When we began this investigation ﬁve years ago, we did not envision that two of the biggest stories in the ﬁrst months of 2014 would center on the Pulitzer Prize going to the intrepid reporters who broke the story about Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) contractor or about Thomas Piketty’s surprise best seller on wealth inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. While these two stories might seem on the surface to be unrelated, we suggest that their common thread is a concern about the future of democracy. Indeed, both ground-breaking stories suggest that the relationship between the private sector and democracy has never been greater. These contemporary concerns in the popular media are also of major concern to scholars throughout the world, as the threats to democracy seem to multiply with every technological breakthrough and with the inexorable march of the private sector’s seeming encroachment into the lives of citizens. While these causes point toward democracy’s peril, this book suggests that a serious reconsideration of state power, particularly American state power, requires sustained and detailed analysis. Hybrid Rule and State Formation has pursued three ambitious goals of
resetting the clock anew to account for the rise of privatization (periodization), bringing politics back in through a re-examination of the state, and suggesting that the emergence of hybrid rule in the West represents a global shift toward convergence of a more politically authoritative form of economic capitalism in the 21st century that portends the diminution of democracy. In pursuing these three goals, we challenged the dominant explanatory framework of neoliberalism as the catchall for understanding the rise and consequences of privatization during the past thirty-plus years. While we acknowledged that our brief sketch of the copious scholarship on neoliberalism’s explanation for the rise of privatization is beyond the scope of this project, we also recognized that important scholarship falls outside of this dominant narrative and argues that privatization has not enervated state power, authority or even autonomy (Hirst and Thompson 1999; Krasner 1999; Weiss 1998; Hibou 1999). For skeptics of the neoliberal explanatory framework, the economic sphere is not in command and never has been. But a clear view of neoliberalism as a political tactic and privatization policies as
a means toward political ends has not been forthcoming in the scholarship to date. Hence, the empirical puzzle of fully explaining privatization remains unsolved, demanding further investigation into the discrepancy between theory and real-world evidence. We hope this book opens the ﬂoodgates for a new rigorous and thorough research agenda that spurs a lively debate into this important topic.