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Post-truth Politics and the Fracture of Neo-liberalism's "Double-Truth" Doctrine: Governmentality and Resistance in the Us and the Uk

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The results of the UK's Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election in 2016 came as a shock to politicians, pollsters, and the public. Both campaigns and subsequent administrations have been defined by an angry populist rejection of expertise and global governance, and apathy for the distinction between fact and falsehood. This shift in American and British politics is characterized as "post-truth," a break from the standards of neo-liberal governance that valued expertise, facts, and objectivity. However, understanding the impact of post-truth requires a critical review of the relationship between truth and neo-liberalism. Mirowski argues that neo-liberal governance should not be considered a doctrine of objectivity and truth, but rather one of 'double-truth'. Double-truth offers the public a narrative of non-partisan expertise and objectivity in policy but retains a truth to its private elite of the intensive enforcement of deregulation practices and individual responsibilization. The doubletruth doctrine allows governance without criticism as policy is deemed natural and objective, and expertise by the elite is viewed as beyond question, even as the elite put considerable effort into ensuring its longevity. Post-truth disrupts this dynamic, ushering in what Foucault identified as a crisis of governmentality: moments when the instrumentalities of government break-down and existing forms of reflection on government lose their self-evidence. Without the credibility of a public discourse that assures truth and objectivity, neo-liberal practices are exposed to criticism. Public protests in the US and the UK have reached new levels of mobilization, solidarity, and outrage, and now place considerable pressure to the new administrations. As the discursive rationalizations of governance are neglected, new spaces are opening where truth (as experience and subjectivity) can be claimed by those outside the governing elite, and discussions of class, race, and gender can help turn the paradoxical double-truths of neo-liberalism against each other.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2018

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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