘free economy’ became the new magic formula of our capitalist societies.

The new arts of government devised by ruling elites are still with us today and we can understand their nature and lasting influence only by re-examining the history of the conflicts that brought them into being.

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  • May 2021
  • 350 pages
  • 143 x 224 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509542000
  • Paperback $26.95
  • 9781509542017
  • Open eBook $22.00
  • 9781509542024
Table of Contents
Table of contents:Introduction  

Part I. Indocile workers
Chapter One. Indiscipline on the shop floor

Chapter Two. Human resources    

Chapter Three. Social insecurity

Chapter Four. War on the unions 

Part Two. Managerial revolution 

Chapter Five. A theological crisis   

Chapter Six. Ethical managerialism   

Chapter Seven. Disciplining the managers   

Chapter Eight. Catallarchy

Part Three. Attack on free enterprise

Chapter Nine. Private government under siege

Chapter Ten. The battle of ideas

Chapter Eleven. How to react?   

Chapter Twelve. The corporation does not exist
Chapter Thirteen. Police theories of the firm   

Part Four. A world of protesters
Chapter Fourteen. Corporate counter-activism

Chapter Fifteen. The production of the dominant dialogy

Chapter Sixteen. Issue management    

Chapter Seventeen. Stakeholders 

Part Five. New regulations

Chapter Eighteen. Soft law

Chapter Nineteen. Costs/benefits

Chapter Twenty. A critique of political ecology
Chapter Twenty-One. Making people responsible

Part Six. The ungovernable state

Chapter Twenty-Two. The crisis of governability of the democracies         

Chapter Twenty-Three. Hayek in Chile 

Chapter Twenty-Four. The sources of authoritarian     liberalism     

Chapter Twenty-Five. Dethroning politics
Chapter Twenty-Six. The micropolitics of privatization

About the Author
Grégoire Chamayou is a researcher at the CNRS, Paris.
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‘A comprehensive account, both historical and systematic, of how and why in the 1970s business began to perceive democratic capitalism as ungovernable, and what it tried to do about this: from corporate reform to strengthening the state while weakening democracy. The book adds importantly to our understanding of the neoliberal revolution, its origins and objectives, successes and failures.’
Wolfgang Streeck, Emeritus Director and Senior Research Associate, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, Germany

‘Grégoire Chamayou provides a dazzling and wide-ranging genealogy of the intellectual ideas and political strategies which were used to undermine democracy and roll back the economic security and greater equality of the post-war years. An original and rewarding read.’
Andrew Gamble, SPERI, University of Sheffield

‘With this elegant and important work, Chamayou will surely succeed in bringing out your inner critic of the powers that be.’
French Culture

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