Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Maguire, M.
The Agents of Security, and the Problem with “actually existing” Neoliberalism
Producing the future: anticipatory knowledge production in the neoliberal age
Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala, Sweden
Invited Lecture
Optional Fields
For Loic Wacquant, actually existing neoliberal arrives as a “Centaur-state”, granting laissez faire to those at the top while hammering those below with the strong right arm of security. This analysis, which offers little more than an unsophisticated gloss of earlier problematizations (see Rand 1957; Friedman 2008), is now a popular rubric under which to dispose of complexity and change. However, an even greater problem, I propose, is coded in what is considered as “actually existing”. Wacquant, among many others, builds theory from the results of actions attributed to the neoliberal state, such as the impacts of security on populations – in short, neoliberalism from below. But when analyzing security one must attend to it in terms of multi-dimensional and -scalar processes: some processes are genuinely found “above” while others are not; some dimensions of security stretch outwards and back to other horizontal contexts; and, the vertical and horizontal axes are further complicated by time and speed, especially as agents of security grapple with the future. This paper deals with three events, all of which are connected by one group of security agents, a “Unit” of the British Special Forces. The events in question are the Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Nairobi in 2013, the London Bridge and Borough Market attack in 2017, and the recent DusitD2 complex attack. As part of ongoing work – under the umbrella of the Global Foresight project – I have been looking at these attacks in terms of the “anthropology of ten minutes”, looking at public behavior. In this paper, I will reconstruct the behavior of members of the public, together with the roles played by active or former Special Forces. In Westgate in 2013, members of the public were cornered and systematically slaughtered by Al-Shabab attackers. I interviewed the survivors in one area of the Mall. Many were rescued by ex-Unit members. In 2017 in London, the Unit was deployed to support police; while in 2019 in Nairobi an off-duty serviceman contained and neutralized the attack. Where exactly is the state here? Moreover, how do agents of security understand such events and thus train for the future? This question cannot be answered by reference to some Centaur-like state – the cold monster of Nietzsche’s imagination –, because the past actions of security agents warp the past, which is the repository of knowledge for future actions, thus making the future an already distorted field. Indeed, the future is distorted by the past to such a degree that “anticipatory histories” are required. By attending to actually existing security, we gain insights into the problematic deployment of force by agents of security within and beyond “the state”, sometimes contra the state. Theories of neoliberalism offer cartoons instead of analysis here, but some purchase can be reached by tracing a line in Germanic philosophy from Nietzsche to Sloterdijk. The question before us is an uncomfortable one, formulated around value, the need for protection, and recognition of the role of resentment.
Global Foresight