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Andy Clarno opens Neoliberal Apartheid in 1994, a year which promised breakthroughs in the long-standing political conflicts of South Africa and Palestine/Israel. Clarno’s comparative, multi-sited study addresses why neither the election of the African National Congress (ANC) nor the Oslo Peace Process have resolved widespread racial, economic, and political disparities in either region. For Clarno, the failure of both efforts stems from the role of neoliberal racial capitalism within processes of (de)colonization. In the last 30 years, neoliberal restructuring has reworked, but not resolved, the violent disparities of South Africa and Palestine/Israel. At both sites, the parallel processes of racialized impoverishment and securitization highlight the combined legacies of racial capitalist exploitation and colonization. Arguing for a political-economic definition of apartheid rather than just a political one, Clarno outlines the synthesis of racial capitalist restructuring and settler colonial governance. He terms the resulting regime “neoliberal apartheid”.
Clarno situates his research within the genres of comparative historical sociology and comparative urban ethnography. His book’s analysis draws on interviews, ethnographic observations, archival and photographic materials to discuss how attempts at decolonization have produced ongoing racial class stratifications marked by economic marginalization and escalating securitization regimes in two sites. Working predominantly in the area north of Johannesberg and the region south of Jerusalem, Clarno investigates the security apparatuses of South Africa and Palestine/Israel through interviews with security officials, poor racialized people, and those who straddle both categories as laborers employed by the security system to police their own communities. This work makes important contributions to conversations about political economies of race and racism, anthropologies of the state, counterinsurgency and security studies. Comparative ethnographers, scholars of political conflict, and those interested in analyzing racial capitalism beyond the United States context will be interested in this work.
Clarno’s first chapter weaves together the theoretical frameworks of settler colonialism and racial capitalism, outlining the intersections of settler ideology, racialization, securitization, and economic restructuring within two politically contested sites. He argues that both settler colonialism and racial capitalism are essential analytical frameworks in the South African and Palestinian/Israeli contexts. For Clarno, settler colonialism draws attention to questions of land, race, and the state, while racial capitalism investigates the “shifting articulations between race and class” (Clarno, 2017, p. 5). Discussing the various forms of neoliberal restructuring after 1994, Clarno explains that during the political negotiations surrounding the election, white South Africans and international financial institutions pressured the ANC to maintain a privatized system of land, banks, and mines while expanding export-oriented industry, municipal privatization, and free trade (Clarno, 2017, p. 32). Clarno also describes the emergence of racial capitalism in Palestine/Israel, which shifted away from a centralized agricultural economy in the 1970s to eventually align with free trade, global finance capital and high-tech industry. Israel’s embrace of global commerce, erosion of social safety nets, and decreasing dependence on Palestinian labor has marked its trajectory of neoliberal restructuring (Clarno, 2017, p. 39). In both instances of racial neoliberalism, Clarno seeks to unpack the ways in which the workings of empire have transformed over the last three decades, both modifying and maintaining racialized economic inequalities.
In the next two chapters, Clarno analyzes the theme of economic marginalization, which he understands as the expansion of racialized poverty, hyper-exploitation, and social disposability. Clarno analyzes South Africa’s exploitative racial capitalism and Israel’s exclusionary racial capitalism, which have historically produced marginalization in the cities of Alexandra and Bethlehem. In both sites, officials have sought to ameliorate the impacts of economic marginalization through development and employment, respectively. However, the violence of neoliberal restructuring has limited the effectiveness of these political interventions. Clarno also highlights Black South Africans’ and Palestinians’ resistance to racial, neoliberal, and settler colonial modes of governance. Social movements opposing privatization, eviction, and exploitation in South Africa have used demonstrations, popular media, and rent boycotts to contest neoliberal enclosures (Clarno, 2017, p. 86-7). In Palestine/Israel, a variegated network of resistance has included armed struggle, marches, sit-ins, hunger strikes, general strikes, and economic boycotts. Additionally, Palestinians have developed new forms of protest, organizing “freedom rides” on settlers’ busses to Jerusalem and constructing “protest villages” on land slated for Israeli settlements (Clarno, 2017, p. 122). These forms of resistance create the conditions for future social justice struggles.
