In neoliberal society either of the pluralist variety or authoritarian capitalist, there are elements of polizeistaat though not nearly full blown as in the Third Reich or Fascist Italy. While conformity to the status quo and self-censorship is the only way to survive, modern means of communication and multiple dissident outlets attacking the status quo from the right that is far more pervasive and socio-politically acceptable than doing so from the left has actually facilitated the evolution of the authoritarian state. Moreover, whereas big business collaborated closely with Fascist dictators to secure the preeminence of the existing social order threatened by the crisis of democracy created by capitalism, big business under the neoliberal social contract has the same goal, despite disagreement on the means of forging political consensus. Partly because neoliberalism carries the legacy of late 19th century liberalism and operates in most countries within the parliamentary system, and partly because of fear of grassroots social revolution, a segment of the capitalist class wants to preserve the democratic façade of the neoliberal social contract by perpetuating identity politics. In either case, ‘economic fascism’ as the essence of neoliberalism, or post-fascism as Miklos Tamas calls it, is an inescapable reality. (Andrea Micocci and Flavia Di Mario, The Fascist Nature of Neoliberalism, 2017).
The convergence of neoliberalism and Fascism is hardly surprising when one considers that both aim at a totalitarian society of different sorts, one of state-driven ideology and the other market-driven with the corporate welfare state behind it. In some respects, Sheldon Wolin’s the “inverted totalitarianism” theory helps to place this issue into perspective, arguing that despite the absence of a dictator the corporate state behind the façade of ‘electoral democracy’ is an instrument of totalitarianism. Considering the increased role of security-intelligence-surveillance agencies in a presumably ‘open’ society, it is not difficult to see that society has more illiberal than classic liberal traits. Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, 2008)
Characteristics of the Illiberal Neoliberal Society
Not just the US, but Europe has been flirting with ‘illiberal democracy’ characterized by strong authoritarian-style elected officials on an agenda of racism and ethnocentrism, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, anti-parliamentary tendencies; all of it talking place under the cover of an electoral system. Amid elections in Bosnia in 1996, US diplomat Richard Holbrooke wondered about the rightwing path of former Yugoslav republics. "Suppose the election was declared free and fair and those elected are "racists, fascists, separatists, who are publicly opposed to [peace and reintegration]. That is the dilemma." Twenty years after what Holbrooke dreaded election outcomes in Yugoslavia, the US elected a rightwing neoliberal populist leading the Republican Party and making culture wars a central theme to distract from the undercurrent class struggle in the country. This reality in America is symptomatic of the link between neoliberalism and the rise of illiberal democracy in a number of countries around the world. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1997-11-01/rise-illiberal-democracy
In a very thoughtful article entitled “The Political Economy of Neoliberalism and Illiberal Democracy” Garry Jacobs argues that: “A return to unbridled capitalism is threatening the culture of liberal values and the functioning of democratic institutions. Even mature democracies show signs of degenerating into their illiberal namesakes. The historical record confirms that peaceful, prosperous, free and harmonious societies can best be nurtured by the widest possible distribution of all forms of power—political, economic, educational, scientific, technological and social—to the greatest extent to the greatest number. The aspiration for individual freedom can only be realized and preserved when it is married with the right to social equality. The mutual interdependence of the individual and the collective is the key to their reconciliation and humanity’s future. http://www.cadmusjournal.org/article/volume-3/issue-3/political-economy-neoliberalism-and-illiberal-democracy