Civil Society in the Shadow of the Neoliberal State: Corporations as the Primary Subjects of (Neoliberal) Civil Society

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In this paper, I outline an approach to civil society that is in contradistinction to the dominant liberal conception of civil society as a sphere or sector distinct from the state with inherently positive values. Instead, I argue, civil society always exists in the shadow of the state. I propose to advance a conception of civil society through the combination of two thinkers who are not often combined: G.W.F. Hegel and Michel Foucault. From Hegel, I take the conception of the state’s regulation of civil society to direct the particular interests towards the universal of the state through the police and, especially, the corporation. By incorporating a specific type of civil society, the state attempts to shape a civil society that advances its own interests. From Foucault, I take the conception of civil society as a transactional reality, as well as the conception of neoliberalism as a form of statecraft and the production of subjects. I propose that neoliberalism can be understood as the promotion of the corporate form to all areas of social life. In neoliberalism, the central wealth-producing subject is the corporation, and as a result, the state privileges the corporation by granting it extensive powers, privileges, and exemptions from law. This happens to the detriment of both individual and other collective subjects, making it the primary subject of neoliberal civil society.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 27. August


  • Civil society
  • State
  • Neoliberalism
  • G.W.F. Hegel
  • Michel Foucaul
  • Corporation

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