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Everyday authoritarianism: class and coercion on housing estates in neoliberal Britain

Davey, Ryan ORCID: and Koch, Insa Lee 2021. Everyday authoritarianism: class and coercion on housing estates in neoliberal Britain. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 10.1111/plar.12422

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In Britain, especially in the 2010s, neoliberal reform involved an extension of legal coercion into the domestic and community lives of marginalized citizens. On two postindustrial housing estates in Britain, working-class residents experience this “everyday authoritarianism” in areas that the liberal state typically constructs as private and purports to leave alone: the home and the intimate relations that frame it. Residents engage this legal coercion by adopting responses that range from defensive avoidance to co-opting officials to acts of vigilantism. By doing so, they negotiate the presence of an authority that is often out of sync with their own expectations for protection, and in some cases actively undermines their efforts to remain safe. Their pluralism can be framed neither in terms of an acceptance of state authority nor as a straightforward refusal to be governed. Rather, it reveals the contradictory ways in which marginalized citizens define their relationship to the state under contemporary conditions of class fragmentation. By adding detail on everyday life to meta-narratives of an authoritarian turn, this article theorizes the political potential and limits of people's daily engagements with the state for contesting the latter's authority. [class, coercion, liberal governance]

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: American Anthropological Association
ISSN: 1081-6976
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 4 June 2021
Date of Acceptance: 2 June 2021
Last Modified: 11 May 2023 01:33

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