The war on drugs is an important feature of neoliberalism in Canada. Yet while the relationship between the drug war and neoliberal policy has been the subject of focus by writers in the US, it has received little attention in the literature on either drug policy or neoliberalism in Canada. Gordon examines this gap by using a political-economy framework, which highlights the central role played by drug prohibition in the street-based operationalization of neoliberal restructuring and links the policing dynamic to the historical role drug criminalization has played in Canada.
Neoliberalism, Racism, and the War On Drugs in Canada
IntroductionTHE "WAR ON DRUGS" IS AN IMPORTANT FEATURE OF NEOLIBERALISM IN CANADA. Yet while the relationship between the drug war and neoliberal policy has been the subject of focus by writers in the United States (see, for example, Parenti, 1999; Davis, 1992), it has received little attention in the literature on either drug policy or neoliberalism in Canada. This article seeks to address this gap. Using a political-economy framework, it highlights the central role played by drug prohibition in the street-based operationalization of neoliberal restructuring and links this policing dynamic to the historical role drug criminalization has played in Canada. The failure to interrogate capitalist state power and to adequately situate the emergence and development of the war on drugs in Canada within the context of the state's racialized efforts to produce capitalist social relations considerably flattens most analyses thus far advanced on this issue.The war on drugs, it will be argued, is bound up with a deep-seated racist fear of the non-British immigrant Other. This fear is rooted in part in the Canadian state's concern that immigrants-whose cheap labor Canadian capitalism has historically been very dependent upon - will not conform to, and thus will undermine, Canada's white bourgeois moral order. A central historical role of the state and police has been the constitution of immigrants (and workers in general) as a reliable and disciplined class of wage laborers dependant on market relations. In the process, certain drugs came to represent to the state and police a potential threat to this order. The concern was that these drugs might provide a financial or festive alternative (or sometimes both) to alienating market relations. Equally important, however, the danger associated with these drugs became even greater when they were identified with a particular non-British immigrant community, as opiates, cocaine, and cannabis were in the early 20th century. Drugs in these instances were a possible alternative to market relations and a cultural practice from a supposedly less civilized part of the world that was foreign to most white Canadians. This was therefore viewed as a serious expression of nonconformity to, and a potential infection of, the country's white bourgeois moral order. These dynamics framed drug criminalization in the early 20th century and are played out even today, as the emergence of neoliberal ism has entailed the deep re-imposition of market relations into people's lives and Canadian capitalism's increasing dependence o...