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Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory

For a Special Issue on

The Neoliberal-Fascist Nexus

Abstract deadline
30 June 2024

Manuscript deadline
31 December 2024

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Special Issue Editor(s)

Henry Maher, University of Sydney
[email protected]

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The Neoliberal-Fascist Nexus

The prospect of a second Trump Presidency has reignited debates about the resurgence of fascism in contemporary politics, raising critical questions about the nature of democracy, populism, and authoritarianism in the 21st century. Though some scholars initially suggested that the application of the fascist label to Trump was hyperbolic and anachronistic (Griffin 2020), the aftermath of the January 6 riots convinced many that, in the words of leading historian of fascism Robert Paxton (2021), the fascist ‘label now seems not just acceptable but necessary’. With Trump recently describing immigrants as ‘animals…poisoning the blood of our country’, promising to ‘root out the Communist, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our Country’, whilst warning that ‘if I don’t get elected, it’s going to be…a bloodbath for the country’, the alarming parallels to historic fascist ideology are unavoidable. Further, beyond just Trump, neo-fascist parties and politicians around the world continue to thrive. From Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy to the Sweden Democrats, and from Hungary’s ‘illiberal democracy’ to Argentina’s new far-right President Javier Milei, far-right parties are transitioning from the political fringes to the central positions of government.

Responding to the contemporary resurgence of fascism, this special issue asks how should we understand the relationship between fascism and that other dominant ideology our of times, neoliberalism? Initially, many scholars suggested that the resurgence of fascism and broader rise of populist leaders around the world was a response to the failures of neoliberalism (see for instance Connolly 2017; Brown 2018, 2019; Cox & Skidmore-Hess 2022). According to this narrative, forty years of neoliberal austerity and privatisation created sufficient popular discontent and general suffering that populations turned away from the market to embrace the comforting and simplistic panaceas offered by far-right leaders promising to overthrow the neoliberal establishment. However, the record of populist leaders in government suggests that the relationship between neoliberalism and the far-right is not as straightforwardly antagonistic as we have been led to believe (Fraser 2019; Slobodian & Plehwe 2020). For example, though Trump did introduce some limited tariffs against perceived foreign enemies, far more significant were his wide-ranging tax cuts and successful waves of deregulation. Similarly, European parties of the far-right have typically retained broadly neoliberal economic worldviews, with nationalist rhetoric rarely translating into substantive challenges to free trade and market liberalisation. Accordingly, more recent scholarship has begun to ‘revise the prevalent scholarly perception of the incompatibility of neoliberalism and fascism’ (Gambetti 2020: 20), and suggest that a more nuanced account of the relationship between neoliberalism and fascism is key to comprehending the contemporary political landscape (Giroux 2019; Traverso 2019; Martel 2019).

The articles in this special issue will explore various dimensions of the emerging ‘neoliberal-fascist nexus’. I use the word nexus here to emphasize that neoliberalism and fascism remain distinct bodies of ideas that cannot be simply collapsed into one amorphous concept, but that nevertheless the present political moment is characterised by the convergence, interplay, and interaction of these two ideologies. Theorising the exact nature of this dynamic relationship between neoliberalism and fascism remains among the most pressing tasks for contemporary social and political theory. Contributions will therefore focus on the points of intersection that have allowed neoliberalism and fascism to be articulated together as a coherent and successful political project.

Possible topics for submission

Of particular interest in theorising the convergence of neoliberalism and fascism is the concept of race. Against neoliberalism’s own self-image as a nominally ‘racially blind’ ideology, recent scholarship points to an essentialist and biological conception of race deeply embedded in neoliberal social ontology (Cornelissen 2020; Eastland-Underwood 2022; Maher 2023), a grounding that can be readily combined with far-right accounts of race as a fixed biological category or broad cultural grouping that must be preserved from outside interference. Central to the racialisation of markets are civilisationalist narratives which imagine a pure ‘western’ market society threatened by a hostile anti-market non-western other. Other points of intersection include a patriarchal conception of gender, with both neoliberal and fascist accounts of society suggesting that the preservation of traditional gender roles is essential to the successful reproduction of western capitalist society. The contemporary alliance of neoliberalism and fascism is also based on a shared conception of the enemy – ‘the left’, ‘big government’, ‘the establishment’ or ‘the swamp’. Finally, an aesthetics of violence unifies the affective imaginaries of both neoliberalism and fascism, stretching from the Schmidtian strong-state of the ordoliberals to the torture of the Pinochet regime, and from Bush’s shock-and-awe neoliberalism in Iraq to the Trumpian riot on January 6.

Combining readings of historical thought with the analysis of contemporary political practice, the contributions to this special issue will help illuminate the contemporary convergence of neoliberalism and fascism, offering new avenues of inquiry and insights into a field-defining problem. Contributions which consider the following topics are particularly welcomed:

  • The construction of race and civilisational hierarchies, especially as this relates to markets
  • Historical analysis of the relationship between neoliberalism and fascism
  • The role of conspiracy logics in neoliberalism and fascism
  • Psycho-analytical perspectives examining the affective appeal of neoliberalism and fascism
  • The neoliberal and fascist conception of violence
  • Borders and bordering in neoliberal and fascist imaginaries
  • The fascist and neoliberal account of gender and its role in the reproduction of capitalism, and contemporary anti-feminism
  • The construction of the economy in the alt-right
  • Paleo-conservatism, Austrian economics and the far-right

Submission Instructions

Indications of interest should consist of a title and an abstract of 500 words and be sent to
Henry Maher at [email protected] . They will be considered on a rolling basis
but should be submitted no later than 30 June, 2024.

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