Paul Passavant

Policing and Post-Fordism: The Hostile Neoliberal State


The urban fiscal crisis of the 1970s was more than a simple transition from industrial production to the production of services and culture.  It was also more than a crisis engendered through the loss of the middle class tax base to the suburbs and the loss of retail that followed the exodus of the middle class.  It was a political crisis representing exhaustion and antipathy towards the democratic struggles and democratic victories.  The neoliberal response to the urban fiscal crisis, in which cities reconfigured urban space for tourists and visitors, as opposed to residents, was a political response.  The design of urban space for affective production oriented to consumers relies upon processes of targeted depopulation and deterritorialization, on the one hand, and authoritarian modes of social control, on the other.  Post-Fordist capitalism is fully subsumed within the contemporary city.  Control of a city’s brand is therefore part of the very fabric of urban life.  In this respect, the highly violent, torturous, and militarized responses to political demonstrations, from the “Battle in Seattle” to more recent actions against demonstrators in Pittsburgh or Toronto, are exemplary of neoliberalism’s hostility to democratic practices that threaten to disrupt the mega-events so necessary to a city’s success in the global inter-urban competition for events, visitors, and niche-markets.  The policing of protest in urban space today indicates a neoliberal state formation that is actively hostile to demonstrations of democratic strength.