, Volume 75, Issue 4, pp 339-346
Date: 13 Jan 2009

War on Terror, work in progress: security, surveillance and the configuration of the US workfare state

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This paper evaluates the impact of recent shifts in the geopolitical outlook of the United States—specifically the ‘Global War on Terror’ and its domestic ramifications—on the prior project of reconfiguring the US state to an after-Fordist ‘workfare’ paradigm. In particular, the paper attempts to situate recent developments in the reconfiguration of the American welfare state within the context of debates over the ‘exceptional’ nature of US politics post-9/11. The extent to which this has had a bearing on work practices, welfare provision and workfarism is investigated, citing examples from the post-9/11 era. On the basis of such examples it has been suggested that the project of reconfiguring the US welfare state and labour relations does overlap and intersect with the emergency practices that the US state has instituted domestically as part of the War on Terror. However, the reconfiguration of the US welfare state towards a neoliberal or workfarist paradigm is, we argue, largely part of the ‘normal’ (as opposed to exceptional) fabric of US politics. The project of reconfiguring the US welfare state is ongoing and largely autonomous (although not entirely removed) from the use of exceptional practices in relation to the US security state. Investigation of this relationship, we assert, provides a potentially fruitful ‘new direction’ for both critical geopolitics and political economic geography, and grounds for interaction between the two.