In the Name of the Family: An Appraisal of Recent Scholarship on Neoliberal Capitalism and the State

Savina Balasubramanian, Loyola University Chicago

This paper reviews recently published literature in sociology and history on the relations between "neoliberal capitalism" and the state in the 20th and 21st centuries. Contra accounts that describe neoliberal capitalism's privileging of the "atomized individual" and the state's steady retreat from economic life, these new sociological and historical accounts argue that relations between neoliberal capitalism and the state have been fundamentally organized around various state-led attempts to regulate and reinvent the "family" in the service of capitalism. The paper performs this review to reflect on recent scholarly arguments to "disaggregate" the state and capitalism as a way of providing both historically accurate analyses of their relations and more precise explanations of variations in those relations (Morgan and Orloff 2017). The new literature suggests that while states and capitalism in the 20th and 21st centuries are still best viewed as disaggregated, multiply-existing phenomena, their spokespersons have sought to shore up a joint vision to regulate and "responsibilize" the gendered private family for key aspects of social provision. What might "reaggregate" 20th- and 21st-century states and capitalism, then, is not their organization or how they operate, but a jointly-held vision of gendered family responsibility for human welfare, enforced by heavy state regulation in the service of private wealth accumulation and at the expense of collective labor. The paper concludes by reflecting on how scholars of actually-existing neoliberal capitalism and the state can account for their joint interest in gender and sexual regulation without sacrificing a sensitivity to their disaggregated forms and the local and historical variations thereof.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 148. Reaggregating the State?: A Progress Report