Social Engineering the World’s Freest Economy: Neo-liberal capitalism and Neo-liberal Governmentality in Singapore

The goals of this essay can be variously stated. Its broadest aim is to contribute to the study of the relationship between political economy and mode of governance. Its specific goal is to examine one particular mode of political economy – neo-liberal capitalism – and to consider whether its disciplinary needs are better served by any particular style of governance or “governmentality.” Drawing upon the Foucauldian distinction of governmentalities (based on the object of governance) – the governance of all aspect of life or “police rationality,” the governance of society or “liberal governmentality,” and the governance of the soul or “neo-liberal governmentality” – this essay investigates whether there is an affinity between neo-liberal capitalism and neo-liberal governmentality. If so, what is the basis of this affinity; if not, is neo-liberal capitalism better served by any singular or combination of governmentalities? In the case of the latter, do the co-existence of governmentalities serve to reinforce or undermine each other’s effectiveness?

Given the intricacies of concepts involved, I first outline the dominant thesis (that there is an affinity between neo-liberal capitalism and neo-liberal governmentality) and its categories before turning to the case study of Singapore. Arguing that Singapore’s existence has always been tied to the principles of neo-liberal capitalism, I examine the governmentalities that were dominant in different stages of its economic development. Tying together insights from Singapore and from other theories, I conclude that there is a) no correspondence between neo-liberal governmentality and neo-liberal capitalism; the needs of neo-liberal capitalism can as well be served by other governmentalities and that b) different governmentalities can work together without undermining each other’s effectiveness because they operate in different zones or impact different types of subjects, e.g., compulsion for the resistant subject, support for the willing subject.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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