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Photo: “New York Stock Exchange 20170311“, by Suicasmo, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Swyngedouw, Erik. “Illiberalism and the Democratic Paradox: The Infernal Dialectic of Neoliberal Emancipation.” European Journal of Social Theory, June 30, 2021, 1–22.


The main trust of this article unfolds around the impasse of democratic politics today, marked by the fading belief in the presumably superior architecture of liberal democratic institutions to nurture emancipation on the one hand, and the seemingly inexorable rise of a variety of populist political movements on the other. The first part of the article focuses on the lure of autocratic populism. The second part considers how transforming neoliberal governance arrangements pioneered post-truth autocratic politics/policies in articulation with the imposition of market rule and, in doing so, cleared the way for contemporary illiberal populisms. The third part considers the institutional configuration through which the democratic has been fundamentally transformed over the past few decades in the direction of a post-democratic constellation. The article concludes by arguing for the need to re-script emancipation as a process of political subjectivation unfolding trough a political act.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.