Chih-yu Shih

PANEL 1: Dynamics of Sino-Russian-Central Asian Relations

Alliance of Autocracy? Shanghai Cooperation Organization as Foucauldian Critique of Neo-liberal World Order

Chih-yu Shih, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) poses an existential threat to the neoliberal order because liberalism embodies a cosmological image composed of autonomous individuals or sovereign states, as aggregates, but the SCO reversely appears as an alliance of autocracy. Liberals fail to understand governmentality. According to Michel Foucault, liberal governmentality creates individuals who dread government power so they rather make room for capitalism and accept inequality. Therefore, individuals are strictly self-/disciplined instead of being free or equal under liberal circumstances. The Foucauldian critique has yet to be seriously applied to autocratic governmentality. Without assuming autonomous individuals, the people under autocracy have been necessarily recorded as collective, inarticulate, spontaneous, intermittent, patient, and versatile. Volatility is because neither autocrats nor people know when or how people will collectively lose the capacity to follow. Such volatility grows when people are more deeply indoctrinated because they endure and conceal their aggravating conditions. This is why an autocracy either detects a problem before it is too late and adapts or awaits its demise. Given that the collective could not make a subject of preference, the autocracy could not anticipate or completely control it. They would thus resort to preemption instead and adopt self-restraint from time to time, hence autocratic governmentality. When a group of autocracy comes together, they will support each other to engage in the needs of people in even greater collective terms. However, both the liberal care for individual rights and the illiberal care for collective needs unavoidably suffer involution. Even so, autocracy has a better opportunity to recover governmentality during involution. On the one hand, the expansion of the SCO enhances the capacity for recovery. On the other hand, it also exacerbates the existential threat to the neoliberal order. Nevertheless, if a liberal national joins the SCO, it could likewise benefit.