The Global Turn to Authoritarianism and After

David Murakami Wood

Queen’s University, Canada.

Surveillance & Society 15(3/4)


This editorial introduces the special responsive issue on the global turn to authoritarianism. It points out the lack of any systematic political theory of the way in which authority and surveillance relate within Surveillance Studies and sketches some possible outlines for such a theory, that involves relationships between surveillance, democracy, authoritarianism, colonialism and capitalism. It argues that the contemporary turn to authoritarianism is predominantly a Global North phenomenon, that adds to an already common situation in the post-colonial Global South, and that the fears that drive the turn to authoritarianism in the North are rooted in fears of the breakdown of a post-colonial global order that was so favourable to the Global North. Finally, it proposes three possible trajectories: multiplying and deepening authoritarianism; the return of neoliberalism on a planetary scale; and new forms of platform authoritarianism that emerging from surveillance capitalism. However, it rejects all of these in favour of the rediscovery of collective desires.