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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 1.44

Everyday authoritarianism: on the illiberal workings of the liberal British state


  • Dr. Insa KOCH

Primary authors


Moral outrage over the rise of the far-right has often started from the premise that we ought to consider the ‘illiberalism’ of voter-choices: the choices of the supposedly mal-informed, bigoted and even racist citizen-voter. Similarly, within the anthropology of the populist moment, the lens of analysis has often been centred on the structures of feelings and sentiments of those who feel left behind. However, such perspectives ought to be placed within the context of a different kind of illiberalism that those at the margins confront: the illiberalism of state-led policies that have acted in insidious ways on the intimate processes of social reproduction of working class populations. Drawing upon long-term ethnographic research on a British council estate, this paper uncovers the legacies of what I call an ‘everyday authoritarianism’ that has marked daily relations between citizens and the state. Everyday authoritarianism not only exposes the self-referential terms of liberal narratives that have too easily invoked notions of immanence and crisis. It also identifies the dire need for a radically different narrative of change that moves beyond political narratives of vulnerability and victimhood that have recently seen a come-back in British policy making.