The Neoliberal Government: How the Public is Controlled and Manipulated


“The state is to stand for protecting me, and those like me, my national family, and the rest be damned.”

Concerned with exploring “the connection between antiracial conception and antiracist commitments,” David Goldberg in The Threat of Race: Reflections of Racial Neoliberalism provides a critical insight into the transformation of racism from a visible everyday affair to more subtle and invisible dimensions. To substantiate his claim, Goldberg traces the “centrality of race” in European modernity and the subsequent global reordering through war, colonization, and settlements in “new” territories: “scientists and philosophers, writers and literary critics, public intellectuals and artists, journalists and clergy, politicians and bureaucrats”—all paved the race as a discourse to which the mass people subscribed. Emphasizing a difference between racial conception and race, Goldberg refers to Anthony Apaiah who understands racial conception as the manifestations of biological features that make a group of people different from another and thinks that it may not “amount to racism”. Goldberg is critical of this view as he is more inclined to understand race in terms of geography, nationalism, and global perspectives. His analysis of race underscores “how the modern state and regional arrangements have come to form, fashion, make, and mold—in short, how they manage—their heterogeneous populations.” Goldberg traces two trends in the population management, the first beginning in the 1930s with the liberal democrats who “offered a more or less robust set of institutional apparatuses concerned in principle at least to advance the welfare of the citizens,” and the second with the neoliberals who “sought to elevate privatization of property, revenue generation, utilities, services, and social support systems, including healthcare, aid, and disaster response and relief.” He is of the opinion that “the welfare state, with all its contradictions and failings, produced a modicum of social egalitarianism; the neoliberal state exacerbates inequality, further privileging the already privileged.” Committed to denationalizing industry and deunionizing labor power, neoliberalism is aimed at remaking the state as a formidable institution of control, repression, and manipulation. In such a state, Goldberg argues, “race is now mobilized in different ways as a technology of determination and population management”. As he goes on, race has been placed behind a wall of private preference expression, of privatized choice. As neoliberalism serves to protect the private sphere from state intrusion, it ensures a space for extending socio-racial interventions—demographic exclusions, belittlements, forms of control, ongoing humiliations, and the like. Unlike a welfare state, a neoliberal state is concerned above all with issues of crime and corruption, controlling immigration and tax-cut-stimulated consumption, social control and securitization. Surprisingly, liberalism’s very instrument for undoing the effects of racism through affirmative actions and welfare programs became neoliberalism’s “poster child for the condition of racism itself”: stereotyping a single black mother as a “welfare Queen” who indulges in “sex, drug, and rock ‘n’ roll at the state expense is one good example of it. Neoliberalism privatized property, and simultaneously it privatized race by restructuring the state so as to maintain race-based exclusion or inclusion. Race in the neoliberal world has disappeared from the public discourse and entered into the private realm and transformed itself into an invisible but inseparable part of the social system. Privatized racism is skillfully guarded, but at times it comes out, as in the onstage rants of Michael Richard or the on street murder of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown.

In the same line of thought, Goldberg traces how race functions as a formidable determinant factor in the war on terrorism with the neoliberal west on one side and the Islamic world on the other. Referring to the Dutch parliamentarian Greet Wilders, Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, and others, Goldberg demonstrates how racism transcends the national boundary and reconfigures the world into a binary with the west representing as the savior and the rest as terrorist. Ann Cutler’s statement, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” fittingly summarizes this reconfigured racism. Moreover, rigid immigration procedures that citizens from 29 Islamic countries have to face while travelling to USA and other European countries clearly indicate what Goldberg terms as globalized racism. But, the war on terror has provided the US and the allies to unrestraint entrance into Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Pakistan and carry out its neo-imperial policies.

Goldberg appropriately asserts that racism travels and hence it “goes beyond the narrow cartographical borders with “racial americanization” in its core: other regions, for example South Africa and Israel, have developed on it. Rooted in European colonization of the non-European world, classical racism with the hegemonic Europe transformed into a carefully strategized plan manifested in urban segregation and numerous other formalized procedures of discrimination to maintain homogeneity of the White race. This is the reason we find African and Chinese-American ghettos in the US: “cities became instruments for European group advancement.” It is also the globalized perspective on race that the international atmosphere of the Cold War era prompted the racialized US to initiate formal desegregating efforts.

However, as has been already mentioned, formal desegregation did not really elevate the plight of the racialized minorities, especially the African-Americans, as the Criminal Justice System with the neoliberal War on Drug equally embraced by the democrats has successfully incarcerated more than one-third of the African-American men and systematically re-segregated them as second-class citizens with virtually no right to vote, secure public housing, drive a car, work in a jury panel or apply for any decent jobs. Racialized America now takes “homogenized apartness” as the deracialized norm, measures everything from White standards, and shows the whites as the victims of ant-racist egalitarianism proposed by welfare and affirmative programs.

This americanized form of racialism has now been exported to the rest of the world: “privatizing (corporatizing) national industries, deunionizing trade unions, reckless profit, free market economy, off-shore investment and the like are the symptoms of this “neolibertarian” strategy of post-modern racism. In this new form of racism, Muslims are nigarized as the polls with 39% of Americans indicate.


About the author

Sayeed Noman

Sayeed Noman is a Fulbright scholar and an adjunct professor at Temple University. His PhD dissertation focuses on Afrocentricity, postcolonialism, and postmodernism. His interest ranges from political to economic and cultural issues.


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