Clarno’s next two chapters, which include some of the author’s most compelling ethnographic analysis, highlight the effects of securitization as a response to the effects of marginalization. For Clarno, securitization is exemplified within “[t]he proliferation of forces, technologies, and strategies to produce security for the powerful” (Clarno, 2017, p. 17). The racialized poor are both the justification for and the labor force driving the infrastructures of surveillance, control, and repression that make up the security apparatus of a neoliberal apartheid state (Clarno, 2017, p. 18). Clarno examines securitization in Sandton and the West Bank through private networks, neighborhood associations and state forces. These chapters discuss the racialization of the poor as “security threats” and offer ethnographies of the experiences of low-wage workers within these apparatuses. Centered around Clarno’s conversations with employees of private security organizations in South Africa and security officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA), these narratives highlight the tensions and human costs at the heart of neoliberal apartheid.
In South Africa, private security companies surveilling gated communities employ poor Black men as their officers, paying them low wages and offering little job security. Working twelve-hour shifts standing by a gate and fending off potential burglars, these workers alternately experience tedium and danger (Clarno, 2017, p. 152). Moreover, when they fail to prevent intruders from entering the communities, these workers are often suspected in abetting security breaches. As a result, security guards are, themselves, subject to extensive surveillance through GPS devices, polygraph tests, and video cameras (Clarno, 2017, p. 154). In spite of these hardships, the relative scarcity of entry-level jobs in South Africa means that private security companies always have a surplus of workers. All of this unfolds within a kind of securitization arms race. When one community installs a razor mesh wire fence or hires an aggressive tactical patrol, nearby neighborhoods seek out more advanced technologies to keep up with their fortressed neighbors (Clarno, 2017, p. 133). Clarno’s analysis of neoliberal apartheid highlights both the job precarity and the economic inequality that characterizes South Africa’s labor landscape. As such, it explains why securitization at this level is necessary in the first place, how job scarcity produces a highly exploitable labor force of security officers, and why these security officers are themselves subject to hyper-surveillance.
Neoliberal Apartheid offers a useful theoretical framework for understanding South Africa and Palestine/Israel, both as settler states and as spaces where economic restructuring is drastically rearticulating the nature of colonization. In this respect, Neoliberal Apartheid bridges Marxist lineages of political economic analysis and post-colonial theorizations of settler nation-building. Since most scholars using racial capitalism as an analytical framework have focused on the United States context, Clarno offers an example of how this kind of schematic may be developed in two other geographic contexts. As such, Clarno’s work builds on several interconnected strains of scholarship. Some scholars of South Africa have identified the historic co-production of race and capitalism (Lipton, 1986; Alexander, 2008), while others have examined South Africa as a settler colony (Comaroff, 1989; Coombes, 2006; Ntsebeza and Hall, 2007), and yet others examine the contemporary confluence of colonialism and neoliberal restructuring (Iheduru, 2004). Within the context of Palestine/Israel, Clarno’s work contributes to the broader terrain of Marxist scholarship (Bernstein and Swirski, 1982, Nitzan and Bichler, 2002) and settler colonial theorizations (Said, 1979; Shohat, 1988; Alatout, 2009; Salamanca, et al., 2012), as well as approaches which combine settler colonial and political economic analyses (Farsakh, 2005; Hever, 2010). By weaving together settler colonialism and racial capitalism as analytical frameworks, Clarno offers a model for unpacking racial neoliberalization within settler states. The resulting theoretical framework can be particularly useful for investigating economic restructuring in other settler colonies such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. Additionally, Clarno’s discussion of marginalization and securitization in relation to neoliberalism can inform research on the political economies of racialization more broadly.
Clarno’s book invites further questions about the history of settler colonialism and racial capitalism in South Africa and Palestine/Israel. His scholarship provides a foundation for future research, which can address how the racialized worker has been historically produced through policy, public discourse, state violence, economic expansion, restructuring, and regulation. Other scholars can expand on Clarno’s work through an intellectual genealogy of racial settler capitalism in both South Africa and Palestine/Israel in order to better contextualize the terrain for contemporary neoliberal reforms. Exploring the connections between South African and Israeli social, political, and economic logics of governance could shed light on the international production and transformation of settler colonial and racial capitalist expertise. Clarno’s historical account can help to unpack the roots of racial settler capitalism in order to highlight the social and political processes shaping the terrain of neoliberal apartheid.
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